How well do you manage your time? Do you have trouble getting everything done? Does your “to-do list” seem to get longer and longer? Do you find yourself wondering why other people seem to be so organized and get so much done? Are you often running late and making excuses for it?
I have said “yes” to all those things at one time or another. I realize that, even though I’m busy all the time, I don’t always make the best use of the hours I’ve been given each day. If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you may not be managing your time well either.
21 Quick Tips For Better Time Management
A couple of years ago I spent the entire year praying and meditating on Ephesians 5.15-16 which says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” I chose that verse because I struggle with things like staying on task, being on-time, trying to do too much, and making the best use of my time.
We live in a distraction crazy world. It’s easy to get side-tracked with social media, email and the constant demands put on our time. If we’re not careful we can spend all of our time responding to the demands of others and miss doing the things that will take us closer to our goals. Or … we can get so discouraged with the things we expect of ourselves that we end up doing little or nothing.
The amazing thing is that small changes in how we plan and handle our time can make a big difference. So … here are 21 tips on how to be a better time manager:
1. Have a daily plan.
Years ago I learned to use the Franklin Day Planner System. (Today it’s called the FranklinCovey Planner.) It was during the Jurassic age. There were no smart phones, tablets, or electronic calendars. Even blackberries were just fruit you picked off a bush. The Franklin Planner revolutionized my life. I never went anywhere without it.
Part of the system involved taking a few minutes every evening to look over your list of tasks. You marked what you had done, moved incomplete items forward to another day, and eliminated those that no longer needed to be done. At the same time, you planned out the following day, prioritizing each item as an “A,” “B,” or “C” task. Once I formed the habit of doing it, it took very little time. My task list was a blueprint for each day, there and waiting before I rolled out of bed in the morning.
It doesn’t matter if you’re stay-at-home mom or a corporate executive, you’re doing important work and you’re busy. If you don’t plan your day, what’s been called “the tyranny of the urgent” will do it for you.
Find a planner that fits your life, your style, and can be carried with you. Any planner will work as long as it provides space to write in your daily tasks either manually or electronically.
2. Maintain a calendar and keep it up to date.
I use a web version of the iCloud Calendar on my Surface so it will sync with my iPhone. My husband uses the iCloud apps on his iPhone and iPad. If you use Outlook, a calendar is part of your software program. Google Calendar is another good one. Most planners are a combination of calendar and task list.
If you prefer an paper, hang-it-on-the-wall calendar, keep it in a central place in your home or office and purchase one with large enough boxes to write in appointments and pertinent information. You can color code personal and business appointments or those for different family members.
3. Have a place to organize tasks and information.
This prevents wasted time looking for important information when it’s needed.
Your system could be as simple as a few notebooks where you store warranties, insurance information, notes for projects, tax information, and other important papers in plastic sleeves.
I, recently started using Microsoft OneNote. It’s very flexible and quite easy to use. I was a little intimidated by it when I first checked it out, but I just read a little gem of a book, How to Get Things Done with OneNote: Set Up OneNote for GTD in 15 Minutes, Improve Productivity and Lead Your Way to Success by Dominic Wolff. (Whew! long title, but a short, easy to read book.) GTD is Getting Things Done by David Allen. But you don’t need to be familiar with that program to utilize the information in Wolff’s book.
It only took me a couple of hours to set up the notebooks I needed and transfer all my to-do lists, post ideas, and project notes. I prefer to keep warranties, instruction manuals, and insurance information in file folders and tax receipts in a basket.
4. Set time limits for tasks and projects.
I hope I’m not the only one who starts out the day with time to complete three or four tasks, only to find myself several hours later still working on the first one. Sometimes there is a good reason, but other times I just didn’t have a sense of urgency and lost track of time.
Kelly Baker, a guest blogger on Meghan Weyerbacker’s site, wrote a great post entitled, The 30-Minute Method: Say Goodbye to Time Management Frustration. Kelly suggested breaking your day into 30 minute blocks of time and assigning tasks to those time blocks. I tweaked her plan a bit since I found some tasks took as little as 15 minutes and others longer than 30. So, I have begun estimating the time it will take to complete a task and setting the timer on my iPhone. Even if it takes me a little longer than my estimate, I stay more focused by being aware of the time.
5. Group tasks and errands.
Morning is my most productive time. I work from home and once I start running errands, I often lose my momentum. So, I set aside an afternoon and, instead of running one errand, I try to plan ahead and run a number of errands at the same time.
You can do the same with various types of tasks. Set aside blocks of time for email and social media, making phone calls, cleaning house, studying, working on a project, etc. Doing several similar or related tasks, gives you sense of accomplishment and helps you take advantage of the momentum that comes with completing each one.
6. Block out distractions.
Turn off those notifications. Is it really important that someone “liked” you FaceBook post? Every time you stop to check an instant message, email or notification, you must refocus and begin again, wasting time. When you have an important project, you might want to turn off your phone. You can check messages occasionally and return calls, when necessary.
We like to think of ourselves as multi-taskers, but multi-tasking can backfire.
Information, email, texts, and other distractions are coming at us constantly. We stop to handle a short task. It may only take 10 or 15 minutes, but before long there’s something else. That can go on throughout the day. At the end of the day we’ve done a lot of little things, but our real work may be left undone.
Instead, keep a notepad handy to write down those random tasks. You can set aside some time later to deal with them.
Granted, some interruptions can’t be avoided, but as much as possible focus on the task at hand.
8. Use the reminder feature on your smart devices.
If you find yourself missing important appointments or events, use the reminders on your calendar or smart device. They can be set for 15 minutes, a few hours, or even a day or two ahead of time.
