Most of us feel like time is rarely on our side, but the truth is, that may be due to faults of our own. The good news is, that means we have control over those faults. Sure, we can’t actually extend the amount of time available to us in a day. We are all confined to the same 24 hours. However, there are techniques to get more out of every minute of the day. Of course there will always be different strokes for different folks, but I challenge you to not find at least one of my tips that add value to your time management approach.
The first one is a big one, but it’s important, no matter how much you are tempted to do otherwise
Focus your attention completely on whatever or whomever is in front of you.
In a world that is brimming with constant distraction and noise, this can be challenging to stick to. The older you get, the more your mind seems like a hodgepodge of to-do’s, upcoming engagements, and random thoughts that all need your immediate attention (obviously). However, I believe focus is key in better time management due primarily to 2 reasons:
- It allows you to get more done in less time
- It prevents you from having to backtrack and relearn something you missed out on because you weren’t mentally present to actually absorb the experience or lesson the first time around
It can also be helpful to take the guess-work out of what you already anticipate to be apart of your day or week
Build your routines around recurring tasks.
When you notice there are key areas you are regularly giving attention to, develop a proactive approach. Build those tasks into your daily or weekly routine so that space has already been carved out for them. This will result in you feeling less overwhelmed by the number of tasks you plan to accomplish and, overtime, they will become easier for you. Your mind will have grown accustomed to completing them regularly so it will require less effort on your behalf. Consider it as a form of muscle memory. Since your brain is a muscle it becomes more efficient with completing tasks that are familiar and planned.
Delineate a time limit in which to complete a task and stick to that time frame.
People either love or hate time management hacks. Chances are, if you’re one of those who hates them, you might still find that you love the Pomodoro Technique of time management. According to The Muse, the PomodoroTechnique is a time management system characterized by 25 minute work “sprints” called pomodoros with 5 minute breaks in between. Additionally, there is an extended 15-20 minute break after the completion of 4 pomodoros. The purpose of these sprints is to focus on completing tasks without distraction and a heightened sense of urgency. Success is measured by the number of completed pomodoros and, thus, the level of efficiency with which your day runs. Benefits of using this technique include better time management, increased concentration levels and maintaining productivity throughout the day.
Batch related tasks together.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more suitable to productivity to work on tasks that are related so that your mind is not constantly switching gears. The average person views multitasking as a strength and upon first glance, it’s understandable why that is so. Doing more at once equals completing more at once, right? Not exactly. MIT neuroscientist, Earl Miller, breaks down exactly why we should refrain from multi-tasking. Our creative capabilities are exceeded when we are given extended time to focus on one task and, therefore, it is in our best interest to develop personal work environments that allow for that. Constant switching between tasks is mentally draining and may have a lot to do with why you end your work day feeling as though you’ve run a marathon. Greater task completion does not necessarily denote quality task completion. Which is really more important?
Embrace outsourcing and automation.
Think of 3 things you spend time on regularly that could either be outsourced to someone else or automated. The hour that you spend cutting the grass, the 2 hours you spend grocery shopping, the unnecessary time spent deciding what you are going to wear each morning. If you are in a position to do so, delegate tasks you don’t have time for, such as lawn care, to an outside company. Costs that positively impact your well-being by saving you time are worth what you pay for them.
When I speak of automation, I’m not only referring to the use of technology to make your life easier, I’m also referring to your own ability to automate certain decisions within your mind. When the average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day, the more that we can get off of our plate, the better, right? By automating repetitive decisions, you put time back into your day. Sticking to the same meals or take out by weekday takes the brainwork out of that aspect of your planning. Deciding on a weekly or biweekly rotation of outfits and arranging them in your closet in that way also saves a lot of time. I could also take it a step further to say that minimalism in general allows for less-decision making, but we’ll save that for another day.
So there you are. There’s my two cents on how to maximize the hours you have so you can actually get around to completing that to-do list. Who am I kidding though? Does anyone ever actually complete a to-do list?