Short of moving to another planet, it’s impossible to get more than 24 hours in a day. If those hours don’t seem long enough to let you accomplish everything you need to do in a day, you could use some time management tips. You won’t get extra hours, but you’ll make the most of those you have and get more done in the same time frame when you budget your time wisely. Without the need to rush and feel frantic, you’ll enjoy busy mornings and evenings more.
1. Organization saves time
If you could get back all the hours you’ve spent searching for a tool, looking for misplaced keys or rummaging in kitchen cabinets for ingredients, how much time would you have? If you’re like most people, it would be enough for a few weeks of vacation. Organization is vital to time management because it cuts out the endless search; everything is at your fingertips, so you get right to work without wasting time. Making the most of organizers and file cabinets means you wring more productive time out of every hour.
2. Plan ahead as much as possible
You can’t foresee every detour or diversion life sends your way, but you can take care of some routine tasks in advance. Getting the kids’ school uniforms and your work clothes ready the night before lets you enjoy a more relaxed morning free from the scramble to find a clean pair of socks. Packing tomorrow’s lunches tonight is good. Packing a few days’ worth of lunches is even better, especially if you make it a weekend habit.When pulling together your work wardrobe for the next day, assemble your accessories to save even more time. A jewelry valet and shoe tree are helpful tools that will let you put it all together effortlessly.
3. Procrastination is a double time-waster
When you procrastinate, you lose valuable time that you could spend on a given task, but you also waste that time in worry over the things you aren’t getting done. The allure of putting something off until later is that it feels as though you’re granting yourself more time, so procrastination holds great appeal for anyone with time management issues. Fight that urge to put it off and get started now.
Follow the 15-minute rule for tasks you would rather not do. Tell yourself you’re going to devote a quarter of an hour to a less-than-pleasant chore and promise yourself you can stop after 15 minutes. In most cases, you’ll find yourself inspired to push through and finish the job once you start. Sometimes, you’ll even be able to complete it in the allotted time, leaving the rest of your afternoon free for more engaging pursuits.
4. When possible, schedule time for distractions and ignore them when they fall outside those designated times
Think of a standard eight-hour work day. In most offices, that shift is broken up into four two-hour chunks separated by coffee breaks and lunch. Those are the times during which you can check your personal email, Facebook page and phone messages. Even if you don’t work at a traditional office job, you can follow the same philosophy of scheduling frequent breaks.
It isn’t always feasible to ignore distractions, but learning to separate the important things from the time-wasters is a crucial clock management skill. A crying child can’t be ignored; a ringing phone often can. Use caller ID windows to screen your calls, and don’t feel guilty if you decide to phone a friend back instead of taking a call when you’re up to your elbows in work. Your friends will understand, and you’ll have a more relaxed and enjoyable conversation when you call during your free time.
5. Become an expert at prioritization
Great time management comes from knowing which tasks to complete first. Think of a professional chef preparing dinner for four. He has to time everything perfectly so the entrees, side dishes and garnishes are ready to hit the plates or party platters at the same time, so he prioritizes the dishes that take the longest to cook first and waits to fire up the quick-cooking elements of the meal. Give yourself a long lead on time-intensive tasks and know when you can wait until later to take care of the quick things. Waiting to complete a project isn’t the same as procrastination because it’s a scheduled event and fits into your overall time management plan.
Time management isn’t just for the office. Implement good management strategies at home, and you’ll give yourself hours of free time every week. How will you spend your new hours of freedom?
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