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In this season of personal introspection, why does improving time management remain such a persistent, perennial goal for so many of us? The irony is that we need to become better managers of our own efforts to improve time management. We need to prioritize our developmental efforts. This path begins with turning away from alluring quick fixes and instead toward assessing and building our underlying time management skills before another new year’s resolution reaches its dissolution.
Time management is one of the most important aspects of life that enables one to make the most of the given 24 hours in a day. We all have the same hours every day, the reason why some achieve more is not only because they work harder, but because they work smarter! It is often said that by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail; most people will be ready to vouch for this. The only way to combat this problem is by promising to follow effective time management strategies. Like many other things, time-management is a strategy that can be learned and improved with time. So here I’ve curated a list of insightful time-management tips you should follow to ensure that you utilize every 24 hours in the best way possible:
1. WORK SMARTER
Time is the essence of life. Managing your time effectively will not only maximize your productivity but will also leave you some spare time to follow your heart. Setting priorities may not be easy, but prioritizing is good for time management. It always pays to make a list of the things you need to do, put a timeline to each activity and then prioritize them at the beginning of each day, week, or month. It is also advisable to have a time audit every once in a while, to help you know whether you need to make any adjustments.
2. DO IT NOW
It is said that we fail to manage our time appropriately because of procrastination. As Dr. Tim Pychyl explains in his book, “Procrastination is by definition an irrational behavior because it runs counter to our own idea of what will make us happy.” But is procrastination a time-management problem or emotional management problem? The problem in fact lies with your emotions and not with your willpower. The best way to combat this problem is by being mindful – through concentration, focus and equanimity. Research shows that emotional regulation plays a vital role in reducing procrastination and improving productivity.
3. CHECK FOR ADHD
Find out whether you are suffering from ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), which is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children and adults. ADHD can create special challenges at work. Handling ADHD along with a challenging job is no easy task, but by tailoring the workplace environment one can leverage their strong points while minimizing the negative impact of ADHD symptoms.
4. ORGANIZE ORGANIZE ORGANIZE
The power of good organization can never be overstressed. Organize your office, cubicle, or desk, one manageable step at a time. Then use the following strategies to stay tidy and organized:
o Set aside daily time for organization. Mess is always distracting, so set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to clear your desk and organize paperwork. Experiment with storing things inside your desk or in bins so that they don’t clutter your workspace. Remember – a place for every thing and everything in its place!
o Use colors and lists. Color-coding can be very useful, even for people with ADHD. Manage forgetfulness by writing everything down.
o Prioritize. More important tasks should be placed first on your to-do list so you remember to do them before lower priority tasks. Set deadlines for everything, even if they are self-imposed.
o Find your peak performance time. Break your typical day into three to four time-slots and over the course of a week, rank these slots from your most to least productive.
o Treat your time like it’s money. Create a time budget that details how you spend your hours during a typical week. Categorize time into fixed time (must do’s) and discretionary time (want to do’s).
o Avoid ‘sunk cost fallacy’. When you think you might be spending too much time on an activity, step back and evaluate its importance – how valuable is the outcome, who will be affected if it’s finished or not finished, and so forth.
o Use a calendar app. Record due dates for tasks and appointments – and do this immediately when they are planned or requested.
5. MINIMISE EXTERNAL COMMOTION
Face your desk towards a wall and keep your workplace free of clutter. To discourage interruptions, you could even put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. If possible, let voicemail pick up your phone calls and return them later, turn off email and social media during certain times of the day, or even log off the Internet completely. If noise distracts you, consider noise-canceling headphones or a sound machine. In other words, do anything that helps you minimize factors that stop you from concentrating and delay your progress.
6. BEAT THAT STRESS
Erratic sleep, an unhealthy diet, not enough exercise – these are all issues that can lead to extra stress, bad moods, and feeling out of control. The best way to stop this cycle is to take charge of your lifestyle habits and create healthy new routines. Eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly can help you stay calm and reduce stress symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity, while regular routines can help your life feel more manageable.
All said and done, research shows that we are actually responsible for 50 percent of the distractions that sabotage our focus. When someone interrupts us, it takes an average of 29 minutes to resume our focus. When we do not choose where we direct our attention, time-management becomes a problem. It doesn’t matter how well we manage our time if we can’t focus our minds on what we want to accomplish. So, for time management, first learn attention management and always try to start the day on a high note. Remember what begins well also ends well if the focus and attention is maintained throughout the task. We all have 24 hours in a day to get things done; it is how we manage these 24 hours that matters – success doesn’t come from hard work alone, purposeful work is also important.