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Time is the most precious resource in your life.
You need to make time for your work, for your family, your friends and for yourself. Without good time management skills, this is an impossible task.
In this article, you will learn how to make the most of your time, so that you no longer have to sacrifice your quality time in order to get ahead.
Set monthly goals
A famous goal-setting study revealed that “people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in achieving them than those who formulate outcomes in their heads.” (1)
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” –Bill Copeland
Make a list of a few goals that you want to achieve this month. Keep your monthly goals on a visible place at your workspace or in your personal planner.
Remember to keep it simple, just a plain list of your top priorities.
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Use a monthly planner
A personal planner is the best productivity tool that you can have.
When I first started out using a planner I wasted months experimenting with various planners made by myself and others. This was until I made my planner perfectly simple, effective and adaptable.
Now, I share my planner for free so that anyone, who is eager to make it in life, can benefit from it.
The beauty of having a monthly planner is that you can hold yourself fully accountable to your goals. The biggest mistake people make with long-term planning is that they neglect the need for consistency.
What often happens is that you will put in some effort when the idea is hot, but within a day or two, some new idea will distract you and you will get sidetracked.
This is why you need a planner. It will keep you on track, and you can also analyze your results. With measurable results, you can detect your weak points and focus on improving them.
Writing out your goals is a great start. However, in order to achieve those goals you need to break them up into manageable tasks.
Back when I had no planner and time management skills, I had to-do lists coming out of my bagpipes. That’s why I know how overwhelming busywork can be.
One way to tell the difference between meaningful work and busywork is by looking at the results which you produce.
There is also an easy way to tell the difference beforehand. You can use the Eisenhower matrix to easily tell what to-do and what not-to-do.
The Eisenhower matrix is a great tool for prioritizing your schedule and helping you determine the 20% of the work that will produce the 80% of results.
If you can’t prioritize off-hand, don’t worry. All it takes is a pen and paper to make the Eisenhower matrix table. After that, simply categorize your tasks within the matrix. This will provide you with a clear overview of priorities.
With a little time, you will adopt this system into your thought process. Then you will be able to easily prioritize your tasks on first glance.
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Set up deadlines
When dealing with pressing goals, make a deadline.
Your deadline goals are always top priority in planning. Be sure to keep your schedule focused on your goal so that you meet the deadline comfortably.
In order to keep the pressure of your deadline under control, make sure to divide the workload equally across the time-frame. This way, you can break up your workload into smaller, more manageable tasks.
“Everyone knows the power of deadlines – and we all hate them. But their effectiveness is undeniable.” – David Eagleman
Remember that the 20% of your efforts contribute to 80% of your results. Often times, the 20% are also the things that make you put in the extra effort and work a little harder.
However, if you can get comfortable with working under a deadline, then you will be able to consistently overperform your expectations.
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Batch menial tasks
Now that we’ve covered time management in the big picture, let’s switch to time saving skills which you can use in your everyday life.
You need to have a daily routine that will help you both save time and energy in real time. Otherwise, you will get distracted from the meaningful work by menial work like chores and e-mails.
Menial tasks normally don’t take much time or effort. But still, they can amount to a big time consuming hassle if you don’t plan for them right.
What you need is a daily to-do list. To make your own daily to-do list, you can just open up a notepad on your phone or get an actual pen & pocket size notepad.
Be sure that you keep it simple and straightforward. This should literally take you seconds to make. What you want is to have your menial work batched up on one handy place.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo Da Vinci
The best time to organize your day is the night before. That way, you will be organized in the morning and prepared to adopt this next valuable time management skill.
Seize the morning
Various surveys have shown that people who make their bed in the morning predominantly feel happier and more productive for the rest of the day. (2)
Making the bed is just one of the ways in which you can lock in a small win in the morning. You can also do a light exercise, or have healthy breakfast.
Locking in a small win in the morning will give you the motivation boost that you need to tackle your to-do list with ease.
Author Daniel Pink examined 700 scientific studies for his book When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing.
In the book, he reveals that there is a morning peak of productivity between 8:30AM and 12PM. Afterwards, there is a mid-day slump, followed by an end-of-day rebound from about 4PM to 21PM.
