Time is a fickle thing. It appears sparse when you need it the most, but abundant when you don’t. The metaphysical concept of time is an interesting topic to delve into, but that’s not what we’re here for. How you deal with your time concerning work is crucial. Having time management skills is key to keeping your work life on track.
Working from home is rapidly becoming a new norm. With the lack of supervisors or offices keeping you in check, losing track of time is easier than ever before. How do you counteract this? How do you keep your head on straight and your watch calibrated?
Even if you don’t work from home, time management skills are still useful. In fact, time management skills are crucial outside of work, too. Here are a few key tips for keeping yourself on track.
1. Embrace Your Uniqueness
Let’s get this out of the way. Not every tip holds the same weight with every person. We are all individuals.
Some people have increased anxiety with strict timelines. Some people find themselves frolicking in daydreams if they don’t have a moment-to-moment schedule. We all work under different parameters. The most important tip is to understand this.
If a specific set of time management skills does not work for you, do not get frustrated. You should be able to adapt and allow yourself to progress. If something is not working, try something else. This is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
If you feel as if you are not making the best use of your work time, trust your gut. You probably aren’t. Reflect on how you manage your time and what needs to change. Understanding what works for you isn’t as simple as trial and error. It takes insight, too.
2. Pinpoint Your Triggers
What is causing you to lose time? Are you focusing too much on one task when you have a list of others? Are you too much of a perfectionist?
We can babble on about what to do all day, but until you figure out what exactly your flaws are, nothing will change.
Maybe you work in a management role and have a hard time delegating others properly. Maybe you avoid certain tasks because you dislike them, sending your whole schedule out of whack. Ultimately, what is causing time management issues for you?
The most important factor in improving anything is knowing what needs improvement (the most obvious statement we’ve ever written).
Now that we’ve got all the psychological stuff out of the way…
3. Create a Schedule
If you like to follow a rigid plan, this will help you. If you don’t, you should still take the time to map out your workday. While you don’t have to follow it verbatim, just having an idea of what should be done when is a great start to keeping you on track.
After all, knowing where your time needs to be allocated is the most important part of keeping track of time.
Look at your workday as a whole. What needs to be done? When should it be done?
Divvy up your work schedule into chunks of time. For example, if your morning consists of answering emails, write that you have an hour to do so on your schedule. Give the most important things the most amount of time.
One of the key skills here is deciding what tasks are a priority. If you have been working for this job for some time, you should be able to figure out what takes up the most space and what is a priority.
Write it all down on a physical planner or use an application like Google Calendar. If your mindset permits, fill out the entire week instead of one day.
Remember that not every day will go as planned. But the concept of having it laid out will help keep you on track.
4. Create Lenient Deadlines
This is a quasi-psychological tip that was often discussed in grade school.
If you have a hard deadline, set a deadline for yourself a few days before. Not only does this allow you to work on other things after finishing the project, but it also reduces the stress of crunching.
Write a sticky note or message to yourself about the hard deadline. Challenge yourself to meet it. The great thing is if you don’t, you still have time before it is actually due.
This is a tried-and-true method of getting things done on-time with less stress.
5. Work in Chunks
One of the biggest causes of stress in regards to time management is juggling too much. If creating a schedule is overloading and you focus too much on all of the things that need to be done, try working in blocks.
If you have an overwhelming amount of tasks on your board, try breaking them up into doable blocks. Even if this pushes the overall process out of order, it can still help you stay on task. Overall, it can keep your mind from falling into the pothole of overwhelming stress.
For example, let’s say you have multiple tasks to do in Microsoft Excel and Word. Do all of your Excel work in one sitting, even if a certain project needs both of these things done. This can save your mind from bouncing around and keep you focused.
6. Say No!
Do not take on extra work when you need to focus on a current assignment. No, turning down additional tasks does not make you look like a bad worker. It does not reflect as selfish or lazy. In fact, putting in maximum effort to do your best work reflects better on you than doing multiple tasks with less proficiency.
Unless a new task is crucial or required, do not be afraid to say no. Politely note that you need to focus on your current project. Offer to get to the other task once you are finished (if applicable).
Nothing destroys time management more than throwing unexpected twists and detours into your day. Sure, some are unavoidable, but if they are not, then it’s okay to decline them.
7. Take Breaks
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can increase your time management skills.
Schedule your break times after blocks of work. Just 10-15 minutes of reprieve can lower your stress, increasing your work productivity. If you have your break times set on your work schedule, you are more likely to keep on time and away from getting off target.
Try to get some exercise during your break, if possible. Light stretches or a walk outside can do wonders for your productivity, especially if you work sitting down.
8. Dedicated Yourself
Look, you are already searching for time management tips. You are obviously dedicated to figuring out how to maximize your work time.
As stated before, time management skills take effort and dedication. You can create a schedule for every single day of your life, but if you don’t follow it (or at least roughly follow it), what is it worth?
Time management starts with wanting to make the best of your time. You must stay focused and on task. If you have things around you that distract you, like social media or phones, have the self-control and dedication to put them away during your time of work. Take note of your distractors and work to keep them away.
Keep your mind on task. Yes, sometimes things will come along that will take your attention. This is a normal part of life. Have the dedication to get back on track as soon as possible. Save the rest of your activities for after work.
If you are working from home and need tips for productivity, we have an article about that!
9. Ask for Help!
It is okay to be overwhelmed. As we said, this does not reflect negatively on you as a worker.
If you are a manager, make sure to delegate your team’s tasks properly. Do not try and do everything yourself. This is what having fellow employees is for. If you have a list of things to do for your department, delegating it to workers is not running away from your responsibilities.
If you are not a manager but have teammates, it’s okay to ask for help if you are in a time crunch. Remember they can say no, but it’s worth a shot!
At the end of the day, being overwhelmed by tasks is the quickest way to throw you off time. Breathe, relax and ask for help.
Procrastination is the mortal enemy of time management skills. It’s as simple as that. Nothing can throw off your work schedule more than losing the energy to work.
While saying to stop procrastinating is easier said than done, there are a few ways to help avoid it.
Blocking your schedule can help you stay on task. Take small breaks throughout the day. Look forward to the end of the workday, but don’t rely on it for inspiration. Ultimately, you have got to keep your head in the game.