You’re just in time to shave a few years off your path to success with time management skills.
These skills will teach you how to boost your performance more than you thought possible.
You don’t have to wait for months in order to get the hang of these skills. This article is tailored to teach you a smooth habit pattern which will place time under your control.
You will easily understand the system and adopt it with the bare minimum invested time and energy.
Practicing these skills on a regular basis will soon become your second nature. In one fell swoop you will adopt all 10 of these awesome time management skills and benefit from them for years to come.
Set monthly goals
Make a list of all of the goals you want to achieve this month. Also include the goals you were putting off for weeks now, because this month you can do them all.
Writing down your monthly goals is the most important among the time management skills for long-term productivity and for tackling the challenging goals.
Psychologist Gail Matthews of Dominican University of California conducted a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals.
He provided measurable results showing that people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in achieving them than those who formulate their outcomes in their heads.
“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
Keep your monthly goals on a visible place or in your computer, so that you keep it in sight. At the end of the month, you need to review your progress and make a plan for the next month.
Remember to keep it very simple. A simple monthly goal checklist will do the job.
Writing out your goals is a great start. However, in order to achieve those goals you need to break them up into manageable tasks.
According to your monthly goals, make 2 lists:
- 1st list for your study goals and challenging projects which take time and effort. This list is your top priority.
- 2nd list for the easy-to-do tasks. These are easy to handle but they often crowd up and become equally time consuming as the challenging goals.
I’ve made lists like this before and I know that having all those tasks staring you in the face can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there’s a simple system to prioritize those tasks called The Eisenhower matrix.
The Eisenhower matrix is a great tool to help you prioritize your schedule according to the urgency and importance of your tasks.
If you can’t categorize off-hand, don’t worry. You can easily print out or draw the Eisenhower matrix table and then categorize your tasks within the matrix. This will give you a clear overview of your priorities.
With a little time, you will adopt this system into your thought process and you will be able to easily categorize your tasks on first glance.
The ability to prioritize well is a crucial part of your time management skills.
Make a weekly schedule according to your priorities.
Dedicate an hour during the weekend for progress evaluation and planning for the following week. By making a calculated plan for your week you will be able to comfortably handle your tasks and work sessions for achieving your monthly goals.
Focus first on the top priority tasks that consume time and energy. Allocate time each day in order to comfortably handle your work sessions and time consuming tasks.
Your other time management skills depend heavily on making a good weekly schedule.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R. Covey
Try not to put more than 1 challenging task per day. This way you will maintain a minimum pressure while also leaving some time and energy to deal with your everyday life.
Once you’ve made your weekly schedule, you need to carefully craft your work sessions in a way to achieve maximum productivity at the lowest cost.
In my other article with 10 tips on how to stay focused, learn how to organize your days for maximum productivity.
Set up deadlines
When it comes to achieving pressing goals that take a lot of time and energy to accomplish, make a deadline. Your deadline goals take priority with urgency and importance.
Schedule enough work sessions per week to achieve the deadline comfortably.
Deadlines can be pressuring but, with good scheduling and good preparation, handling demanding projects can be a piece of cake.
In order to keep the pressure of your deadline under control, make sure you divide the workload equally across the time-frame. In this way you will divide even the most challenging work into small tasks which you can handle easily.
“Everyone knows the power of deadlines – and we all hate them. But their effectiveness is undeniable.” – David Eagleman
Batch menial tasks for the next day
Now that you have your monthly goals under control with your smart weekly schedule, it’s time to put the menial tasks out of your way.
Daily tasks and obligations often don’t take much time or effort but can be a time consuming hassle if you don’t plan for them.
Make a list of all of the tasks that are easily manageable. Things you can do whenever you want which don’t consume a lot of time, such as quick trips, meetings, phone calls and e-mails.
Use the matrix again, sort out your tasks by urgency and importance. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to do them all, just have them listed and prioritized for the next day.
Your daily to-do list:
Buy one of those small notepads that fit into your back pocket and use it for tracking your daily tasks. As you tick off your tasks on the following day, rip off the paper and rewrite the unfinished tasks along with the new ones for tomorrow. Again, in order of urgency and importance.
You can do this on your phone as well. However, I find using the notepad and putting pen to paper a lot more engaging.
Your daily to-do list is the workhorse of your time management skills.
It’s been about 4 years since I first bought a notepad for my daily to-do, and I’ve never looked back. Since then I’ve developed a habit to batching tasks mentally. Now I use the notepad for making on-the-go ideas and notes for all sorts of purposes.
Important tip for planning:
Keep your lists simple in all timeframes!
I used to have a complex system of checklists and priorities and daily progress tracking which proved to waste a lot of my time.
