Recently you asked for some thougts on time management, so I put together some ideas that might help you get better results and actually achieve your goals.
Let’s start off by stating one of my all time favourites: You have the exact same 24 hours a day that anyone else has. Other people are capable of using it, so why shouldn’t you be? 24 hours are plenty of time, it is about how you make use of it.
In order for your time to be used better in the future, here is a list of 10 useful time management tips:
- Carry a notebook everywhere. It does not matter if it is your mobile or a classic paper-notebook with a pen. Just be able to write down ideas, dates, everything that crosses your mind at any given time.
Like with the concept of the pensieve from Harry Potter this will help you with keeping a clear and focused mind. As long as you can write down thoughts and ideas and by that make sure that you won’t forget them, your head feels lighter and you will be able to work more focused and concentrated. On top of your increased working ability, you will just feel better and more relaxed in general, knowing that you don’t have to have everything in mind. Just don’t forget to read your notebook on a regular basis.
- Routines. This sounds boring, but having some routine in your days will increase the amount of work you get done drastically. A good start is waking up at the same time every day, without exceptions. It is hard in the beginning and sometimes hard when you are out late, but it can be done and after a while your body will get used to this rythm and like you for it.Not getting solid 8 hours of sleep, but getting them around the same time window everyday helps your body to be fit and ready for the day.
You won’t have those long lazy mornings and will find it much easier to have plenty of energy from the very beginning of each day thus making your day more effective and pleasant.Another one on routines: Exercise! This can be anything from doing a lot of sports to just doing some crunches and sit-ups every morning. Why is this good for time management? Well, it will bring a lot of balance and happiness into your life.
Exercise, while sometimes exhausting and aggravating, will boost your mood, self confidence and discipline, saving your time on many other tasks.A tip for the people who like to do some exercises at home: Do it daily, no exceptions! It does not have to be the killer workout, but do it daily and do it for a long amount of time. It will get easier to do so in a few days and after some weeks you won’t even think about doing it, it will become your naturaly routine, like brushing your teeth before going to bed. This will help you a lot with clearing your mind and focusing on the tasks ahead of you.
- To-Do Lists. Careful: To-Do Lists are extremely dangerous! While it is good to have an overview about your tasks, to-do lists bare the risk of your unloading all your unwanted chores onto them and then forgetting about them. To-Do Lists won’t work as long as there are no dates or deadlines attached to it. A better to-do list would be a time schedule. Schedule some time for every task and think about possible disturbances.Every morning, sit down for a couple of minutes, maybe even half an hour, and plan your day, roughly. Meaning you plan the important tasks that you actually have to get done. Think about what amount of work you have to put into them and plan accordingly. Don’t just write down stuff that you have to, but don’t want to do.
Actually plan your day with times and tasks.Every evening, look at your plan and valuate what worked out and what did not work out. Think about why you failed on certain tasks. Was it due to bad planning or the lack of discipline? Maybe there were even just too much tasks? Or something came up, you decided to be spontanous and let the work rest for a day, that’s perfectly all right too. Just know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Beware of unintentional slacking off.Time management is having the discipline to put work before pleasure in order to increase the fun in both parts.
- Procrastinating. This one is like the kryptonite of time management. You have your awesome day ahead, loads of stuff planned, and suddenly: Internet! Whaaaa, so much to discover, so much to read and watch! Later that day you ask yourself: „What have I done today? Have I done anyhthing?“Let me get clear on this: Procrastinating is such a big problem because it paralyzes you. There is nothing wrong with taking a break and surfing the web for a bit or playing games. You can play games for hours if you want to. But do it consciously! The problem about most procrastinating is that you do not have control over it, you just do it. Stop! If you want to work, you should be able to! And you will get that discipline, trust me.
- Anti Procrastinating Tip 1: No computer/internet. I know this sounds absolutely strange in todays world but there are many things and chores you can do without having your computer up and running. Cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes, reading, exercise. Many people have their computers running all day, which is very tempting.
