Do you have a to-do list that seems to get longer with every passing day despite your best attempts? Time management is one of those issues that are hard to tackle under normal circumstances, but even harder now that the lines between work and life are blurred.
Many of us need to learn how to take back control of time now more than every. It all comes down to time management. Especially how to spend your time, setting priorities, using planning tools, worksheets, scheduling, avoiding procrastinating, and multitasking.
Before we dive in, check out Matter's time management and multitasking guide! 🥳 Here's a comprehensive guide of great multitaskers, the do’s and don'ts of juggling tasks, and how you can use those skills to help you in your career.
What is time management?
According to a 2017 Academy of Management Journal study, time management is part of the decision-making process that "structures, protects, and adjusts a person’s time to changing environmental conditions."
Other surveys also found that time management skills are among the most desired workforce skills. But at the same time among the rarest skills to find. Sharping your time management skills will not only help you take back control of your schedule but make you a valuable asset to any team.
"It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"
— Henry David Thoreau, poet
How do you become a better time manager?
There are 3 particular skills that separate effective and ineffective time managers: Being aware of your time as a limited resource, adapting to the ebbs and flow of work, and minimizing lost time.
Time is a limited, non-renewable resource
Time is our most valued resource. The best way to maximize your time is to match your natural work rhythm with your tasks. Find your peak performance time by breaking your typical day into three to four time slots. Over the course of a week, rank-order these slots from your most to least productive.
Create a time budget that details how you spend your hours during a typical week. Categorize your time into fixed time (Must Do’s) and discretionary time (Want To Do’s). Don't forget to build in time for you to unwind. Squeeze calendar appointments for breaks to ensure uninterrupted time to dedicate for you to unplug.
What if I don't know what to prioritize? Look into your future and take a “future time perspective.” Think about how the tasks you're doing right now will help or hinder you in the future. How will today’s tasks impact next week’s tasks?
Adapt to the ebbs and flow of work
Good time managers monitor their time on tasks, adjust to interruptions, and change their priorities when necessary. Adaptation is developed and tested in high pressure situations.
After you face a moment of pressure, do an honest audit of how you handled the situation. Ask yourself: What happened? What are some areas of improvement? What do I wish would've happened? What can I do different next time?
Consider seeking out feedback from your team. Your peers can provide insight from an objective view, relay candid feedback, and guide you towards resources. Who knows, they may have encountered similar challenges and found unique solutions that they can share with you.
"We don't build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want and time saves itself."
— Laura Vanderkam, writer
Pay attention to lost time
Small pockets of 15 to 30-minute blocks of time between scheduled meetings can easily become lost time. Be intentional about how you spend this time as it adds up. If you find that fragmented time ends are spent doing unproductive activities, then it is time for you to try some new tactics.
- Manage your calendar by planning ahead. Create do-not-disturb time slots, heads-down time, and break times.
- Establish boundaries with your team by communicating your focus-time and free-time for meetings and impromptu calls.
- Kick out distractions. That means block social media sites during critical work time, put away your phone, and turning off Netflix.
Last, but not least
Reclaiming your time. Although this sounds obvious, self-improvement can sometimes be an “inch deep, but a mile wide” effort. But just like any other skill, you have to practice, practice, practice. Like we mentioned, time is a nonrenewable resource. It's time to identify and prioritize the tasks that will help you reach success you deserve.
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Cover Photo by Jack Daly