You work long hours each working day. You are busy to a point where you feel like pulling your hair. Though you wish you could get more time for yourself, you do not know how to free time from your schedule. You hurry in the morning and drag yourself to bed exhausted at night.
To make it worse, you feel you did not accomplish much during the day either. Though you complete many tasks, you still haven’t been promoted or been able to strike a balance between work and personal life.
If you want to change your situation, it is time you changed your mindset. Being busy does not mean you are productive. Working smarter for fewer hours yields better results than working harder for longer hours.
By learning to optimize your day using the time management tips, you can get more done in less time.
15 Time Management Tips to Get Things Done
1. Track how you’re spending time
Do you know how many hours on a working day you spend working? Spending 8 or 10 hours at your desk does not mean you worked those many hours. How many hours out of those did you spend on social media, Whatsapp, breaks, distractions, chit-chatting, doing useless things and whatnot?
Most people have no clue how many hours they actually work. As per a study conducted, employees spend less than 3 hours a day working.
You and I waste more time than we think. So the first step towards making better use of time lies in identifying where you leak time.
For 2 days, track what you do for each 15-minute window. You must either take a print out or use the excel to write down how you spent your day chunk by chunk. Be honest about how you spent that 15-minute slot. A detailed post on the activity is available at – Activity to measure your productivity
Pen and paper: PDF for print – 15min
On Computer: Excel for Download – 15 min
At the end of 2 days, you will know what keeps you busy throughout the day, how you waste time and if you really should spend time on certain things.
2. Reduce your working hours
Yes, you read that right. If you believe you have a busy schedule, do yourself a favor and cut down 1 or 2 working hours. Since you are used to working long hours, you use the approach of working longer to complete work. If you have more work on your plate today, you work longer.
You must aim to make your working hours more efficient.
Working for fewer hours forces you to prioritize. You can no longer work for 3 hours on a specific task because you have other things to do. By forcing yourself to cut down the time for task X from 3 hours to 2 hours, you challenge yourself to work faster, think better and reduce wasted time.
3. Shorten your to-do list
How long is your to-do list? If your to-do list has turned into an endless pile into which you keep dumping random tasks, you need to change your approach. Give your to-do list a makeover.
Do not dump every little task on your to-do list. If you look carefully, many of the tasks on your to-do list add no value. Be brutal about such tasks. Strike them off and never add them again.
Your to-do list should only contain a list of things which matter to you. If your to-do list has grown too long to manage, it implies you add more tasks to your list than necessary.
4. Decline meetings/batch them together
Have you been in a meeting where people discussed like a bunch of executives and nothing happened after? That is a classic example of a useless meeting which wastes everybody’s time.
These days people love to conduct and attend meetings. Some people feel a sense of pride in saying “Sorry, I was busy in a meeting.”
The majority of the meetings are useless. They turn into a playground for people to showcase themselves to their superiors by portraying their own selves.
Decline such meetings. A meeting should either be informational or drive action. Endless meetings can suck time off your schedule.
Stop attending discussions and start doing things. Doing > Planning > Discussing. Period.
Also, whenever possible schedule meetings back to back. When you get out of a meeting and have another meeting 30 minutes later, making the best of those 30 minutes in between is not an easy job. Having meetings lined up saves you time.
5. Do not check emails as soon as you start your working day
The one thing these days that people love more than meetings, is email. We love sending and reading emails. Even if the person is seated at arm’s distance, people prefer sending an email instead of talking in person.
People read emails outside their work hours, during weekends and vacation, even when their organization does not expect them to. Reading emails has today become an addiction. People feel the need to check emails many times a day.
Once you check your emails, your mailbox dictates your day. You jump from one email to another, performing tasks that others are asking you. You forget your own goals, dreams, and passion.
Do not check your emails first thing in the morning. Emails can wait. You live under the false presumption that you need to check emails in the morning. Try checking it 2 hours after you reach the office. In almost all cases, you feel no difference.
6. Say No
The world is filled with people who look to offload their work onto others. If you are a dedicated employee, chances are people will seek your help now and then.
I am not against helping others but you must only help others when you can. If accepting a task which your coworker asked for is going to burden you, you must say no.
You will find it awkward to deny a task coming from a known person. But to gain effective control over your time, you need to learn how to say no.