Don’t. Just turn it off once in a while and don’t look for excuses!
- Anti Procrastinating Tip 2:Okay, especially for students it is often times not possible to shut down the computer. You have to do research, write papers and such. If you are not very disciplind and likely to wander off into the web, a plugin for your browser might help. It will put it on lockdown for a certain amount of time, disabling you access to certain pages like facebook, twitter, reddit and so on. Of course, if you are a strong procrastinater you would try to circumvent the barrier, but in many cases this will actuall help a lot.
- Anti Procrastinating Tip 3: Well you are here, realise that your mind likes to get unfocused and wander off and want to change that. This is good, so let’s start slowly. By using the promodoro technique for example. This neat technique follows the principle of having set amounts of time for learning and slacking of. For example: Do some homework for 20 minutes, then get 5 minutes facebook time. Slowly you will notice that it feels easier to focus on tasks and you will increase the work time while decreasing the slacking off-time. Soon you will be at at ratio of maybe 1 hour of chores/work to 5 minutes of facebook.
Always remember: It is okay to spend hours on facebook or reddit, as long as your have the time for it, do so intentionally and don’t constantly think „Waa, I should be doing xy right now“. This technique will help you actually focusing on work when you have to, it is not abut taiking the fun out of computers.
- The pareto principle. To plan well, you must have an idea of the amount of work that is due. Here it is useful to think of the pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. Basically it says that in most projects 80% of the outcome are produced in 20% of the time (mostly the first 20% of the project time) and the last 20% of the outcome take up 80% of the time.
The problem is: The first 20% of work feel so easy and you think it is all no problem, but suddenly the bugs arise. You have to overcome obstacles, fix problems or simply make the easy but time-consuming tasks, that many projects have. Those last 80% of work are the non-fun part, the part that no one sees in the outcome, but they have to be done and you have to plan along.Don’t kid yourself and underestimate your projects. It is better to have some time left at the end of the day or week than to pressure yourself into finally finishing your work every day. Plan accordingly and enjoy the free time.
- Planning ahead. Sometimes it is just important to plan ahead. You have to learn basic time structues and you have to remember some events, deadlines and dates. It is just important to have a mental overview of what’s coming at you in the next weeks in order not to be suprised. „Oh, my 2 month paper is due tommorow? Gee, if I just had known that earlier“ Sounds like you? Well it should not. Know your stuff, get an event calendar or use your phone and actually get a grip of your time.
Plan your projects in a way that you don’t overwork yourself and always keep deadlines in mind. You don’t want to be suprised by dates, you want to be prepared. So don’t ignore deadlines, dates and events, but be brave enough to achknowledge that there is work due and start early.
- Starting early. In fact this is so important, it gets to be its own point. I know it is tempting to delay any kind of work. Homework is due in two weeks? Better start in two weeks, now it’s time for video games. Or even things like „I have to write an article today? Meh, I can do so in the evening, first a bit of gaming, watching movies, going out, etc.“ This is bad and you should feel bad.
Starting things early in the cycle is always a good thing. It will give you a secure feeling and a lot more free time.There is just a huge difference between getting tasks done early in the day or in a project phase and then having „real“ free time and just delaying tasks and enjoying the „free“ time you won by doing so. The real feeling of enjoying your leisure time just comes from work well done, so don’t be an idiot, start your tasks early on.
Actually I could still go on with some points, but for now this is absolutely sufficient. Time management ist mostly (like most things) about mindset. Do you really want to get ahead of your former self? Do you really want to learn how to use your time effectively? Good, because it is not a magic trick that makes everything better. It is about discipline, about doing work in a better way than others do, it is about conquering your weaker self.
Time management is having the discipline to put work before pleasure in order to increase the fun in both parts. Therefore you have to be willing to work hard on habits and routines like getting up on time, starting to work on projects early, using mandatory time schedules or just shutting your computer off from time to time.
Are you willing to do so and become the master of your own 24 hours? I sure hope so and I hope you enjoyed this few tips on time management and work habits.