One certainty in life is that time is limited. While no one is sure how many years they’ll be given to finish doing what they want to do, everything is equal for each day you are given. Everyone has the same 24-hour day to dream, determine goals, and complete tasks that will help them meet those goals. But doesn’t it seem like some people are just better at time management than others? Surprisingly, there are some time management secrets that make you feel like you have hours more in your day.
There are really only four choices:
1. Most important
2. Most urgent
3. Least important
4. Least urgent
When you identify tasks and set your priorities carefully by what is important over not important, as well as avoid having issues of urgency each day, you can get a handle on your time in ways that you never thought possible.
Learn the Power of No
Saying no is probably one of the most important things you’ll ever learn to say. The problem is our parents disciplined the word “no” from our vocabulary. It’s time to learn how to say no again. If something is not right for you, is too “urgent”, causes you stress, or you just do not want to do it and it doesn’t fit in with meeting your goals, say no. Saying no will free up untold amounts of time to focus on your priorities.
Disconnect from Technology
Unplug the phone, turn off email notifications, and stay away from social media. If you’ve not completed the most important tasks on your daily list, you have no business messing around with technology. The idea of multitasking is overrated, so unplug and tune in to the tasks at hand. You’ll work faster, smarter, and gain the time you need for other things.
Your priorities need to be added to your calendar. Everything from the 15 minutes you need to use social media for marketing purposes, to the one hour spent taking your kids to the park, needs to be put into your calendar. If you have a project due in a week, you should have five days of scheduled time to work on the project prior to the due date. This helps avoid those urgencies mentioned earlier.
Unless the house is on fire or a child is bleeding, the telephone ringing and the knocks on your office door are not important. They are interruptions. Check your email at scheduled times during the day, explain to your children, spouse, and family when you are working, and otherwise ignore the door bell ringing. If you didn’t schedule it, you don’t need it.
Whether it’s the housework, cooking, or customer service, it’s important to outsource what you can afford to outsource. There are huge payoffs to outsourcing the things that are simply time suckers from your day. If you can’t afford to outsource, your kitchen will not explode if a few dishes pile up, and everyone can do with eating a salad for dinner. And you can automate a lot of administrative tasks and customer service issues if you work from home.
Once and You’re Done
Multitasking is not really a bastion of efficiency. Instead, seek to touch each task only once and finish it. For example, when you check the mail immediately throw out the trash, schedule bills to be paid, and deal with any issues that came up with a letter right then. Of course, your mail time should be scheduled as well so that you still stay on track.
Check Your Schedule
At least twice a day, set out the time to check your schedule. Usually once in the morning and once at the end of the day is good. Ensure that you have your priorities in order, add anything new to your schedule that needs to be added, and remind yourself of what is expected the next day. Checking your schedule helps you feel accomplished at the end of the day, and reminds you of what’s coming up tomorrow.
Finally, it’s important to be very serious about following your schedule and calendar. Use technology to help such as Google Calendar or Outlook, synced to your smartphone to help you remember what it is that you should be doing now, and next. It may seem geeky to be so serious about a schedule, but it’s this one factor that makes these surprising time management tips work.