Time management. So elusive and marketable a skill that an entire industry has been built around selling it to every businessperson worth their salt.
It is, in effect, the art of mastering your waking – and sometimes even your unconscious hours – to make you as productive, bright-eyed, and at the top of your game as it is physically possible to be without the help of stimulants, time travel, or a miracle. Managing your time may seem like an easy concept, but who ever has enough hours in the day to get everything done you want to get done? Not many people, that’s for sure.
So, if you think you might be lagging behind when it comes to mastering your day-to-day, then check out this guide of useful tips of how to conquer the time-sucks of modern life and become the efficient, productive human being you known you can be…
1. Get A Solid Seven to Eight Hours of Sleep Every Night
This one is a simple, yet endlessly brilliant way of improving your time management skills: get more sleep. Simple, really. Studies have found that people who get an average of seven to nine hours sleep are more productive, happier,and work at a higher quality, than those who get less than seven hours sleep a night.
Getting plenty of sleep also ensures that you’ll be in a much more positive mood in the morning, meaning the chances of you getting more work done are increased. Making the most of your twenty four hours might not seem conducive to getting a full eight hours, but many famous prolific achievers such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Thomas Mann all had full and healthy sleep, suggesting that time management is something best conquered on a good night’s sleep.
2. Rise Early In The Morning To Conquer The Day
One of the most effective ways to improve your time management is to start early in the morning. Rising early has numerous benefits, the most obvious of which is that getting up early allows you much more time to actually get stuff done. Making most of your twenty four hours works much better when you’re up earlier; studies have found that early risers are more productive and feel more accomplished at day’s end.
Working as the sun rises gives you a head start on people still in bed, as well as ensuring that your brain – which according to research is best functionally two and a half hours after we wake up – gets the treatment it does. There’s a reason the adage, ‘the early bird catches the worm’ has survived to this day.
3. Never Multitask
Multitasking is a word used the world over when it comes to productivity and time management. Everyone and their high-achieving mother believes that multitasking is the way forward.if you want to be a super-productive member of society, thanks to numerous articles and books on the subject. However, in recent years, multitasking has been increasingly disregarded as a method of productivity due to neurological research suggesting that multitasking itself is impossible
Studies have shown that breaking from one task to another and then back again in a short space of time – i.e. multitasking – actually shortens attention span and affects the quality of the work. Instead, work on one task at a time and engage in the ‘flow’, a state of consciousness wherein you are totally absorbed and engaged in one activity. It’ll have the awesome side effect of improving your attention span and allowing you to get much more done and in a quicker time frame in your precious twenty four hours, vastly improving your time management.
4. Take A Twenty Minute Power Nap Regularly
One of the most enjoyable ways to boost your time management skills is to take a nap. Research has found that a ‘power nap’ taken after lunch, during one of the human body’s natural rhythms can help boost productivity, creativity, and even episodic memory. Studies have found that a short nap, one that falls within the first stage of sleep, and avoids the REM stage of sleep, can help ‘refresh’ the brain.
The other good way to nap is to take a full nap in the 90-minute sleep cycle that dictates circadian rhythms, rather than waking up in the middle of REM sleep which is sure to make you groggy and irritable. Taking a short afternoon nap helps improve your work ethic and your productivity, ensuring that you do more and better work in the time you have, making it a time management essential.
5. Bunch Tasks Together Throughout the Day To Stay In The ‘Flow’
Bunching tasks together can be an extremely useful task when it comes to working on and improving your daily time management. Scheduling your day together so that groups of tasks are bunched together allows for your brain to stay entrenched in the same comfort zone for a longer period of time, rather than flitting from one disparate task to another.
Doing this encourages being in the ‘Flow’, a state of joyful productivity that encourages great work being done with an inherent sense of bliss and happiness, something that is easily desired and hard-won. Fortunately it is easier than ever to try and induce this ‘flow’ state, and bunching tasks together makes it easier to manage your day and to get everything you need to do done in those twenty four hours.
