Tip #1: Create a time audit.
First things first: start by finding out where your time goes throughout the day. There is often a big discrepancy between your subjective time and reality.
Get a time management app (preferably Toggl) and track everything you do for a week.
Then sit down, download the reports and evaluate them.
With this data, you can easily find areas to improve. For example, you may spend too much time sitting in unproductive meetings or attending to low-priority tasks.
This brings us to the next tip.
Tip #2: Before meetings, determine your desired results.
Have a clear purpose in mind before starting meetings. Your team will waste less time by getting back to work as soon as you meet your agenda.
Tip #3: Put a time limit on tasks.
Take another look at your time audit and identify tasks that take longer than you expect.
By setting time constraints for these items, you will focus more and work more efficiently.
If you still find yourself going beyond these time limits, examine your workflow and eliminate little time-wasters like unscheduled breaks.
Tip #4: Plan your week on Sunday.
Walking into work with a plan for the week will help you focus on priorities. You can easily transition from your carefree weekend mindset to a productive Monday morning “work brain.”
Take a few minutes on Sunday to create a plan for your whole week. Cure procrastination by breaking down your weekly goals into daily tasks, so you only need a glance at this list while working.
Remember –your energy and creativity levels fluctuate throughout the week.
Schedule low-priority tasks for Mondays and other low-energy times. Complete creative and demanding tasks on Tuesday and Wednesday. Schedule meetings for Thursday, when your team’s energy starts to decline. Use your Fridays for planning and networking.
Tip #5: Create a daily plan.
Use the first 30 minutes of your day to create a daily to-do list that suits your weekly plan.
Word your list items as if you’ve already completed them. Instead of “Submit Report to Project Manager” write “Report to Project Manager Submitted.”
This little trick will give you an extra boost of motivation.
Tip #6: Add a “done list” to your to-do list.
Sometimes, unexpected tasks just pop up during the day. Jot them down in a separate list next to your to-dos for some extra satisfaction at the end of the day.
On Sunday, revisit your accomplishments from the previous week and congratulate yourself on your successes. This review period will increase your confidence and help you create the next week’s schedule.
Tip #7: Complete your most important and demanding tasks first thing in the morning.
Most of us find our first hour of the work the most productive – make sure to use yours wisely! Oddly enough, you can focus more easily when your brain isn’t fully awake. Booting-up brains have less excess energy for daydreaming and worrying about other tasks.
Tip #8: Block out distractions.
Use your computer’s “do not disturb” function when working on focused tasks. Channel your attention by working at only one monitor and opening only one window. Going offline might also be an option, but let's not go that far.
Tip #9: Don’t multitask.
Researchers have disproven the multitasking myth. If you believe you can do many things at once and maintain your quality standards, check out this article.
Tip #10: Don’t wait for inspiration - do it now.
Some artists wait for inspiration to strike. Some writers sit around, waiting for writer’s block to subside. Businesspeople don’t attend to serious tasks if they aren’t in a perfect work environment.
With mindfulness, you don’t have to feel like getting something done to do it. Notice the thoughts and feelings that arise while you work from an outside perspective. Don’t let them govern your actions.
Acknowledge your emotions and daydreams and let them go. Start tasks, even when you feel unsure, and trust your motivation to follow.
Tip #11: Don’t strive for perfection.
When everything must be perfect, can anything ever be good enough? Probably not.
To become exceptional, you must fail repeatedly and learn from your mistakes. Look at every effort as an experiment – a valuable step on your journey, no matter what the outcome.
Tip #12: Don’t get hung up on small details.
Instead of indulging in perfectionism, keep the big picture in mind.
Focus on your priorities, not the minute details of your work. Address the most important tasks on your to-do list and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Tip #13: Schedule breaks between tasks.
The human brain can only focus for about 90-minutes at a time.
Schedule a break at least every 90 minutes to avoid burnout and maintain high productivity throughout your day.
Tip #14: Make the most of waiting times.
It happens to everyone: we wait in lines, waiting rooms, airport terminals, train stations, etc.
