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 earlier in life 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:
– 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.
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.
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.
Simply getting a glass of water and stretching for a few minutes will do wonders for your body.
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: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com