No matter how much you work, there are just not enough hours in the day to get “everything” done. This results in ever increasing to-do list, slipping deadlines and last-minute scramble to get things done.
The solution to this is better time management to ensure that you are spending your time on the right things. The old saying “Time is Money” holds true and you should invest this time in tasks that will drive your personal or professional goals.
In this article we share six tips to help you improve your time management skills so that you focus on the right things and take charge of your day.
How to improve time management with these six simple steps:
Let’s understand each of these in more detail:
1. Plan your week/day in advance
Whether you prefer to plan a day’s worth of work or a week’s, always plan it in advance. This means that if you like to sketch out tasks for the week, take an hour on Friday to plan your next week before wrapping up. This ensures that when you get to work on Monday morning, you already know what needs to be done and do not have to spend the energy and time sifting through a big to-do list to find the task. This will kick-start your week at a high note and motivate you to go through other tasks on your list.
2. Prioritize your tasks
When driving projects and team goals, we typically spend our day doing two types of things – 1. Attending meetings, 2. Working on tasks and action items that help drive projects forward. Instead of trying to get to all meetings and setting yourself up with an unachievable goal to complete all tasks, identify meetings and tasks that align with your priority and only invest time in that. These priorities can change daily or weekly (we prefer weekly to optimize time spent in context switching) and can be governed by multiple factors like –
- Team/leadership priorities
- Approaching timelines and project due dates
- Professional or career goals and milestones
- Personal milestones
3. Block dedicated time slots to get things done
Now that you know what needs to be done, the next step is find the time to accomplish it. This can be challenging – last minute meeting invites creep into your calendar, your day gets flooded with urgent but non-critical tasks, or your day just gets derailed by that one email your coworker sent you regarding another project. To declutter your mind and your calendar, ensuring that you accomplish the tasks you have prioritized, block time slots on your calendar dedicated to completing those tasks. Depending upon the task, these can be as small as 15min blocks or bigger, 90min sessions. We suggest inserting a 5-10 min break after every session to rejuvenate and get ready to slay the next agenda on your calendar.
Pro tip: If you find emails and instant messages a constant distraction, try dedicating a slot on your calendar to answer emails and messages. This can be a 30min window, multiple times during the day when you just answer emails and be available for your teammates. This will help you compartmentalize your attention span and will allow you to focus on the tasks at hand knowing that you have a dedicated time to get to your inbox.
4. Make meetings productive
Not having meetings is the best way to make them productive (duh!) however, when you do find yourself in a meeting room, get the most out of it for yourself and for others involved. A productive meeting is one which has a defined agenda, and the attendees actively participate in the discussion to align on meeting outcomes - key decisions, action items & next steps. A few ways in which you can ensure that the meeting you attend are productive are –
- If you don’t see or have access to a meeting agenda, ask for one
- Divide and conquer. If you see multiple people from the same team being invited to the meeting, ask the owner if that is intentional. It is more time efficient if one person per team attends the meeting and then relays that information to others on the team asynchronously
- After the meeting, ask for meeting minutes. If you are responsible for writing meeting notes, our guide provides a few tips to help you capture meeting minutes effectively
- If you are the meeting facilitator, leverage our guide to level up your game and ensure that the meeting is productive
- If you are the meeting owner, we have outlined five ways to make your meetings more productive and drive your next meeting like a pro
5. Save your peak performance time for focused work
People have different work preferences and achieve their peak productivity at different times of the day – hence, it is a good idea to schedule your intense and high priority tasks when your productivity is at its peak. The last thing you would want is to be in an inefficient, non-productive meeting when you could have used that energy and focus to inch a step closer to your personal and professional goals.
6. Snooze notifications and reminders to zone out
With adoption of instant messaging applications like Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. people are resorting to 1:1 message as they appear to be more convenient. However, they can be very disruptive and distract you from getting any work done. A good way to prevent this is to align your notification schedule with your time blocks – If you have planned to complete an analysis in the next 60 min, pause all notifications (including instant messages, email, and meeting reminders) to get yourself some distraction free work time. This will boost your productivity for the 60min and ensure that you accomplish the task you planned.