Answer emails on your phone, catch up on missed phone calls, stretch/exercise, relax or meditate. Carry a book/Kindle with you and read. Listen to podcasts on your phone.
Don’t let unexpected queues catch you unprepared.
Tip #15: Organize your email.
People with cluttered inboxes spend so much time on email than others.
The best way to speed up email communication and waste less time on superfluous exchanges is to organize your inbox.
Gmail offers a variety of features which will help you dominate your bottomless pit of incoming mail. If you use some other client consider switching to Gmail (either through POP3, SMTP, and forwarding).
Let’s see some tricks that will help you sift through, organize and answer emails more quickly.
- Archive emails that might contain some important info but don’t need an immediate answer.
- Create actionable labels like URGENT, WAITING, NEEDS ACTION.
- Use Filters to automatically assign Labels to incoming mail based on sender or some other information/keyword they contain.
- You can even label all newsletters by setting up a filter for every email that contains the word ‘Unsubscribe’.
- Enable Canned Responses and create templates from emails that you have sent more than twice. You can customize these before sending them out but having a general outline before you start will speed up the process considerably.
Tip #16: Train the other side of your brain.
Engage in hobbies to engage the parts of your brain that you don’t use at work. You’ll solve problems faster and have more creativity at your disposal.
Spending time outside of your comfort zone leads to success. If you’re a lawyer, learn to dance. If you’re a pianist, practice martial arts. If you’re a software developer, go out and socialize.
Tip #17: Exercise often.
Sports help you handle everyday stressors.
Researchers have shown that short and intense exercise sessions can be as beneficial as longer ones. Set some time aside for short workouts – at least every other day.
Tip #18: Sleep well.
Scientists have found that sleeping less to create more task-oriented time leads to trouble. Tired people procrastinate more and get distracted easily. Give your brain at least eight hours of sleep every night.
Tip #19: Use your calendar.
A calendar is good for so much more than just scheduling meetings.
Use your calendar to keep track of deadlines, block times off for focused work, and automatically add locations to events.
Take responsibility for your time. If you think that a scheduled entry will not advance your plan for the day, just cancel it.
Tip #20: Schedule relaxation time.
Get out of the hamster wheel, spend some time in quiet, and turn off your “work brain”.
You will be surprised about the positive effects some quiet time can have on your creative processes. Meditation helps you adopt a fresh eye and gain new insights about your work.
Tip #21: Learn to say No.
Your time is precious. Don’t waste it on people and projects that don’t align with your mission and goals.
Instead of automatically accepting invitations and offers, say, ‘I’ll check my schedule and get back to you’.
This simple phrase will buy you time to evaluate offers and make smart decisions.
Tip #22: Be early.
Use the same approach with deadlines.
Plan to submit your work one day ahead of schedule.
Tip #23: Don’t answer the phone just because it’s ringing.
Don’t automatically answer emails the very second they arrive. Batch process your emails and catch up on phone calls in your down time. Avoid interruptions when working on high-focus tasks.
Tip #24: Turn your system into habits.
Form habits from the ideas listed above. Practice these time management tips and internalize a productivity mindset.
Set a reasonable schedule you can maintain over the long term (at least a month). After a while, your daily and weekly habits will become automatic.
Tip #25: Let go of bad habits in the meantime.
Set a schedule and stick to it. As you follow this plan, you’ll naturally shed your old, unproductive habits.
Tip #26: Log your time with Toggl!
If you want to have a faithful time management app that will help you see where your time goes and improve your time management routines, look no further.
Time logging with Toggl is so simple that you’ll actually use it.
Tip #27: Have a great time - no matter what.
Don't obsess about checking off all the items on your to-do list. Enjoy every day with an appropriate work/life balance. Finishing an oversized workload today isn’t worth an unproductive, burnt-out day tomorrow.
Work steadily and stay at your best pace. Rushing through tasks reduces work quality and creates stress.
It may sound like a cliché, but keep in mind: the road is always more important than the destination.
Now go and start your one week time audit by clicking on the button below. With these time management tips, you will put an end to procrastination and start owning your time right away.