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Published on January 7, 2020

10 Best Time Management Tips for Professionals

10 Best Time Management Tips for Professionals

We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with, but how do you squeeze the most out of that time to get real time-saving results?

It’s not about working harder as that will only get so far, it’s how you plan and structure your time and then how you maximize the time you have planned.

The key for these time management tips is not to do them once, but repeat them over and over until they become habits. This is when those around will think you do have more than 24 hours in a day.

1. Plan Your Week When You’re at Your Most Organized

One of the most important time management tips is planning your week.

Doing this task at the same time each week, not only creates a time-saving habit but can have a positive impact on your mindset and wellbeing.

Let me explain.

By planning your week, you’re making a number of small positive promises to yourself. Each time you deliver and keep these promises your confidence grows, and you’ll feel better about yourself as you’re getting more done.

This approach saves you time as you’re doing the planning when you’re in a focused state of mind as you plan what’s important for you. During the week, you’re then less tempted to do something else during one of those pre-planned slots, as you can remind yourself I planned this for a reason.

So plan your week and keep those promises you made to yourself to see real time-saving results.

2. Plan the Following Workday for a Relaxed Evening

If you struggle with closure after the working day, this approach helps relax your mind and lets you enjoy your evening without the worry of work.

All you need is 5-10 minutes each day and a note pad. It’s quick and has considerable benefits for how you manage your time.

At the end of each day, write down around ten tasks you want to complete the next day.

Next, select one of those tasks you have to complete no matter what and mark it with an H for high.

Then add M’s for medium to five or so tasks. These are the tasks you need to complete, but if you can’t finish them all, it will be manageable.

The remaining tasks mark with an ‘L’ for low. These are nice to have, plus they should be easy tasks.

With your next day tasks planned out, you can leave work with all those nagging tasks in your head written down and ready for you to tackle the next day.

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3. Control Your Day so It Doesn’t Control You

Planning your day is the most impactful time management tip you can do. It allows you to control your day rather than let the day control you.

This approach is straightforward, plus it has the flexibility for when your working day doesn’t go as planned.

Grab a pencil and notepad!

In your notepad, break the day down into 30-minute segments, 09:30, 10:00 etc. Add them line by line with a line or two in between each one.

Now look at your work diary and add in anything that’s fixed like meetings.

Next, take your high priority end tasks and add these into your 30-minute segments.

If you still have free time slots, don’t leave them empty.

If you’re struggling for motivation one morning, try this:

Pick some easy, quick tasks and get them done first, don’t worry if you’re putting off harder tasks. Doing easy tasks first will give you the momentum and the right mindset to then tackle the hard stuff.

4. Manage Distracting Work Colleagues Wisely

It doesn’t matter how well you plan your week, day or even the next hour if you’re continually distracted. Distractions result in loss of focus and are the doorway to procrastination.

This time management tip is all about creating the right working environment, so you can maximise the time you have to be as productive as possible.

Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable explains that if you want to become genuinely productive, you must become indistractable. One of the biggest distractions in the workplace is often our work colleagues.

For the colleagues that distract you the most, simply ask them at the start of each day, is there anything they need from you? By doing this, you’re making them plan without them realizing it, but it’s on your terms. This reduces the chances of a random request later in the day.

5. Deal with Emails on Your Terms

At times, managing your inbox can feel like a full-time job. You can also fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve got a lot done because you sent loads of emails, or got to the mystical inbox zero!

Although sending a few emails can be satisfying, the problem is emails are also used as a form of procrastination, as they’re an easy fallback task when you don’t fancy working on something hard.

So what do you do to stop these distractions and reduce the stress caused by email?

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You plan when you want to read and respond to your emails, so you’re in control.

A study at the University of British Columbia revealed that you should only check your emails three times a day and by doing so reduces stress.[1]

So at the start of each day, plan for when you’ll check your email. How often you check your email depends on your job, but less is more and ideally no more than three.

This approach still keeps you in control of your inbox, but you’re doing it at a time that works for you.

6. Remove Electronic Distractions and Become Present

How many times at work do you see someone distracted by a notification on their mobile or laptop?

Mobile and laptop notifications distract us every day, but they have also become an acceptable distraction.

In the majority of jobs, you don’t have to react immediately to a notification even when we feel we need to. It’s a habit that has been created by technology.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Go through all your notification settings on your mobile and laptop and only leave the critical ones on. In most cases, this should be phone calls only.

By turning off these notifications, you then check emails, messenger etc. at the times that work for you, not when they arrive.

You can also turn off the number count that appears on mobile and desktop apps. You don’t need to know how many emails you have in your inbox at any one time, especially if you’ve planned out when you’ll check your emails.

If you leave this badge feature on, it creates a nagging distraction that will take you away from your work and impact your time.

Try it for a few days and see the positive impact it will have on your time management. Those around will also see the change as you’ll be much more present at home and work.