9. Don’t put off little tasks.
If you can do it in 3 minutes or less, do it now. Hang up that sweater. Put your plate in the dishwasher. Put your keys where they belong. This helps eliminate the clutter that can make you feel over-whelmed.
A book that helped me with this is Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer. I read this a couple of years ago and will read it again.
10. Take advantage of otherwise wasted time.
I wonder how much time the average person spends waiting. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Waiting at the drive-through bank. Waiting for kids or clients or friends at lunch. Waiting in the airport and the travel time itself. Big and small, these are all valuable chunks of time.
I never go anywhere without something to read or work on. I’d much rather work on a blog post than watch daytime TV or read Dentistry Today while I’m waiting to get my teeth cleaned.
The list of books I’d like to read is even longer than my to-do list, but thanks to the free Kindle app on my iPhone I can read anywhere.
11. Get up early.
I’m not a morning person by nature. Left to my own devices, I’d stay up until midnight or later. And while I’m not a super late sleeper, I’d rather just wake up when I wake up. But through the years I’ve trained myself to get up early. Those first couple of hours are some of the most uninterrupted and productive hours of the day.
If you have children at home, getting up before your kids, having your tea or coffee and some time to yourself will do wonders. But all of us benefit from that morning quiet time. For me it means coffee, Bible reading, prayer, and planning my day.
If you spend time looking through piles of unsorted mail, searching boxes of recipes, or clearing a space to work, you’re wasting valuable time and mental energy. Get radical about cleaning out, paring down and decluttering.
Drag that box of recipes into the living room and go through them as you’re watching TV. Throw out those you might cook someday if you have nothing else left to do. You know the ones. Get rid of old receipts. Move things off your desk that don’t need to be there. File papers you need to keep (one of my least favorite things to do, just above cleaning toilets). And when you’re done, make a commitment to declutter regularly.
13. Don’t procrastinate.
I used to say, “I work better under pressure.” The truth was, I had no choice, because I had a bad habit of procrastinating.
For me, getting started is half the battle. When you take on a new project, get started as soon as possible. Divide large projects up into smaller tasks. Lay out a schedule for completing them. Mark deadlines and project goals on your calendar so you don’t lose sight of them.
Glynnis, also, writes about breaking the procrastination habit in her book, Taming the To-Do List.
14. Plan to be early.
Most of us don’t plan to be late. We plan to be on-time, but life happens: your GPS takes you on a wild goose chase, there’s heavy traffic, the baby spits up as you’re heading out the door, or an errand takes longer than you expected.
Be like my husband, plan to be 15 minutes early. You’ll eliminate so much stress from your life. (In the interest of full-disclosure, I’m, definitely, still working on this one! 🙁 ).
15. Allow margins.
Build margins into your schedule. You need time to get up and stretch, walk outside, or change gears when going from one kind of task to another. Taking a break and not rushing from one task to the next allows you to be more productive.
16. Know when to quit.
This is another one, I’m working on. I tend to be a work-a-holic. I often have my Surface on my lap even while watching TV. But my husband deserves my attention and I need to know when to quit.
If you work outside the home, dinner with the family, time with your spouse and children, time for rest and refreshment, all need to be priorities.
17. Learn to say “No”.
We’ve all heard this one … over and over, but many of us still struggle with it. You will always feel over-whelmed if you don’t get a handle on this one.
18. Eat your live toad.
I once saw a poster that said, “Eat a live toad every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
What is the thing on your to-do list that you least want to do? It’s the thing you’ve been working around for days (or weeks) and you just never get to it. It’s staring up at you from your to-do list or your desk. Do it first! You’ll have a sense of accomplishment that will carry you through the rest of the day. Then get in the habit of eating your live toad first thing every day.Eat a live toad every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day! #simpleorganizing Click To Tweet
There are 24 hours in the day. You can’t do everything. Focus on what’s important.
What things contribute to your goals, whether that means spending more time with your kids, starting or maintaining a blog, writing a book, acquiring more customers, losing weight, or reading through the Bible?
Classify things with an “A,” “B,” or “C” and start with the top priority. Or simply list the 3 to 5 things that are most important and work on those.
Are there things you can delegate or pay someone else to do? Hire an assistant. Pay someone to mow the grass. Teach the kids to help with household tasks. Hire a teenager to entertain the kids for a few hours while you work at home.
21. Don’t be a perfectionist.
I can get so bogged down in the details. I don’t think I’ve ever re-read a blog post without editing something. While it’s important to do things well, expecting everything to be perfect is self-defeating.21 Quick Tips For Better Time Management #simpleorganizing Click To Tweet
So, what about you? Which of these tips are the most helpful to you? Share your time management tips in the comments section?
Have a blessed & productive day!
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No matter how hard women work or how much they accomplish in a day, there’s lingering anxiety and guilt over what they didn’t do. We just wish the world would stop for a day so we could catch up.
Glynnis Whitwer has identified what makes us feel so overburdened–and it’s probably not what you think. Taming the To-Do List exposes a seismic shift in our society: from one in which most of us were proactive toward one where we now carry the burden of having to respond–to every email, text, tweet, and message we receive. This major shift creates a cycle where everyone else sets the priorities for our days, rather than us designing our own lives.
Taming the To-Do List addresses this significant change in how we manage our time and the issue of procrastination from a woman’s point of view. It addresses the common household tasks many women put off, like doing housework and scheduling doctor’s appointments, and moves on to the larger, more life-impacting delays of dreams and goals. Combining practical, easy-to-apply advice with solid research and biblical truth, this book is a compassionate yet challenging message of hope for those struggling to choose their best work over busy work.
What can I say about the Surface Pro? I love mine. It does everything a laptop does. It’s light weight, has all the Microsoft Office programs, and can be used with or without a separate keyboard. I use it to study, read, write, shop and anything else you’d want to do online.