How much time do you spend thinking about what to do, rather than actually doing things? If you spend long enough analyzing the best actions to take, you just may end up stuck in one spot. In fact, you may even be subconsciously sabotaging yourself, not realizing that it’s fear of making a mistake that’s keeping you from making a decision.
Masters of time management have some simple tactics they follow that prevent them from wasting precious hours and minutes. They’re able to cut through the mind chatter and be remarkable productive, getting far more done than you could imagine in your wildest dreams.
The 12 Top Time Management Tips
First, let’s take a bird’s eye view of these tips. Then think of them as rules that you'll follow every single day to become a master of productivity.
- Set daily goals
- Focus on high-return tasks
- Batch similar tasks
- Get rid of non-essentials
- Delegate what you can
- Work with your natural rhythms
- Get the worst out of the way first
- Set a target
- Set a deadline
- Set a timer
- Eliminate distractions
- Learn to work faster
By using these time management tips to set rules for yourself and making a commitment to stick to them every day, you can increase your own productivity exponentially. You’ll be less stressed, have more time for yourself and your family, and grow your profits all at the same time.
Sound too good to be true? Well, no one is a superhero and follows these rules all the time. But, if you focus on at least one of these tactics each day, they’ll soon become habits that come naturally to you. It’s not impossible and the payoff is worth the effort.
How to Implement the Time Management Tips for Productivity
Now, starting at the top, try implementing each of these behavioral tips one at a time. Gradually add an extra one to follow every day, or as frequently as you can manage.
1. Set daily goals
Each night, set your goals for the next day. If you don’t have time in the evening or at the end of the work day, set your goals first thing in the morning – before you do anything else. If you have goals set, you’ll know exactly what you need to do and won’t have to waste time thinking about what to do next.
2. Focus on High Return Tasks
The most productive people follow the Pareto Principle as the guide for all their actions. If you haven’t heard of it, this principle states that 20% of the actions you take provide 80% of the results. The return on your time investment for all your other tasks is minimal in comparison.
Try looking back at the past month and think about which types of tasks you did that had the biggest benefits for yourself and your business. You might be pleasantly surprised at how few of your actions really make an impact. As you plan your day and make your to-do list, focus on the tasks that will accomplish the most.
3. Batch similar tasks
When you switch back and forth between different types of tasks, you have to keep readjusting your mind and your focus to the type of task on hand. Instead, do all your emailing at one time, in the morning and in the afternoon. Make all your phone calls at another time. Set your meetings for one block of time in the day. You’ll be able to get more done simply by keeping your mind in a certain “mode” of behavior.
4. Get rid of non-essentials
As you put together a to-do list each day, ask yourself a couple questions for each task: “Does this really need to be done?” “Will this make a big enough impact on my goals to warrant the time it takes?” Simply put, if a task doesn't have a clear benefit, erase it from your list.
5. Delegate what you can
Another question to ask yourself for each task is, “do I really need to do this myself?” If not, who can do it for you? Tap into any resources you have, whether it’s employees, contractors, or even family members. If it’s a one-time task, consider hiring an outsourcer through a site like eLance or Odesk. Just make sure you outline exactly what you want done, so that you don’t end up spending time on revisions.
6. Work with your natural rhythms
Are you a morning person? Then make sure you do your most complicated tasks that require the most brain power at the start of the day. Are you practically useless in the afternoons? Try scheduling a little exercise time to wake yourself up. You’ll get more done just by working hardest at the times when you have the most energy in your day.
7. Get the worst out of the way first
While you’ll want to do the most critical tasks when you have the most focus, you should also get the most unpleasant ones out of the way as quickly as possible. If a task is necessary, but you really hate doing it, you’re more likely to procrastinate. If you get it over with first, you can go on to enjoy the rest of your day and feel the relief of putting the tasks you dislike behind you.
8. Set a target
Just as you set overall goals for the day, set target goals for each type of task. For example, if you’re writing blog posts, set a target of writing 2 blog posts. Make the commitment to keep writing until you’re done with those posts. Other than a few minutes to grab a coffee or a bathroom break, commit to sticking with that task until it’s complete.
9. Set a deadline
Never underestimate the power of a deadline. Without clear time limits, a task can go on and on. On the other hand, having a specific timeframe will help to focus your time and energy. You’ll naturally eliminate elements that won’t help you finish the task within your deadline.
10. Set a timer
Using an old-fashioned kitchen timer is a not-so-secret trick of the greatest time management experts. Even for larger tasks, you can break them down into sections of 30 minutes or less. Having a short time limit will help you focus your efforts and work faster than you would have if you just “took your time”.
11. Eliminate distractions
Close out all your browser windows except what you absolutely need to get your tasks done. Turn off Skype alerts, email alerts, social alerts, phones and any other distracting sounds. If necessary, lock your office door and hang a “do not disturb” sign. For any tasks that require your total focus, you need to block out all potential distractions that you can use as excuses or which will slow you down.
12. Learn to work faster
A timer can help you focus your efforts and get more done in a short space of time. However, you can also just get faster at something through practice and skill-building. Take an online typing class if you’re typing is very slow. Speed reading programs can help you go through text material faster. There are even ways to speed up videos so that you can listen to them faster. Just kick up the pace a bit and you’ll get more done in less time.
Think you can do any of these today? Pick one tip that you can implement immediately, such as the timer, and see what the results are. I can guarantee that you’ll get more done just through applying one productivity behavior.
If that’s the case, imagine how much you can achieve by applying all these time management tips and making them unbreakable rules! I’m going to head off right now and try another one out, especially since my timer just went off for this article ;).
And, by the way, one great productivity tip I forgot to mention (duh):
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