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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

8 Time Management Strategies for Busy People

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8 Time Management Strategies for Busy People

Over the 25 years that I’ve worked in corporate environments and coached entrepreneurs, people have always looked to improve their time management skills.

As a coach, people often come to me because they feel they don’t have enough time to achieve everything they want to each day. They are busy, but not working on the things that give them great joy or make a real impact in their business and life.

Being in constant action all day long is the norm. They are stuck in an endless cycle of busyness and filling up time with tasks.

One of the things I’ve noticed about busy work is that it doesn’t make people more productive or creative. In fact, it creates more complication and complexity.

Dealing with emails, going to numerous meetings, multi-tasking and working on low value activities is often not the best use of your time.

What if there was a different way to think about how you manage your time? Do you wish you could manage your time more effectively and finish each day being satisfied with what you’ve achieved?

There are a few simple time-management strategies that busy people can use to become more effective, productive and get more of the most important things done.

Below are 8 time management strategies that busy people can implement right now to simplify their lives and change how they think about managing their time.

1. Take a Time Audit

If you want to take control of your time, the first step is to understand how you are spending your time right now.

You can’t make a change until you have clarity on where you are and what’s working and what’s not working?

This audit gives you a big picture view of the value you are creating and the results you are delivering V the time you are investing in each project or task. It will help you simplify everything so you can understand very quickly whether you are using your time productively or not.

When my coaching clients conduct a time audit they usually do this for seven days straight and I would recommend the same for you.

How to Conduct a Time Audit

  1. Get a blank piece of paper
  2. Put a date at the top
  3. Draw three lines down the page
  4. Title the First Column ‘High Value Work’
  5. Title the Second Column ‘Good Work’
  6. Title the Third column ‘Low Value Work”

High Value Work is work that you love to do, that you’re great at. It is work that delivers the biggest results.

Good Work is work that you enjoy. It delivers good results but is work that is often repetitive and someone else could do equally well or better

Low Value Work doesn’t excite you and probably frustrates you. It doesn’t deliver great results, lowers your energy levels and could be stopped or given to someone else.

For each project or task that you undertake assign it to one of the three columns with the name of the work and the amount of time spent.

At the end of the 7 days, total up the amount of time spent in each column and on each project.

I prefer paper but you can also use a tool such as toggle or harvest. 

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This can be an eye opening exercise. At the end of the audit, look for ways to improve how you spend your time. Ask yourself how can you spend more time doing High Value Work that creates the biggest impact, brings more joy and deliver the results you want.

2. Set Time Management Goals

Without a clear vision or goals, it can become easy to drift, lose focus and become distracted.

By creating clarity on where you are now and where you want to get to, it becomes much easier to focus your time on the high value activities that will help you achieve your goals.

Through setting specific, measurable goals, you can clearly identify what your ideal future looks like, and create a plan and path to get there.

With this clarity, you can simplify everything. You are clear on your destination and know the best way to manage your time, resources and people to get there,

By understanding what you do best and what can create the biggest impact, you gain greater clarity on how best to use your time as well as who else can help you achieve your goals.

Mastering your time is partly about what changes you can make. It is also about who can help you become even more effective.

Setting goals can give you the willpower and motivation to move forward in the right direction, saving you time and reducing busyness and procrastination.

Set goals for every 90 day period and then review your performance at the end of that cycle. Review what worked and what breakthroughs you achieved. Then set up your next 90-day goals.

Learn more about setting goals to get things done in this article: 17 Smart Tips on Setting Goals to Get More Done

3. Delegate and Outsource

When you complete a time audit, you understand exactly where you’re currently spending your time and on what activities.

The key to effective delegation is to understand your unique strengths and the biggest value you create, and work out how you can spend more and more time doing that work.

Sometimes we feel we’re the only people who can get the job done, so we hold onto tasks that we don’t enjoy and tale us away from the things we do best.

We can all get back hours by doing better, more productive work. Work we actually love doing.

Rather than thinking about how you can fit everything in to your schedule, consider who are the people that can take on projects and tasks.

Think about where your creative energy and unique skills could best be utilized.

A CEO of a Travel Agency I worked with got back 15 hours a week simply by hiring an assistant to work with her. She was able to spend more of her time doing the things she did best and loved to do. This included winning new business, spending time with her clients, and getting more referrals.

Try this tip:

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Every 90-days think about how you can eliminate 3 things from your list of Low Value Work list that currently frustrates you, annoys you or you find delivers no real value.

Think of 3 things from your Good Work list that you can delegate or outsource.

Think of 3 things from your High Value List that you want to spend more time doing.

Keep following this process every 90 days to free yourself up even more to focus more time on the things that you do best and bring the highest level results.

This guide on how to delegate will be useful for you: Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

4. Start Prioritizing

When you are clear and intentional about how you want to spend your time and your future goals, the key is to start prioritizing your time to make those goals a reality.

