This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com
Ever wish there were more time in a day? If you use your hours effectively, it’ll start to feel like there actually is.
As Warren Buffet has said, “Time is money.” Time is a commodity we all want more of yet never manage to get enough of. However, with a few helpful tips, you can easily improve your time management. Taking account of how you spend the hours of your day helps maximize productivity and gives you more time for rest and relaxation.
Though we all work within the same 24 hours, there are simple ways to make each day feel more fulfilling. It involves getting rid of the things that waste our time and focusing on the things that make the most of it. Unsure where to start or need a fresh boost of motivation? Here are seven tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. CREATE A ROUTINE
Even if your lifestyle calls for a slightly different schedule every day, there are still parts of a regular routine that can help you feel on track by optimizing your time. Starting the day with a workout, healthy breakfast, journaling or meditation can trigger your brain into productivity mode.
Similarly, creating a wind-down routine by cooking a nice dinner or taking a long bath can also become part of your daily schedule that signals the end of the day. Implementing healthy habits provides a foundation that allows you to feel more intentional about your time.
2. PRIORITIZE ACTIVITIES
Take 10-20 minutes at the end of each day to prepare for the next morning. Make a list that starts with the top three things you want to accomplish each day, then prioritize the rest of your tasks in order of importance.
Of course, there are unexpected moments that can’t be accounted for, but a set planning time helps provide a central focus you can return to when you are pulled in multiple directions. Time management is about efficiency and effectiveness. While we’d all like to do as much as possible, too many tasks can leave us feeling scattered and behind all day long.
3. EVALUATE PEAK-PRODUCTIVITY HOURS
Take time to assess your peak-productivity hours. Not everyone runs on the same 9-5 schedule. There are times during the day that feel more productive for some than others. Do you feel you’re at your best mid-morning? Then, schedule your most daunting tasks during that time when you have the energy and focus to give them their due attention. Leave the easier or more casual tasks for the afternoon or give that time to planning, strategy, relaxation or spending time with family.
Knowing the times of day when your energy is at its highest will limit the amount of “time wasters” you experience. Slowly begin shifting your schedule according to your prime-productivity hours and evaluate how you feel with the changes. Do you feel more focused? Are you making better headway on your goals?
4. OPTIMIZE TECHNOLOGY
Online calendars, digital timers and smartphone apps can all help you stay on track. Google Calendar is a convenient scheduling tool that allows you to color-code and set notifications for meeting reminders and project deadlines. Also, Toggl Track is a free time-management app (for up to five users). It allows you track your time on tasks and run reports that’ll show you where you’re spending the most time.
Apps can also help you if you’re trying to limit your time wasters. If you find yourself easily distracted by social media, good chunks of time can go by without you even realizing it. This also goes for housekeeping if you work remotely or prolonged desk chats with colleagues if you’re in the office. Pinpoint the distractions that affect you most and limit yourself to the time spent on them.
Additionally, online project-management tools like Trello and Basecamp can provide a centralized overview of all your tasks and deadlines. Keep in mind, these tools don’t have to be used for work alone. They are helpful to manage your time and meet your set goals, such as writing a book, training for a marathon or even syncing up family schedules. When used purposefully, technology can be a huge part of improving time management.
5. FIND YOUR OWN RHYTHM
Though there are online tools and apps to help with time tracking, sometimes making a list with pen and paper works just as well. I make a list of all the things that I need to do on pen and paper and cross off a task on my list once I accomplish the task.
Additionally, some of us have days where we need to prioritize family life while other days require us to put our careers front and center. There is no one single path everyone must follow. The goal is to set a system into place that allows you to find your own rhythm.
6. AVOID INTERRUPTIONS
Interruptions take precious time away from the day and make it difficult to get into a good flow. Avoiding them will help you better manage your time and stay in the zone. Seek out a quiet space or invest in noise-canceling headphones to eliminate background noise and signal to others that you don’t wish to be interrupted.
Put your phone on airplane mode or set it in another room to avoid glancing down at incoming messages. And close all tabs on your computer that you’re not actively using since incoming chats, emails and notifications are all small interruptions that end up taking up more time in the day than you might think.
7. BLOCK YOUR TIME
In theory, planning a day hour-by-hour sounds like it’d help with time management, but more likely it’ll leave you feeling overwhelmed and eventually burnt out. After all, meetings run long, interruptions are inevitable, and tasks can take more time than originally expected. However, time blocking is a strategy that allows you to carve out multiple hours in a block of time to get through your daily task list.
For example, carve out a block of hours in the morning to exercise, check and respond to emails, and take meetings. Set aside another block of time to concentrate on work that needs complete focus, like writing, strategy or research, or whatever that entails for you. This system is also helpful to ensure you take breaks and practice self-care. When you assign your daily to-dos into categories with assigned time blocks, it allows you to wholly focus your attention on a few things at once versus trying to accomplish everything at once.
Improving time management starts with implementing daily habits dedicated to making an impactful change. By following these tips, you can create a sense of structure and examine where you’re spending your time to know where to make cuts that ultimately add more back to your life.
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