How many times have you remarked that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
With busy lives, families, homes, work and about a million over things that need our time and attention, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We want to do it all, have it all and be all to everyone, and as a result we often forget that we need some time for ourselves. Firstly, and most importantly, give yourself a break – a major issue with time-management often results from the standards that we set ourselves to not just achieve, but to over-achieve. The key to maintaining a balance is to manage your time more effectively, learning to prioritize and working smarter, not harder.
Time Management Tips To Help You Be More Productive
Start by evaluating your own daily and weekly schedule – writing everything down gives an overview at a glance of exactly what you are doing, when you are doing it and how long for, and this may be quite surprising. Be honest and ask yourself whether any of these activities are absolutely necessary.
- Do you repeat things throughout the week that could be completed much quicker if they were done just once and in a single block of time?
- Are you wasting time doing things for other people for the sole reason of being helpful and then find yourself struggling to fulfil your commitments to your own life as a result?
Eliminating non-essential tasks and saying no can save an enormous amount of time – it is nice to be nice, but is equally important to prioritize yourself.
2. Set Goals
What is it that you actually want to achieve? Whether it is to create a more organized home life or finish work-based tasks, knowing what you want to work towards will help you decide on the direction in which you need to go.
Many people find using SMART goals are effective:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Assignable – specify who will do it.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Once you have decided on your goals it is easy to work backwards and set out the necessary steps in which to achieve them.
3. Plan and Prepare
Plan in advance and time block. Once you’ve worked out what is coming up for the next week, plan out what can be done in advance, prioritize the importance of those tasks and schedule out your time. Time blocking both work and home tasks is a highly effective way to not only stay on track, but to motivate you to complete tasks within that allotted period of time, and knowing what you have coming up in the future may help to put your mind at rest when you are trying to sleep.
Prepare and organize in advance either at the beginning of the week or the night before. Creating a meal plan that prepared in advance takes the decision-making out of what to cook every day, and making food in batches and freezing it in bulk will mean that 80% of the work is already done. Order your shopping online. Cook one pot meals or use a slow cooker. To save time in a morning, create bag lunches the night before. Pack your work bag the night before and check that school bags are ready.
Create a working environment that allows for you to be at your most productive, whether you are working in an office or at home. Organize your workspace so that it is clean, tidy and develop a filing system so you know where everything is. Remove any distractions from your direct sight or, if necessary, from the room completely, particularly tech items like your cell phone or tablet.
Structure your day to suit your personality. If you’re more productive in a morning, start your day earlier – setting your alarm half-an-hour early will provide more of an opportunity to wake up and begin your day properly. Complete the most difficult and time-consuming tasks when you are most alert and motivated – for most people this is in the morning, but schedule your day around what suits you best. Avoid multitasking – stick with working on a single job until it is completed – it is better to have one task done well that three or four that aren’t quite finished or have been rushed.
Make others aware of when you are working. If you are working from home it is likely that you will disturbed by family and friends who don’t quite grasp the idea that you are busy and assume that you can take two hours off for a leisurely lunch. Set your working times and avoid answering calls or replying to messages in that time.
Clean and tidy as you go and get the whole family involved. Delegate tasks to children and other family members and create a rewards system if necessary. Designate specific places for important things to avoid spending time looking for them – a set (and safe) place where keys are stored, a folder for important paperwork etc.
5. Other Ideas
Struggling to keep track of family commitments and activities?
- Create a calendar layout at the beginning of each month and mark down who is doing what.
- Speak to friends about the potential of car-pooling for school and extra-curricular activities and hobbies.
- Try to avoid overwhelming yourself by looking at your entire to-do list of every activity at the start of each day. If you know you have planned in advance, work through each task one at a time.
- Drink plenty of water. A dehydrated brain can become sluggish.
- Keep a drawer of cards for birthdays throughout the year. At the beginning of the month, write and address cards ready to be posted.
- Avoid paying your bills until the last minute.
- Don’t impulse buy – this will avoid having to waste time returning items later.
Remember that the ultimate goal is to ensure that you’re actually enjoying what you’re doing, even when you are working. With just a little planning and preparation, you can indeed become much more productive, and take much less time to do it!