Communication Skills: Tips to help you improve your time management
Why is it that when we are having fun, time flies, yet when we are stuck in traffic or doing something that isn’t quite so enjoyable, time literally crawls by. Which begs the question, is time management possible?
Well the bad news is no, it is isn’t possible to manage time. Time is a constant and however much we may wish for our alarm clock to be one hour out, the reality is that we cannot change time.
There is however some good news, which is whilst we cannot manage time itself, we can manage how we use our time to make us more productive, both in our professional and personal lives. This is key for a number of reasons:
- It helps us to prioritise our commitments
- It helps us to keep you focussed on each task
- It gives us a realistic outlook on our tasks
Many people have the excuse of not being very good at time management, but actually with the inclusion of a few simple processes or changes, it is possible for anyone to achieve effective time management. By taking the time initially to plan and prioritise your time in relation to your workload it will in effect save you time in the long term, as you will be organised and have set goals and objectives that you can be guided by.
Lists may be a really simple and obvious first point, but they are really useful when organising your time. Sometimes it is hard to know where to begin if you have an extensive amount of work. If you create a list of all of the things that you need to action this can form the basis of planning what you are going to do and when. It is also a useful way of actually seeing in black and white what your commitments are, and whilst you are writing the list, you may think of other things that you need to include in your plan, however big or small they might be.
2. Goals, Objectives and Priorities
When you have your list, you can start to set your goals and objectives in relation to what you hope to achieve first, and in what time scale. By prioritising each action, this will give you a clearer starting point. Your priorities may change during the course of a day, week, month or year and things can be moved around to reflect this. It is important to remember that your list is not set in stone. Priorities may change when other actions are achieved. You need to remain flexible in your approach, but motivated to achieve the goals that you set, balancing out the ability to move things around in your priority list, without constantly moving (and avoiding) certain actions that you perhaps are not looking forward to.
3. Be Realistic
When working to your list, you need to remain realistic. Just because you have created a list of what needs to be done, doesn’t mean that the actual task at hand is going to take any less time, it does however mean that you can focus on the said task fully, and plan your time in such a way that allows you to focus and achieve each task, cutting out time wastage. Setting realistic goals will help to ensure that you achieve each task in the time you have set yourself, and when you have completed a task, you will feel a sense of achievement, which you can use as motivation to keep going. For example, when writing an article, you may be more likely to achieve this in the best time scale, and to a good standard if you have a peaceful environment and have made sure that my other commitments for the day have been done, or are planned to be done.
4. Schedule and Plan
When you have your list of priorities you can begin to schedule and plan your time accordingly. Somethings may be more pressing than others, which should of course be actioned first. But utilising your time effectively dependant on your other daily commitments could allow you to achieve more, and tick more tasks from your list. For example, if you have a business meeting, and need to catch the train, this could be a great opportunity to catch up on emails or do some research on the internet. Using calendars and diaries can also assist in your time management, which makes it easier to block off time in your schedule to achieve what you set out to do. There are many useful tools and task manager apps around now that offer systems to help you with your schedules and planning including Todoist, Wunderlist and Google Keep that allow you to make lists, notes and generally help to organise your day to day tasks.
It is so important to remove any distractions that you might have when trying to keep to your time scales. Social media is a massive time waster and according to Social Media Today 77% of workers who have Facebook use it during work, up to 2 hours in a day! Turn off your phone and don’t schedule any calls for that time. If you get an email alert, you don’t have to read it immediately. Make sure that you are not hungry or thirsty, and if you are in a shared office-space let your colleagues know that you are trying to concentrate on a task and that you don't want to be disturbed for the time-being. Perhaps there is a meeting room you could book out for an hour to allow you the space you need to concentrate? It is sometimes really hard to complete a task when you are being interrupted, as your flow of thought is broken, and then time is wasted thinking over what you were doing before the interruption, and then settling back into the task. If you can keep your focus you will achieve your objective in a shorter time.
6. Review your priorities
It is useful to constantly review your priorities daily and weekly. This will give you a chance to see your progress and access what you need to do next. The initial plan that you set yourself will be a guide, and of course may need to be altered when different tasks are more pressing. Having a flexible approach to your day, within the scope of the plan you have made for yourself will allow you to ease the pressure if you are given another task to do, and you will have the tools to slot this new task in at the appropriate part of your day/week.
In summary, if you can take all of the clutter from your mind, everything that you need to do in one day, week, month, or even year and arrange each task depending on its urgency, you can begin to effectively manage your time, which will allow you to be more focussed on each individual task. This will help you to achieve your objectives more efficiently and to a better standard. If you can physically see a list of things that you need to do, you don’t have the pressure to remember them yourself, and can start to plan your objectives in a more proactive and effective way.