7. Hit the Timer and Go Deep with Your Focus

Stopping a task usually happens when you’ve either finished it, lost interest or you’ve been distracted. It takes on average 23 minutes to refocus when you’ve been distracted so you need to do everything you can to remain in that focused state.[2]

Unfortunately, loss of interest and distraction are the most likely results of time management struggles, so that’s why setting a timer can make all the difference.

By setting a timer, you make a promise to yourself that you will not be distracted or work on anything else until that timer ends. This small promise can have a considerable impact on your time management.

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You can try different lengths of time to see what works for you, for example, 25 minutes if you use the Pomodoro Technique. 25 minutes might not sound long, but by remaining fully focused for 25 minutes, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done. [3]

8. Find out What You Should Not Be Spending Your Time On

Every day, we spend time on things that remove us from doing what we should be doing — whether that’s distractions like social media, email or tasks that we would rather not be doing, like the weekly shop or the ironing.

All of these time-consuming activities may seem trivial, but they all add up when it comes to time management.

You may be thinking, I have to do these, but there is a technique called the Not-To-Do list that can help.

It’s not just about stopping non-impactful tasks completely. It can also be about automating or delegating the task.

So how do you create a Not-To-Do List?

First, spend 10 minutes writing down all the things that don’t really serve you or help get you to where you really want to be (e.g. watching TV, social media, food shopping, cleaning the house)

Next, place each one under the heading of either automate, delegate or eliminate.

Automate could be for your weekly shop, you now use a company that delivers the ingredients and recipes to your door.

Delegate could be getting a cleaner for your house every week.

Eliminate could be stopping putting the TV on as soon as you come back from work.

Once you’ve created your No-To-Do list, make sure you repeat the process once a month.

Each month you’ll gain hours back you didn’t realise you had.

9. Declutter Your Brain to Maximize Your Concentration

Our brain is processing thousands of thoughts every day; frustratingly, many of them are actions we can’t complete at that moment.

Having a cluttered mind impacts our time management as we can’t focus with these outstanding actions in our heads.

Here is a straightforward way to declutter your mind:

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Carry a small notepad and pen around with you everywhere you go. It needs to be small enough to fit into your pocket or bag and has to be easily accessible. Every time a thought or action pops into your head when you’re out and about, write it down.

This could be an idea, something inspiring, an action for when you get home, anything.

Then all you need to do is schedule in time to make sure you action all of those notes. Every few days is enough.

By capturing tasks on paper rather than let them build up in your brain, you’re then free to work on what’s important at the time in a focused state.

10. Make Promises to Others

If you were to make a promise to yourself or to a friend, which one do you think you’re most likely to keep?

In most cases, it’s going to be that promise made to the friend.

You can use this to your advantage by sharing a commitment you have to complete a task or project with a friend.

Tell your friend what you want to achieve, why and by when. Then ask them to check in with you at various points up until you said you would complete the project.

While working on the project, you’ll have that promise you’ve made to your friend in the back of your mind. That promise you made will be the driver to focus and make the most of the time you have to get that project completed.

The Bottom Line

All of these tips require nothing more than a little of your time each day, but the time you save when using these approaches will be significant.

Put reminders in your diary to keep these tips front of mind, as once you start to practice them regularly, they’ll then become habits.

They can be used independently, but are much more powerful when used together.

Over time, those around you will be asking how do you find the time to achieve so much in a day!

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Valentin Antonucci via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ben Willmott

Productivity and Project Management blogger for at work and at home

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Published on August 4, 2020

How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

SMART goal setting is one of the most valuable methods used by high achievers today to actualize their life goals time after time. SMART goal setting is the inverse of random or carefree goal setting without strategy.

Perhaps, you’ve always wished to get back in shape, get an annuity, or take control of your finances, but you failed to act. When you approach your goals with a care-free and nonchalant attitude, you’re less likely to achieve them.

You should have a strategic goal setting method in place, and learning how to set smart goals is imperative in this case. The method is time-tested and purposeful, meaning it can help you achieve your goals now.

To achieve your goals consistently and join the pack of high achievers out there who have consistently achieved many of their goals, you must be prepared to do what these people have been doing, and be ready to do the right thing: SMART goal setting.

What Is the SMART Model for Setting Goals?

SMART goal setting is a goal-setting method that considers certain factors about a goal relative to the person setting it. These factors are simply the five different letters in the SMART acronym for goal setting.

It is relative to the person setting the goal because what is true for A may not be true for B; or what is possible for A or within A’s ability to achieve may not be possible for B or within B’s ability to achieve.

What does the goal setting acronym SMART stand for?

  • S—Specific
  • M—Measurable
  • A—Achievable
  • R—Realistic/Relevant
  • T—Time-bound

Is it possible that this acronym can make a long lasting impact in your life?

Is it possible that a mere goal setting metric like SMART can help you achieve so many of your unfulfilled goals?

Is it possible that if you practice SMART goal setting, you will be able to have faster results, understand your goals better, overcome the habit of procrastination, and achieve a lot?

The power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

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It is important to extend the inquiry by asking: How many times have you said you’ll do “X,” but failed to do so?

We all have goals, and we all have 24 hours each day at our disposal. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating, some find it difficult to do so.