When it comes to time and priorities, be selfish because the time you spend never comes back.
7. Set a maximum time for a task
You start a task and run into a problem that prevents you from completing the task. Now, you go bonkers and chase for a solution like a dog chasing cars.
You no longer care whether the task holds priority or if another pending task is more important. Getting the problem resolved and completing the task is all that you set your focus on.
As human beings, we do not like to leave a task incomplete. It leaves an open loop in our brain. But you need to let go after spending a certain amount of time on a task. Unless a task needs to be completed on priority, do not go on and on with the task just for the heck of completing it.
You must move on and keep the ball rolling.
8. Eliminate distractions
The smartphone works as a device of distraction. Hearing your phone buzz or beep makes you curious to check what the notification was. Soon, one thing leads to another and you end up wasting hours on your smartphone which could have been utilized for more productive tasks.
When you hear your phone beep at a distance, you feel the urge to check your phone. Even if you decide not to check your phone right now, you still hold the thought in your head that you have a pending notification to check.
Resisting such an urge is no easy feat. Your best defense against such an urge is to cut as many notifications as possible. Using DND yields great results.
My phone is set to be on DND for the whole day except for three hours, 8 PM – 11 PM. You can learn how to use DND by time of the day on both Android and iPhone the same way.
If you do not use DND, the phone controls your behavior by asking you to pick it up every time it beeps. By using DND, your phone never beeps and you can check your phone every few hours as per your choice.
Similarly, find other ways to reduce distractions. Wear earphones, use empty rooms, lock doors behind you, put up a DND or any other way you can think of.
Do not make yourself available to people all the time. Your time must work in your favor.
9. Use time blocking
Work within time slots when possible. For example, you can set the first 1 hour of your day to learn and improve in your area of expertise. Next 1 hour to work on any tasks related to your long term goals. You can spend the third-hour checking emails and so on.
When you work in time slots like these, you make better overall progress. If not, you may wander from one task to another, without a clear direction. One task may extend while another might cut short. As a result, you bounce from one task to another like a balloon drifting due to a strong breeze.
10. Have a Mini Plan for the day
You must approach each day with a small plan. You do not have to plan it by the minute or the hour. But you need to decide which are the important things to work on that day.
All it takes is 10 minutes of your morning. For best results, use a notepad and write down the important tasks you should complete that day. Let the notepad remain on your desk. It will serve as a reminder of the important tasks you have to complete today.
11. Apply Deepwork
Deep work is a concept of focused working introduced by Cal Newport. As per this technique, when you work, you work with intense focus. This implies you stay away from your phone, email, chat and even people for the duration of Deepwork.
You do not have to work the whole day under the principles of Deepwork. Applying some hours of Deepwork each day completely transforms your efficiency. By working in such a state of flow, you challenge yourself to grow better and solve tougher problems.
Such effort improves your skills and value over time making you a formidable force in your own area of expertise.
12. Do not Multitask
We have a ton of things to do. In a hurry to complete them all, we switch from one task to another. Working on multiple tasks gives us a false comfort that we are pushing ourselves to the limit.
The truth is, working on multiple tasks destroys your productivity. When you switch from one task to another, your brain carries some attention residue as you move to the next task. The residue leads to dilution of focus during the next task.
Do not assume you are a superhuman who does best by multitasking. Not only will you never succeed, but you will also even hurt yourself. Only 2% of the world population can multitask effectively. The chances that you or I can multitask are scant.
Do yourself a favor and stop multitasking.
13. Use Waiting time
Whenever you have some extra time, try to make the most of it. For example, you will wait in a queue, ride in an Uber, wait for a friend to show up, take the subway or run on a treadmill. Even though the time spent on these might only last a few minutes, you can still make the best use of them.
You can listen to a podcast, make the pending calls, check emails or anything else you deem necessary. You can even read a book by installing the Kindle app on your phone.
Spending time while you’re waiting frees up time later in the day.
Time management is more of a mindset and lifestyle than a process to follow. When you practice making the best of your time as a habit, all these tips seem like second nature. You won’t even need to remind yourself to do it.
Freeing up time helps you spend more time with your loved ones and work on things that matter to you. Do not let others take control of your time.
You are your own master. You control your own time. Only you!
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed