Once again your boss notices you stroll in late. Your stomach sinks and you worry about your next performance review. You’re hungry and stressed and it’s hard to focus on your email in-box. You really need to eat something, so you go to the break room and get some chips out of the snack machine and a cup of black coffee. Ugh, you wish you could eat healthier…
You decide to work through lunch to impress your boss, but you miss hanging out with your coworkers. Later you find out they planned a get-together for later in the week, which they forgot to tell you about. Then, since you’re at your desk anyway, your boss gives you extra work. And so the cycle continues.
Everyone gets exactly 24 hours a day, not a minute more or less, no matter who you are. So how do some people manage to accomplish a lot more than others with the same number of hours—and with less stress, too? Effective time management!
What Is Effective Time Management?
Stress, skimping on sleep, eating on the go and other characteristics of the terminally time-constrained are all very bad for your physical and mental well-being. Using your time well and handing in a report when it’s due leaves you feeling calmer, lets you get to bed on time and maybe even allows some time for working up a sweat at the gym.
Everyone has one: the friend or relative is who reliably 20 minutes late to everything (lookin’ at you, Mom!) If you’re that person, you know that your relationships suffer. Friends stop asking you for coffee, your spouse gets annoyed, and your kids get a reputation for never being anywhere on time. If you’re up late finishing your work or spending weekends catching up, you miss valuable time with your family and friends, too.
Effective time management can lead to opportunities in several different ways. A reputation for promptness is definitely an asset when annual review time rolls around—and you can be sure the person who never finishes projects on time is not going to be first in line for a promotion. Also, when you’re feeling hurried and stressed, you can develop tunnel vision and not even see a great opportunity when it’s staring you in the face. Lastly, when you develop a reputation for efficiency and getting things done, people will come to you with new opportunities.
Time & Money
It really is true that time is money. Wasted time translates into stress which translates into poorer job performance and possibly lost income. Furthermore, rushed work can mean jobs filled with expensive mistakes. A fast food meal eaten on the fly—because you’re late once again—is more expensive than a thoughtfully prepared bag lunch. If you’re more mindful of the ties between time and money, you’re less likely to waste either.
Strategies for Effective Time Management
You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional planner or a personal assistant to find ways to manage your time better (though you could…). There are a number of simple strategies you can use that will put you on the road to time management effectiveness.
Schedule an Hour Dedicated to Planning Each Week
Make an appointment with yourself to plan your coming week. Friday is a great day to do this if that’s an option, because then you have your whole weekend to enjoy life without stressing about Money. Personally, I do most of my planning/prep work on Sundays because that’s what works for my schedule. Whatever day you do it, you’ll want to think about your short-term and long-term goals and plan to make progress—even just a little—on each one every week. Make it pleasant for yourself, too: settle in with a nice cup of coffee, tea, whatever you fancy and listen to your favorite music while you plan these out. Soon you’ll find this planning session is something you look forward to doing versus something you have to do.
Track Your Energy
Everyone’s energy levels rise and fall throughout the day. Spend a day or two taking quick notes on when you feel clearest and most energized, and then plan your most difficult tasks for those times. Trying to do difficult tasks when you’re drained is a recipe for procrastination. You should also be sure to build in short rest breaks every hour or two. Use these times to get a breath of fresh air or take a quick walk. This will prevent the burnout that can happen after a few hours of uninterrupted concentration.
Take Advantage of Technology—But Don’t Overdo It
There are tons of calendar apps, note-taking programs, and organizational aids available for your phone and laptop. It can be tempting to try all the latest, hottest gizmos that promise to save you time and keep your stuff in order. However, they can also be a time suck as you have to relearn each new app and reenter your information. They can also scatter your focus. Limit what you use and don’t be afraid to go old school! You are MUCH more likely to remember something if you physically write it so try to balance between apps and physical to-do lists. For me, I use my Outlook calendar when it comes to scheduling clients but everything else is written out by hand and it makes such a difference.
Time management doesn’t have to be a dreadful, boring, annoying process. Once you acknowledge what time management is truly costing you in terms of money, stress, and lost joy, you will want to work out a plan that brings balance back to your life and I am always happy to help! In the meantime, I’d love to know…
Where do you struggle the most when it comes to time management? How are you currently tracking all that you need to do?