For some people who have succeeded again and again in achieving their goals, they have simply found an easy way of doing this. Is there something they know that you don’t?

How Smart Goal Setting Makes a Lasting Impact

Smart goal setting examples can be found all around you. Through SMART goal setting, Stephen Cooley was able to grow his real estate business to the point of closing at $110 million in sales when the average price point of homes was between $100,000 – $200,000 in South Carolina[1].

Through SMART goal setting, Steve Jobs was able to improve the fortunes of Apple and prevent the company from going bankrupt, even when it had barely 90 days left before being declared so.

SMART goal setting can make a lasting impact in your life in several ways.

Make Your Goal Clearer

When you use the SMART criteria to set goals, it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

By using SMART goal setting, you’re able to ask yourself relevant questions pertaining to your goal.

Motivate You Into Acting on Your Goals

When you use SMART goal setting and break down the goal into smaller goals or milestones, the bigger goal no longer looks intimidating or impossible.

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, wrote in his book How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be about how they applied the rule of five in marketing their book, Chicken Soup, and were able to make the book a best seller after some months[2]. The rule of five simply means doing five specific things every day that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

In order not to be overwhelmed, you would have to measure your performance using the right metrics. Here we are considering the Measurable and Achievable aspects of the SMART acronym. It is critical that you measure yourself in terms of lead measures.

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What are lead measures? They are the things you do that leads you closer to your goals. On the other hand, you would have to avoid “lag measures.”

While lag measures mean a successful outcome that you wished for and got, they can be emotionally draining and deceitful because, whenever they don’t happen, you can become discouraged.

Therefore, it is better to stick to lead measures.

Help You Save Time

You can achieve more when you use SMART model goal setting.

To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. If you can’t identify any of these points in your goal, you probably will be wasting your time on a wild goose chase.

When your goals are written down, it’s easier for you to go into action mode.

Improve Your Self-Discipline

Self-improvement is an important thing for everyone to do periodically. When you set SMART goals, it makes you realize that you have to sit up and work on achieving them.

How to Set SMART Goals

See the source image

    To make your SMART goals work, use the following tips:

    Specific

    Every goal ought to be specific. It is important to guard against making vague goals because even when they have been achieved, you may not know. This is because you weren’t specific enough.

    For example, “I will start planning toward retirement” is vague. Rather than write that, you could say, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan.” This is more specific.

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    When you are specific on your goal, it’s easier for you to identify all its components and work accordingly toward achieving it.

    Measurable

    Your goals must be measurable. When they are measurable, it’s easier for you to follow through.

    A goal like this is not measurable: “I want to make millions of dollars.” You can make it more measurable by saying, “I want to make one million dollars selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each.”

    Also, using our SMART goal setting examples while explaining the Specific acronym, you can make the goal more measurable by saying, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month.”

    Achievable

    How realistic or actionable is your goal? Is it practical enough to fit into a given time frame? Is it something you are able to achieve in your capacity?

    You would only be setting yourself up for failure if you sets goals that are not reasonable.

    A goal like this is highly unrealistic and, therefore, not achievable: “I want to be the Governor of Texas in six months,” especially since the elections will be coming up in three years.

    Goals must be written down relative to the experiences of the one setting them. They must resonate with you. It is important that you have at least some of the resources needed to actualize this goal.

    It is also important that you consider your time frame. When the time frame to achieve a complex goal is too short, it is rare that such goal will be completed.

    Thus, using our previous example, if you write “I want to make one million dollars in ten days selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each,” you would only be setting up yourself for failure.

    This is especially true if you’re not a popular author or if you’ve never sold even up to one thousand copies of any of your previous books, whether e-copy or in print.

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    Realistic/Relevant

    Before you proceed to making the commitment toward that goal, you need think about how realistic and relevant it is.

    Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved. If your goal is relevant, it fits into the life you’ve imagined for yourself.

    Time-Bound

    Every goal must have a commencement date and an end date written down. It is also important that you break down your goals into phases, chunks, bits, or milestones.

    The act of having deadlines set to your goals is ample motivation that drives you into action. Without a deadline, it is not possible for you to know if you’re making headway with your goals.

    “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month for the next twenty five years” is a time-bound goal.

    Remember that some goals are short-term while some are long-term. It is important to always bear this in mind, because this will help you in making a clear and realistic strategy when SMART goal planning.

    Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds, on paper, or just midway into implementation. SMART goal setting reveals to us all the action points of our goals and helps us to have an awareness of every aspect of our goals.

    The Bottom Line

    What matters at the end of the day is what you do with the contents of this article because the power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

    It is not enough to have a goal. It is not enough to put it down in writing. It is important to have a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that point you in the right direction. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

    After writing down your goals, you will have to be ready to take action. There should be a clear action point. Write down what you need to do on daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

    When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that, in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals, remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.

    Do not bother yourself with the one-year, three-year, five-year or ten-year plan as this may likely overwhelm you with fear and doubt. Let your focus be on each day. What will I be doing today? Consider this and go for it.

    More on the SMART Model for Setting Goals

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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