On the day-to-day basis, the only thing you should be spending your time planning is updating your to-do list for the following day– which literally takes couple of minutes.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Seize the morning
Many people find it best to do analytical tasks in the morning, leaving administrative tasks for the afternoon energy slump and creative work for the evening.
However, I find the administrative tasks exhausting and often most pressing to get done, while analytics comes easy to my personality. Therefore, when I have a batch of administrative tasks, I like to get them out of my way while I’m at my peak energy.
You, on the other hand, need to structure your day in a way that works best for your own schedule and personality.
Getting those small wins in the morning can be very motivating for the rest of the day. Otherwise you are more prone to procrastinating later in the day and the small wins will not give you as much satisfaction.
The science of morning productivity:
Hunch.com surveyed 68,000 people looking into the correlation between people who make their bed in the morning and their sense of happiness. The survey revealed that “71 percent of bed-makers agreed that they were happy, but 62 percent of messy sheeted people considered themselves unhappy.”
While I would recommend making your bed as well, the figures in the survey are not about the making the bed. Rather, they are about the underlying sense of discipline and orderliness.
Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit and How to Hack it about the cycle of habits and how most habits are made in connection to other habits.
By starting your day with a productive morning routine, you will stimulate a daily cycle of additional productive activities. In this way you will be changing your daily cycle of habits from the very foundation.
Planning your day ahead and seizing the morning is one of the key time management skills.
Postponing tasks will crowd your schedule. This, in turn, will stress you out and make you avoid your schedule because you will see it as the source of your stress rather than a solution.
There’s nothing worse than letting your schedule crowd up and overwhelm you. When this happens, you can barely manage to accomplish a few things under pressure and inevitably fail to do the majority of your tasks.
As a result, this drains your motivation and confidence, throwing you off your game for 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!
I get it, bad mornings happen, lazy days & cheat days happen. Hey, nobody’s perfect. However, don’t let those tough days throw you off your long term game!
Postponing the tasks for the next day is no big deal, but when it comes to your weekly and monthly schedule, there can be no compromise!
Procrastination is the biggest enemy of your time management skills.
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 if needed. Eat an energy bar, watch some motivational videos, try the 5 second rule exercise by Mel Robbins, or reward yourself after you’ve done your task.
Know when and how to say no
Knowing when and how to say ‘no’ is a big part of your time management skills. Friends can sometimes be pushy and quite convincing. You need to be able to keep a cool head and put your priorities first.
Two things that you need to be extra careful of are leisure activities and additional responsibilities. Both of these things can be difficult to refuse.
Of course, we all need a break sometimes and doing favors for others is important for sustaining our relationships. However, you need to keep your weekly schedule as you very first priority, because it will decide if you succeed or fail at your monthly goals.
“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 or dejected.
Land your ‘no’ without backlash:
- Be polite but determined.
- Don’t apologize.
- Explain that you have other work to do.
Don’t visit if a phone call will do
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted hours on tasks which I could have done over the phone. I can’t tell you how stupid I felt when I would go to an office and wait in line to get information, only to be interrupted by the clerk because they were answering the phone to someone else.
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 a legal issue, most of the time you can solve your task by phone call or e-mail.
I would probably exclude this tip for being obvious – if only I didn’t waste countless hours this way.
Get things done in your comfy clothes:
- The number is easy to get, simply google the person or company that you need. If you can’t get a direct number then call the front desk and ask for the number you need.
- Make an effort to sound formal when you call. I guarantee they will take you more seriously and attend to you quickly, regardless of the nature of query.
- Be polite and brief. Politely introduce yourself and explain your call. After they acknowledge you, land your question in 1-2 brief sentences. If they cannot solve your problem, ask for a number or e-mail of someone who can.
- When you need a quick answer to your e-mail, time to pick up the phone again. Be polite and brief. Explain your call by saying that you sent an e-mail and want to make sure of the address. They will confirm the address and most likely attend to it right away, since you now have their attention.
Know when to delegate / outsource
This one takes a bit of prioritization on your part. Most of the time you can afford a little more time to do something rather than paying for the service or bothering others.
However, when your schedule is tight and you have important matters that require your attention, delegate the secondary tasks whenever possible.
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley
You can relieve a lot of stress and pressure simply by owing a favor to a friend or spending a little money in order to save several hours on something that you don’t personally have to do.
Now you can see that these time management skills flow naturally from one to another, creating a cycle of productive mentality and habits.
Some are more important than others, but they all complement each other and together they form a result oriented mindset which will turn the greatest challenges into manageable obstacles.
Which of these skills are new to you? What goals will you conquer using these skills? Leave a comment below and let me know, I would love to hear what you have to say!