Time Management is about organizing your time so that you work smarter and don’t waste any of your precious time. Without time management you will probably find yourself getting to the end of the day and wondering what you actually accomplished. Sure you may have your head stuck into a particular project for hours on end, and you feel a great sense of accomplishment, but generally you find that you don’t get a lot done, especially when you have to spread your time between many things.
There are many ways to manage your time so I suggest trying a few of them, if not all of them, to find the one that works best for you. The two main methods are of course physical and digital. With physical time management you would be keeping a journal of sorts, and with digital, you would using your computer and/or your mobile, most probably an app.
Begin by asking yourself if you like to keep a physical journal and write with a pen, or if you prefer to use your phone for everything. If you walk around with a diary and jot down notes and appointments throughout the day, then maybe a physical journal would be your best bet. If you put all of your appointments and notes into apps on your mobile, then use an app for your time management. It’s about using a medium that works best for you, what you use most of the time, and what makes you comfortable, otherwise you won’t keep it up.
When it comes to mobile apps, there are a lot out there. Personally I like Google Calendar, and I will speak about that in a moment under Time Blocking. If you prefer to keep a journal, then you can still use time blocking, but you may also want to use a bullet journal (there is a ton of info on the internet about bullet journalling). Try one, try two, try them all, as long as you find the one that resonates with you.
Why Manage Your Time?
What usually happens is that you start something, maybe it’s posting to your social media accounts, but end up getting side tracked because whilst you were doing that you saw one of your friends posts. That led you to read through it, which sparked a thought of something you wanted to research. Whilst researching that someone emails you and the notification pops up so you have to read it. The email was a waste of time really, just someone informing you that they have looked at whatever you sent through and they will get back to you. Now you are thinking another cup of coffee would be good so you go to the kitchen and put the kettle on. When you get back to your desk, you remember that you should have phoned someone about something, and you go looking for the number. You get distracted by another email and spend the next 10 minutes replying. By this time you have forgotten to phone the person you intended to phone and you have made one social media post, and an hour has gone by.
This is what happens, day in and day out. There is no discipline, there is no clear path or action. Time management is about organizing your time effectively and focusing on specific tasks for specific time periods and blocking out all distractions.
Apart from the obvious, i.e. actually accomplishing stuff and feeling good about your work day, good time management also reduces stress, and we all know why that is good. If you haven’t heard about it, stress is a huge killer in our modern society. The more stress you have the less you sleep, which creates more stress, which causes you to sleep less, and so the circle goes. Actually if you haven’t heard of stress, then you may be a time traveller from the distant past, in which case, I hope you know about time management (and the crowd starts throwing popcorn as the man in the front tells the worst joke ever).
Once you start to manage your time properly you will also notice that you have more time. This allows you to spend time on the things you want to do more of, and opens your world up to a whole load of new opportunities. I know that I have spent days just “working” and when I look back I really didn’t get much done, but I felt like I was working the whole day. At the same time I never got to take a nap, read a book, go for a walk, exercise, take a new project a step forward, or anything but just “work”. As soon as I started to manage my time I had more time to do those things.
Generally you just feel better. You feel more organized, more productive, and this means you continue to be more productive.
The Time Blocking Method
If you haven’t heard of time blocking, then I’m very happy because I get to explain it to you, but it seems everyone is talking about it now, so I’ll just put my two cents worth in.
Time blocking is essentially blocking out time for certain things during your day. The blocks of time are often segmented into half hour blocks, although some people work with five minute intervals. You need to play around with time blocking to see what works best for you. I personally use half hour intervals and that is great for me.
When you first start with time blocking the best approach is to record everything that you do during the day rather than assigning tasks. Do that for a week or two, and you get to know your general schedule and how much time each thing takes. If you just start scheduling then you find that you may assign an hour for a particular task only to find out that in reality it takes an hour and a half. That’s why you record everything you do and then you can sort through it and get a better idea of how much time to assign to each thing.
You should also record other things besides just work. For instance, you may get up at 6am, take half an hour to wake up and get a cup of coffee. Then you hop in the shower for half an hour, get ready for half an hour (shave, do your hair, get dressed), and then maybe get breakfast. Block all of that time out.
Block out the time you take for lunch, the times you read during the day, meditate, exercise. All of it needs to be blocked out and assigned. If you have ever watched Dan Lok’s YouTube channel you may have come across his mention of his scheduling. He time blocks every five minutes and if his wife wants a night out, it goes into the diary and the time is blocked out. They actually have a shared calendar so she can see when he has some time free and can then block out time for dinner or a movie.
I must admit I’m a bit looser than that, but it still works well for me. The type of work I do sometimes means I have a client needing something urgent in the afternoon which was unexpected and may take two or three hours. As that comes up I adjust my calendar and block it out. If it overlaps something else such as lunch or reading time I will either still take those breaks and carry on afterwards, or just move them to a different position for that day.
You definitely need to work with your own schedule and the type of day you have.
