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20 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known Before My 20s

20 Time Management Hacks I Wish I’d Known Before My 20s

Being able to manage your time most appropriately is something best done as early as possible. The earlier in life that you start, the better such skills will stick with you. Mastering these time management hacks in your 20s sets you up for success for the rest of your life. If you have not developed these skills just yet, don’t worry.

You can get started today! Choose one hack a day and you will make it through the list in less than a month.

1. Use a calendar app or calendar notebook every day

Keeping all of your appointments in your head is ineffective. That’s why successful people use calendar tools.

For example, I suggest using Google Calendar. It is free and you can set it up to send you email reminders for important activities. Receiving a reminder email about a trip a few days in advance is very useful.

2. Use a task management tool

Yes, keeping a to-do list is vital in successfully managing your time. At first, you may just use scraps of paper (I did that once as well).

It is much more effective to use a dedicated task management tool though. You could use a well made paper notebook such as a Moleskine, or even a digital tool (e.g. Remember the Milk, Microsoft Outlook or Nozbe).

3. Respect your need for sleep by getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day

Cutting out sleep to have more fun or get more work done is a short sighted strategy. While you can pull off this strategy in your 20s to a degree, it is a destructive habit to form.

Being tired all day means that you will be able to make effective use of your time, no matter how organized you are. So make it a habit of getting those legitimate seven to eight hours each night.

4. Do a weekly review of the past 7 days

Learning how to do a weekly review is one of the best time management habits for you to develop. The Weekly Review is a concept created by David Allen, author of the classic productivity book Getting Things Done.

To get started with a weekly review, go through the following steps:

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– First, review your calendar for the past week and the current week – look for loose ends, meetings and other matters that need further attention.

– Second, review your email inbox (personal and company email accounts) and achieve inbox zero.

– Third, review your goals for the year and make plans to work on them in the coming week.

This practice will help you to better plan your schedule and avoid nasty surprises.

5. Plan to achieve four hours of real work per day

Did you know that project managers often assume people will be less than 100% productive per day? It’s true! You may have a standard eight hour work day but the reality is that only half of that day is likely to be highly productive.

The rest of the day will be taken up with meetings, responding to email, browsing the Internet and related activities.

Tip: Schedule your most important, high value tasks in the morning, before you get tired.

6. Focus on a single task at a time (i.e. no multitasking!)

Multitasking is a wasteful way to work. Instead, you will achieve more if you choose one activity at a time. For example, allocate one hour in the morning to work on a proposal for a client, then give yourself a short break.

7. Separate strategic and “brain dead” tasks

High value strategic tasks are what companies and clients pay for – coming up with new product ideas, ways to reduce cost and other improvements. However, it is difficult to deliver creative insights all day long.

When the last hour of the day arrives and you’re tired, work through “brain dead” tasks like installing security updates or tossing out old papers.

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8. Accomplish large projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks

The ability to accomplish large projects is one of the most important time management hacks. For example, if you are assigned with organizing a corporate conference in six months, the effort may feel impossible.

Get started by writing a plan and asking for advice from people who have accomplished similar projects.

9. Set a maximum of three priority tasks per day

At the beginning of the day, it is easy to come up with a to-do list with dozens of items. Unfortunately, unplanned phone calls, requests from the boss and others quickly overturn the best plans.

Instead, simply choose three important tasks per day.

Resource: Want to build this activity into a habit? Use the Five Minute Journal to focus on what matters in your life.

10. Learn to delegate tasks effectively at work

Effective managers (and successful professionals) routinely delegate tasks so they can focus on their work better. The basic steps of effective delegation: describe the task and deadline, explain it to the person who will perform the task and ask to be kept informed.

11. Delegate household tasks as soon as you can afford it

During your 20s, you will have difficult years as you start your career. Once you have additional resources, look for domestic activities you can delegate.

For example, you may want to use a dry cleaning service to keep your professional clothes in good condition.

12. Review the past to become better, not assign blame

Repeating past mistakes is one of the worst ways to misuse your limited time. That’s why it makes sense to have review your projects, work deliverables and habits regularly.

For example, if your smart phone always runs out of power during the work day, buy a charging cable for the office. Putting that improvement in action will save you time and frustration in the future.

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13. Set deadlines for every task

Giving deadlines to yourself is one of the best ways to stay organized. A task without a deadline is likely to frustrate you after all.

If your boss gives you a deadline for Friday, you may want to get the work done on Thursday instead so that you have time to review it.

14. Schedule travel time on your calendar

Travel time is a reality that we need to learn to manage. For example, you may realize that it takes you 10 minutes to travel from your main office building to a nearby client building.

That means you cannot afford to schedule back-to-back meetings and still be on time.

Tip: Plan for travel time using a worst case scenario (e.g. heavy traffic) – that way, you are more likely to arrive early.

15. Put a proven productivity system like ‘Getting Things Done’ into action

You don’t have to come up with every aspect of time management all on your own. Instead, invest the time to read a great time management book like Getting Things Done by David Allen and put the ideas into action.

Tip: Set time aside every month to gain new knowledge and become more effective by reading good books: 11 Books To Make You Lead A Much More Productive Life.

16. Put personal rest and relaxation on your calendar

If you are driven to achieve results, it is easy to neglect yourself and work all the time. That’s why it you should always have time on your schedule for enjoyable activities.

For example, you may set aside Saturday afternoons to read a good book at home or play sports with friends.

17. Take breaks during the work day

Sitting in a chair at your desk all day is bad for your health according to Popular Science. To maintain your health and focus – key inputs for good time management – take breaks of 5-10 minutes every hour to walk around.

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Simply getting a glass of water and stretching for a few minutes will do wonders for your body.

Resource: 29 Exercises You Can Do At (Or Near) Your Desk.

18. Learn to say no effectively

Saying yes to new responsibilities is a great way to grow your career when you first get started. Yet, this is a habit that you can take too far. If you are a people pleaser and struggle with saying no, then read The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher.

19. Use your values to make decisions about your time

Understanding yourself is essential to managing your time. For example, if your top value is family then you will have to manage your work requirements according to that value.

Discovering your values is challenging if you have never given thought to this area before.

20. Admit mistakes quickly and move on

Covering up mistakes wastes everyone’s time including your own. You can achieve much more in life if you admit your mistakes, solve the problem and move on.

Most managers are willing to forgive mistakes, especially if you are honest and work hard at preventing the mistake from occuring again.

Featured photo credit: Clock/alvarouribe via pixabay.com

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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