Time management tips that actually work: How to get more done in less time
Don’t you wish there were more hours in a day? Because 24 barely seems like enough to get all your tasks done.
But what if I said you could add a couple of extra hours to your day? Intrigued?
Well… not literally. 24 stays 24. But with the help of successful time management, you can easily start getting more done in less time.
Read on to find out more about time management, its benefits, and best practices.
What is time management and what are its benefits?
Time management is the process of organizing your time in a more intelligent way, removing any distractions, and focusing on the completion of the tasks that matter most to you. Time management allows you to structure your days and, therefore, become more productive.
There are several benefits of time management:
- It increases productivity and efficiency.
- It helps reduce work-related stress.
- It gives you a sense of direction, and removes any anxiety associated with not knowing what to do next.
- It increases your chances of advancement.
- It allows you to achieve bigger, more complex results.
Top-5 best time management practices for business owners
However, not every person can leverage the benefits of time management. If you want to become more productive and achieve better results in less time, you need to work on yourself. It’s essential to find out the best time management practices and adopt them in your business.
Plan your week ahead
The best way to keep all your tasks in check is to create a schedule for them. Ideally, to manage your time effectively, you need to create weekly plans for yourself and your employees.
There are several benefits to doing this:
- It can help you stop procrastinating and motivate you to get your tasks done.
- It gives you control over your workload, as you know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it.
- It allows you to analyze the effectiveness of your time management: at the end of a planned period, you can look back at your week to see which tasks were completed in time, and which weren’t (and for what reason).
You should plan your week ahead on Friday or Sunday (whenever you’re done with the previous week). Ideally, you should also visualize your task schedule as opposed to keeping everything you have to do in your head. There are different ways in which you can view your task timetable, — calendar view, lists, the Gantt chart, etc. — so you can try out different methods and stick to the one that works best for you.
Moreover, you can also choose between digital and non-digital planning. Even though we — as true adepts of global digitalization — recommend using dedicated apps for time management, you can opt for an old school planner notebook, too! Or you can even make one yourself with the help of VistaCreate (it can be branded, too!).
Either way, there are a couple of best planning practices that can make your time management even more effective.
Make your plans as detailed as possible
Instead of outlining only major tasks that need to be done over the course of several days, include everything you’re planning to do in your schedule. That way, you can make your day more organized and see exactly what you should be doing.
Besides, putting every little task down on paper will show your real workload and, therefore, help you realistically assess the amount of time needed to complete big projects.
Group similar tasks together
While it can be tempting to ‘free up your mind’ and ‘spice things up’ by going from one task to a completely different one, it’s a scientifically proven fact that our brain finds it easier to deal with similar tasks in batches, instead of swinging from one task to a polar opposite.
So, to make yourself more productive, put similar tasks closer together in your schedule.
Use the Covey time management matrix
Not all tasks are created equal. Some of them are more important than others. You need to take this into consideration when planning your schedule so that you have adequate time to finish your most important tasks first.
You need to focus on task prioritization. Otherwise, you’re at risk of only acting on urgent tasks that aren’t always the most important ones.
A great tool that can help you prioritize your workload is the Covey time management matrix, an organizational tool for prioritizing tasks based on the ideas of importance and urgency:
- Important and urgent: These tasks have important deadlines with high urgency. You must complete them first.
- Important, but not urgent: These tasks are crucial for your business success, but they can be handled later on. Ideally, you should strive to spend most of your time in this quadrant.
- Urgent, but not important: These tasks are urgent but not important. Minimize, delegate, or eliminate them because they don’t contribute to your output.
- Not urgent and not important: These activities hold little (if any) value and should be eliminated as much as possible.
Plan for distraction
One of the things that can stall your processes and slow down your progress is not being able to keep up with your schedule. Often, when you don’t manage to finish your tasks on time and have to move things around, you lose motivation to continue working. Just because things didn’t go as planned.
To prevent that from happening and to keep your motivation at an all-time high, you should include “didn’t go as planned” tasks into the initial plan.
Recognize the distractions you face, and include those into your schedule. Allow yourself some time to rest, too. Otherwise, you’ll quickly burn out.