To do time blocking you can either use a notebook and pen, a diary, or go digital. I have found that using Google Calendar works best for me. It’s easy to block out time, you can color coordinate the blocks and it syncs to my mobile which I always have with me so if I need to add or change something when I am not at my PC, I can do so.
Apart from the visual aspect of Google Calendar, you can also add recurring events, so adding your breakfast time means you can set it up to be recurring and it will add it to all of the days.
What is also great is that if, as an example, you have set your exercise time in the afternoon but find that a morning session works better for you, you can just drag and drop the event to a different time slot.
What you will notice in the above calendar image is that I have general events blocked out for the coming week. This is simply how I like to arrange my time. However instead of stating I will be working on Project XYZ on such a day at such a time, I can fill in those details as I go. So when an urgent project needs my sudden attention I can slot it into one of the “Client Work” blocks. If I need to attend a meeting I can also add that and overlap it with other time blocks (which you see in red). We can’t dictate exactly how our days will go. Things happen, things come up, things need sudden attention that we were not counting on before, or weren’t even on our radar to begin with. If these things didn’t happen and we just did exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, I think life would get rather dull.
However, what we do need to do, regardless of what unexpected things may pop up during our day, is stick to the time blocking and time management as best we can, otherwise we end up all over the place, and procrastinating into our coffee mugs all over again. But more on that just now.
How to Prioritize
To begin with, you can do this on a daily or weekly basis. My suggestion is to sit down on a Sunday evening and list all of the things that you need to get done for the coming week. Once you have the list you can prioritize them and then assign them to blocks in your Google Calendar.
Once you have all of the items listed, give them a priority category, from A to D or 1 to 4.
If you are using A to D then they would be as follows:
A – Things that are vitally important and need to be done as soon as possible. These would likely be things like meetings, presentations, anything that would have serious consequences if they are not done on time.
B – These would be items that can be moved to the next day without severe repercussions. They are still important, but something more important can take their place. These items would then likely become A category the next day. However, don’t just move them because you are procrastinating. They only get moved if you have too many category A items in your day.
C – Items that can be assigned or delegated to someone else to complete. For example, picking up the kids when your partner or spouse is available to do it for you.
D – Simply delete. These items are not worth doing or looking at. They pose no threat to your life or your time and all they are doing is taking up space that can be given to something else more important.
Of course we also have times when everything seems important and after making your list you seem to be putting A next to everything. At such times you need to determine if the item is urgent or important. Urgent items need to be done first, followed by important. If it can only be done now or first thing in the morning, then that gets priority.
Once you have determined the urgent items, then have a look at the important ones and determine which bring the most value to you and your business.
You can also look at how long each task will take you. If for instance you have two important tasks, both giving equal value, then one of them may take 15 minutes to complete, whilst the other could be a two hour job. Do the quickest one first as that gives you a sense of accomplishment and you will be more motivated.
Using the Four D’s
Similar to the above categories, you can also use the four D’s. These are Delete, Delegate, Delay, Do.
Take a task and ask yourself if you can Delete it. If you can’t Delete it, then Delegate it. If you can’t Delegate it, then Delay it. If you can’t Delay it, then just Do it.
You’ll probably see the four D’s in a different order on different blogs, but this is the way I like to order them.
When you have a look at your task, is it a category D task. If it is then you can simply remove it from your list. If it isn’t then you need to do something about it, so ask yourself if you can…
You now have your task which you have to get done somehow. So the next step is to ask yourself if you can delegate it to someone else. If you can then this would be a category C task. If you can’t delegate it because it happens to be a task that needs to be completed by you then can you…
If you can delay it to another day then it would go into category B. You can put it off without any dire repercussions. However if it is really important or urgent then you simple have to…
Nike as they say.
As you have probably noticed the four D’s are the reverse of the categories. You can use the four D’s to determine which category a task needs to go in.
Make Sure You Take Breaks
Scheduling breaks is extremely important. Sure, you need to get your work done, but if all you are doing is working, then you will find yourself getting burnt out.
You will obviously need to decide what those breaks consist of. They may be reading, meditation, just sitting quietly outdoors, taking a walk, and if you are doing polyphasic sleep then you will need to schedule your naps. No matter what it is, you need to keep yourself and your mind active and alert, and if that means that you need a siesta, then schedule in that nap. Productivity which is the main goal.
Discipline and Sticking to Your Time Management
The most difficult part of all of this time management stuff is obviously being disciplined about it. If you have scheduled a task, then you must do it. If the task you are busy with is in category A, i.e. it is urgent and must be done, and someone comes along and asks you to do something else, then learn to say no.
Even if a task isn’t urgent, such as a half an hour of reading, you still need to be strict with your schedule. If you don’t take proper breaks you won’t be alert, which means you won’t be productive, and that often leads to procrastination, or spending hours on something and not really seeing any results.
It’s the results that make the big difference. Once you start to see them, it will motivate you, and that motivation will cause you to continue with your time management plan, whether it be time blocking or some other method.
You will then find that instead of getting to the end of the week and feeling like you didn’t really accomplish much, you will look back and feel a sense of pride with what you managed to achieve.
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