6. Schedule the Heck Out of Your Days
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but properly scheduling your days is a must-have tool for top-quality time management. Proper scheduling can be a pain in the butt to go through but actually knowing exactly where you’re going and what you’re doing can help make the most out of your time. Scheduling is in effect forward thinking to a fine art – anticipating everything you need to get done in that day and making sure you have enough time to do it.
Planning your day ahead with a big diary or work planner can be extremely useful in terms of time management, as can ensuring that you check timetables of public transport, weather, every piece of potential information you need to take with you to work or to meetings. It might be associated with an extreme level of perfectionism, but the goal here is not perfection, but rather to give you the structure and time you need to deal with your day in the best way possible.
7. Figure Out Exactly Where You Spend Your Time and Work On Improving It
We’re all guilty of wasting time. That isn’t a crime, per se, but it is an unfortunate area and habit to block if you want to be the most productive you can be, and embrace time management at its fullest. However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t relax or unwind throughout your work day – we’re not supercharged, no-stop-taking machines, after all. So, as a compromise between your actual physical needs and your best psychological self, you need to figure out exactly where you spend your time on an average day and work on improving that.
For example, work on cutting out your commute time if possible, or utilizing that time to better effect, such as brainstorming ideas; work on fitting your physical workout time to a small amount every day instead of a marathon-long session at the end of a week that sucks up time. Streamlining your time makes you more efficient and easier to do everything you need to do and want to do in your day – that’s a key component of successful time management.
8. Use Your ‘Dead Time’ To Your Advantage
‘Dead time’ is a concept touted by books such as Tony Schwartz’s ‘Be Excellent At Anything’, is a way of making time management work to your purposes. ‘Dead time’ is the time spent when we’re just waiting or doing nothing without a real purpose; and that dead time can be useful in helping us to do little bits and pieces of big projects. If you need to review an album, take it on your mp3 player and listen to songs at a time when you’re stuck in the dentist’s office or at a quiet coffee break. Jot down ideas for your next big project when you’re waiting at the cinema to watch a movie.
The point of utilizing dead time is to use those random, useless moments to your advantage – that isn’t to say that free time itself is the enemy. Far from it; using your dead time will allow to engage fully in your well-deserved relaxation time, without fear of feeling guilty or ashamed, as if there is something more you should be working on. Make sure to make the most of your dead time, and you’ll have your time management skills on a whole new level.
9. Make Sure Never To Neglect Your Self Care and Your Mental Health.
Self-care is one of the most undervalued and yet important and central tenements of successful time management. It’s an expectation in the modern working world to always be working and be available – whether through work or through the many avenues of social media – but one of the most important things you can do every day, is to take care of your self and make sure you have a chunk of time carved out for you and you alone.
Relaxation and self-indulgence alike both have restorative properties – meditation has proven to reduce stress levels, and a short ten-minute meditation session allows for greater productivity and overall happiness. Taking time out for yourself allows your body to rejuvenate and restore itself to the kind of mental, physical, and emotional state that allows for the best productivity and effective time management. In short, don’t feel guilty for taking time out to relax in the park with a book. You’re being your best self.
10. Learn How to Say ‘No’.
One of the most important and yet terrifying things you can ever do is say ‘no’. No to a project, no to a commitment, no to someone’s request.
It’s so easy to consider saying ‘no’ selfish – there’s always another demand, another request, another assignment or project you could pick up to your already overloaded plate. However, ‘burnout’ is a significant and terrifying psychological problem in which people become so overwrought with stress that they end up hating their work and even experience physical symptoms such as physical exhaustion. Burnout is a growing problem across the global workplace, and it has to be stopped.
Just say no. No one who actually cares will mind if you politely turn down their request, citing a too-busy schedule. Taking care of your mental health is top priority, so even if it feels awkward the first time, learn to say ‘no’ to the projects you don’t want to have in your life, and learn the art of keeping your work life simple. That’s the key to time management.
Featured photo credit: Limitless, Relativity Media via fitandstrongdads.com