Delegate more tasks to employees
You know how the saying goes: teamwork makes dreams work. No matter how much you want to be in control of every single process taking place at your company, you need to adequately assess your abilities and delegate bits of work to the members of your team. At the end of the day, it’s exactly what you hired them for.
By definition, time management is the art of using your time to the best effect, i.e. to achieve desired results. So, as a sole decision-maker, you are, indeed, responsible for the results of your work, but at the same time, you aren’t responsible for getting everything done alone. Even the best managers can’t carry out every task on the table singlehandedly — they need support from their team; they need to assign a portion of tasks to their subordinates and control their effective completion.
So, if you want to manage your time better, you need to sit down and have a good think about which tasks can only be completed by you, and which can be assigned to the people around you.
To decide on the necessity of delegating specific tasks, answer the following questions:
- Do you have time to complete this task?
- Is the quality going to be of a high standard if you do?
- Is it mandatory that you personally complete this task?
- Who else on your team could complete the task?
- How will it benefit them/you?
Based on your answers to these questions, you’ll be able to determine the tasks that must be completed yourself, and the tasks that can be assigned to someone else.
Once you decide on the tasks that can and should be delegated to other members of your team, you need to ensure that it’s done right. Otherwise, you risk compromising the effectiveness of your time management.
First, you need to pick the person who would have the most positive impact on the successful completion of the task. Being the big boss, you should know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses.
After you choose a person to delegate a task to, you need to communicate this decision to them. Make sure to answer the following questions in the conversation:
- What is the task? What are the deadlines? What are the expected results? — Make sure you explain the task in detail and set clear expectations. Otherwise, there’s a high chance of future misunderstandings.
- Why have you chosen them? Why does the task need to be completed? — People tend to work better when they understand the meaning behind their task.
- How much control do they have? How will you oversee it? — You need to state how much authority you’re delegating to them with the assignment of this task. Be clear on the decision-making limits, and explain which decisions can and cannot be made without consulting you first.
- When do you expect to see results? When will you discuss how it went or how it is going? — If you’re delegating tasks as a part of your time management strategy, you need to understand that constantly monitoring the completion of such tasks is a counterproductive use of your time. So, you need to think of specific times when you’ll assess the progress on the task and let the employee know about that.
Quit multitasking; instead — focus on one thing at a time
When you’re multitasking, you’re the Jack of all trades and the master of none.
By spreading your attention across many different things, you end up being not focused enough on anything. When you switch from one task to another, you inevitably decrease your productivity and lose time.
So, instead of trying to tackle everything at once, opt for time-blocking strategies.
Time-blocking is one of the most popular time management techniques among small business owners. It’s the practice of chunking out your work into dedicated sections of time, and focusing on one task at a time.
To time-block successfully, determine the timeframes when you’re available and disseminate your tasks across those time blocks. The trick is to put the most important task of the day into slots when you’re most productive and then shape all the other tasks around it.
For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule any high-importance strategic brainstorming sessions for the early hours of the day. Similarly, if you tend to feel sleepy after lunch, place some low-effort things like paperwork around that time.
Assign specific time limits to tasks
If you want to manage your time more effectively, you need to pace yourself.
Often, the very process of “tuning into work”, getting a cup of coffee to get yourself started, and checking your emails before you start working on a task are all forms of procrastination. All of these tasks are slowing you down, decreasing your productivity, and robbing you of precious time.
Instead of soft-launching yourself into the process, you should dive headfirst into solving your task. The Pomodoro technique is a perfect time management technique for this, as it allows you to work with the time you have rather than against it.
For better results, you can make use of Pomodoro technique timers that will track your work time and break time.
Finally, minimize distractions. While it’s completely normal to have them — we’re all prone to getting caught up in a chat with a colleague, receiving a random text, etc. — it’s your job to eliminate distractions as much as possible.
There are a couple of things you can do to achieve that:
- Aim to decrease the number of meetings you have daily. Meetings disrupt your workflow and can destroy your productivity.
- Turn off your notifications — tell people to only contact you in case of an emergency.
- Put away your phone, tablet, or whatever else you might get distracted by.
And finally… While this does sound quite vague, it might be the most important piece of advice we give you: go for what works for you! Don’t force yourself to do things that limit your productivity rather than increase it.
So, try out all the time management techniques, see what boosts your productivity, and stick to it!