I assume we have all uttered this at one point or another “I wish I had more time.” We all get 24 hours a day but some people accomplish a lot more than others. Why is that? and what is it that they do differently? The answer is people who are highly productive have found the secret to allotting time efficiently to each aspect of their lives.
Trying to manage your time efficiently can be tricky. Do you do too many things in a day or just stick to doing few things but do those to the best of your ability. It also depends on one’s personal capacity on how much one can do in a given time. Here are some tips below, you may find useful.
The 5-day Analysis
To get you started with managing your time efficiently begin with a self-analysis of how you have been utilising your time so far. Analyse yourself for full 5 days by making a rough note of all your activities from the moment you wake up till your bedtime, how much time you allot to each of these activities and so on. This will show how much time you actually utilising and how much you are wasting.
Divide Time into four quadrants
Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gave the concept of time matrix by dividing time into four quadrants where you catagorise all your work into four quarters. This is one of the most simple and effective time management methods where your work is given four distinct slots.
- Important and urgent: The first quadrant will have all those tasks which are important, urgent and must be done immediately. For example as an entrepreneur if you find a high potential lucrative client to whom you have been meaning to write a mail, don’t wait for the right time start working on mail immediately.
- Important but not urgent: The second quadrant contains those tasks which are important but on close observation you find that these tasks are not urgent in nature. Like paying your utility bills, it is an important task but your service provider gives you a time-period within which you can pay so this task does not require your immediate attention.
- Urgent but not important: The third quadrant will have all work that urgent in nature but when you really think about it doesn’t really add any value to your time. Like answering your phone, you know you have to pick up the ringing phone but you also know this call from your friend is basically to remind you about weekend plans. In this case, you can answer the call and stretch or shorten the conversation depending on how busy you are.
- Not urgent and not important: The fourth quadrant contains all the low-priority tasks that you can attend later. Like planning for a holiday at the start of the year when you know you are not going to go on that trip till Christmas.
What I would suggest is after the 5-day self-evaluation; consider taking 2 more days into dividing your work into four categories. According to your lifestyle and body-cycle, sort out your work to implement this method. You can manage your time much more efficiently when you prioritise your work.
The commitment part
Time management needs your commitment and I understand it is not easy to make sweeping changes to your life so try to take baby steps towards managing your time.
When you are ready to implement a plan after your self-evaluation, try to stick to your plan for 3 days at first, then for the next 5 days and then for another 7 days. Gradually increase it to two weeks and eventually for 20 days. Within this period if you are serious about achieving your goals managing time efficiently will become your habit.
Small gradual changes are way more effective than sudden drastic changes in lifestyle. But here your biggest challenge will be sticking to these small commitments.
Break between tasks to counter attention residue
Whenever we move on from one task to another there is a certain ‘attention residue’ which spills over from the previous task, which means you keep on thinking about the first task while you are in your second task. This affects your ability to concentrate at the task at hand. Hence it is really important to take breaks whether you are at office or home or studying. This allows your mind to start another chore with a clean slate.
This is so important for time management since if you cannot focus on a task you are most likely to get bored and delay or schedule it for another time. There keep a buffer time between tasks.
Pro-tip: If possible avoid scheduling two important tasks in a day to eliminate the possibility of attention residue.
The importance of planning
Planning goes a long to save your time. When you plan ahead you actually map out your course of activities. One of the worst things you can do is have an unplanned morning where you have no idea about which things to do first. Therefore make a habit to take some time in the evening or night hours to plan your work schedule for the next day.
Labeling saves time: Most of us usually have so much going on with our lives that we cannot remember the simplest of things like where’s that scissor or a particular folder. But that’s okay sadly stress is a reality of modern times and you cannot eliminate it completely. What you can do instead is create labels for your desk, drawers, shelves, and closets. This system of organising will save you so much time in frantic search for things.
Identify time-wasters: There are so many times when you knowingly or unintentionally get distracted and interrupted. Try to identify all such factors. Do you get really distracted with social media notifications while studying? Or you really have a chatty co-worker who is hampering your work time in office?
Research shows that more than external elements our self-induced distractions add to time waste like impulsively reaching out for phone while doing office work. In a lot of cases it leads to half-done tasks where you are likely to abandon the task and get back to it later. This sometimes hampers your work quality and increases your time to complete a task. Identify all such distractions, especially social media because it requires so much self-control to avoid it while working.
Batch Similar Tasks: Batching similar tasks can help you to concentrate better because these are similar in nature like paying your phone bills along with other utility bills like internet, water, etc. For example you are writing a very important office report and on the same day you have to pay your monthly installment of your home loan. Both these tasks are equally important to you so obviously at the back of your mind that home loan will be lurking when you are completing your office report, thus affecting your ability to focus completely.
You need to have a particular mindset to deal with a particular task. Therefore keep certain days in a moth where you sort out your bill or complete your financial commitments.
Find ways to stay motivated: We all go through times when we might not feel motivated enough. It is in these times we need to get inspired the most. My dose of inspiration comes in form of TED Talks. So whenever you feel demotivated watch some TED Talks, read some inspiring stories and book, seek guidance from a mentor or anyone who motivates you. Make your health a priority. A fit body contributes to an active mind. So each day try to give yourself some ‘me time’.