The morning is best used for administrative tasks, like e-mails, chores, shopping etc. Meanwhile, the late afternoon is better for creative tasks like planning, analyzing, problem solving and such.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Another great book about the importance of seizing the morning is The power of habit, by Charles Duhigg.
This book describes how your morning routine is a cornerstone habit. This sets the tone for your day, but also acts as a precursor to what you normally do after your morning routine.
If you adopt a productive morning routine, then your routine will increase your average daily productivity.
Postponing tasks will crowd your schedule. When your schedule is crowded, then it becomes a source of stress, rather than a solution to stress.
There’s nothing worse than letting your schedule crowd up and overwhelm you. When this happens, you are lucky if you get to accomplish a small part of your agenda.
As a result, this drains your motivation and confidence for the day. A bad day poorly handled can throw you off your game for several days. You end up wasting days of precious time and energy.
“If you do tomorrow what you did today, you will get tomorrow what you got today” – Ben Franklin
Even if you skip the morning energy rush, make sure you avoid procrastination for the rest of the day. Get back on the productive track and tick some low effort tasks off your list ASAP!
Be smart to recognize when you fall into an energy slump and do whatever it takes to get you through. Use little tricks on yourself when needed. Eat an energy bar, watch some motivational videos, or reward yourself for getting some work done.
Know when and how to say no
Knowing when and how to say ‘no’ is a big part of your time management skills.
Two things that you need to be extra careful of are leisure activities and menial responsibilities.
Of course, you should have as much free time as you need to be with your family and friends. But make sure that you schedule that personal time so that it does not interfere with your meaningful work.
As far as responsibilities go, the same applies. You should be helpful to people in your inner social circle, but don’t waste too much time on responsibilities that you can avoid. Your top priority is your personal productivity.
“When you say ‘yes’ to something, you automatically say ‘no’ to something else. Say ‘yes’ in line with your goals and priorities.” – Joy Marsden
Saying no is simple, but saying it in a wrong way can make the other person feel resentful.
Land your ‘no’ without backlash:
- Be polite but determined.
- Explain that you have other work to do.
Avoid needless meetings
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted hours on tasks and meetings which I could have done over the phone.
Read and repeat: Unless I need to be there personally, I don’t need to be there personally!
Apart from a doctor’s appointment or an important business meeting, there are very few issues which cannot be resolved by phone call or e-mail.
I would probably exclude this skill for being obvious – if only I didn’t waste countless hours learning from these mistakes.
Get things done from your phone:
- The number is always easy to get, just google it.
- You will be taken seriously if you sound formal when you call.
- Make your request polite and brief.
- Be persistent through the loopholes of bureaucracy.
Know when to delegate
To delegate means to have someone else do your work, so that you don’t have to do it yourself.
Anyone can delegate, but not many can delegate well.
When you delegate, you save time and energy, but you lose currency. For most cases, this means paying someone to do your work. However, there are other types of currency as well, like political capital and social capital. (3)
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley
You should be careful how you handle both your money as well as your social capital.
A good rule of thumb is to only help people with things that they cannot do themselves. Also, save your own favors for when it really makes a difference.
Top 10 influencing skills for life and work
Let’s review the Top 10 time management skills:
- Set monthly goals and write them down.
- Use our free printable planner to track your monthly goals.
- Focus on doing the 20% of your activities that produce most results.
- Learn to work on a deadline.
- Make your to-do list every night for the next day.
- Morning is the best time to do your to-do list and other chores.
- Procrastination will offset your plans, leading to stress and poor results.
- Schedule personal time as well as work time, so that you don’t sacrifice one for the other.
- Avoid meeting that can be done over the phone or e-mail.
- Delegate as much as you need, not as much as you can.
Time is a finite resource and you must learn to spend it well. If you can adopt even a few of these time management skills, then you will see a significant increase in your results as well as an increased appreciation of your time.
Did you enjoy this article? Leave a comment and let me know!
- Goal setting study and the results.
- Big bed-making survey and recent bed-making survey.
- Political capital and Social capital.