If you don’t set priorities, you can lose focus, get distracted and start procrastinating. Your time will become filled up with low value activities and perfectionism can creep in.

If you have 20 things on your To-Do list each day, you’re not prioritising. When you have a never-ending To-Do list and bulging Inbox your workload will continually stretch, leading to overwhelm and a loss of clarity and focus.

If you are super busy, the key to time management is focus and prioritization around the activities that will help you reach your goals.

A simple time management strategy is to set a maximum of five things you want to achieve each day. Those are your priorities.

If you manage to complete them, you can work on other things but those five you’ve identifies take priority.

This intentionality will ensure you don’t get distracted and move on to items and tasks that aren’t on your priority list.

Check out this article on how to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster and check out the video below to learn to create more time:

5. Do the Most Important Thing First

This strategy is one of the keys to effective time management.

Start your day by asking yourself:

“What’s the Number One thing I absolutely have to achieve today?”

Once you are clear on that, and you commit to achieving that thing, chances are you WILL actually do the work.

This technique will stop the disorder, distractions and chaos from impacting on your day.

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The reason? You have made a conscious decision at the start of the day, when your willpower is strong.

Have you noticed that as the day wears on you have less and less willpower and energy to focus?

So, do the most important thing or things first.

If you have set up calls with potential clients, do this in the morning.

If you have an important presentation to write, again do this in the morning.

Don’t multitask. Focus on one project at a time and work on it until complete.

Whatever your most important thing is, if you do that thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done.

By following this simple time management strategy, you will usually end up having a very productive day.

Sometimes you may have to start saying no more often if the things are not a priority or don’t fit in with your goals. How? Learn to say no from this article: The Gentle Art of Saying No

6. Create the Perfect Morning and Evening Routine

If you’re operating at your peak physically and mentally, you are going to be far more focused and productive.

Creating your perfect morning routine can give you the clarity focus and energy to complete your key priorities for the day.

If you can, spend 60-90 minutes setting up a ‘high performance’ day every day by focusing on what YOU want to achieve.

Have a healthy breakfast, read, meditate, go for a walk – whatever works best for you. Then lay out and be clear on your priorities for the day.

What is the One Thing you want to focus on – do that thing first until completed. This takes commitment and consistency.

It may be hard to start with but, just like going to the gym, can get easier over time, if you start achieving the results you want.

If you want to double your productivity and maximize your time, create an evening routine to support your morning routine.

At the end of each day, give yourself 15 minutes to reflect on the day. Write down 3 things that were great about that day. This could be getting a new client, a great meeting you had, positive comments on your work. Anything that makes you feel positive and confident. This strategy also makes you feel grateful for what you’ve achieved.

Then write down the 3-5 things you want to achieve the next day, listed in priority order. This will ensure everything is fresh in your mind the next morning and will create a confident mindset.

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To add a further layer to this strategy, spend 30 minutes on a Sunday setting up your key priorities for the week ahead.

7. Work in Time Blocks

If you’re serious about gaining more control over your time, experiencing more freedom and conquering any feelings of stress and overwhelm then you must not multi-task.

Instead, work in chunks of focused time on your priority projects. Don’t switch between tasks or projects.

I work on the 60/60/30 principle, working in chunks of 50 minutes, then taking a 10-minute break for the first two chunks of time before then taking 30 minutes out to read, walk or meditate.

This strategy can help keep your energy up throughout the day and give you a real sense of accomplishment as projects will be completed.

Many people use the Pomodoro technique for tracking their time, but you can simply use the timer function on your phone.

8. Take Time for Yourself

How often do you take time for yourself or celebrate small or big achievements each day?

For some, it is a badge of achievement to work harder and work longer hours to get as many things done as possible.

If you continue to do this consistently, you could be in danger of burnout.

By making the maximum use of your time, streamlining your workflow and focusing on the high value activities that will help you achieve your goals, you will have more time to spend on yourself and with the people that matter.

You must give yourself permission to take time out of your business, whether you want to spend this time on personal development or with the family or friends, that’s up to you but give yourself that time.

Dan Sullivan, Founder of Strategic Coach has created a unique time management system to help you focus you time, energy and creativity o produce your best results.[1]

Part of this time management system is a focus on taking Free Days, which is a 24-hour day, from midnight to midnight, during which there are no work related activities.

The aim of this day is to help people rejuvenate and boost energy to ensure they maintain high levels of productivity and creativity.

The Bottom Line

When busy people talk about not having enough time, it’s usually because they haven’t understood the value of their own time and prioritised it in the right way.

How we use our time is often a choice. We actually have a great deal of control over our time. Not complete control, but more control than we think.

Try one or more of these time management strategies. If you find one or more that works for you, keep with it for 90 days and see the difference it makes in both your business and personal life.

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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