Unless you are traveling in a spaceship and moving close to the speed of light, time passes at the same rate for everyone. The Earth takes approximately 24 hours to complete one full rotation on its axis, which has resulted in a day being 24 hours long. So why do some people seem to be able to accomplish so much more when we all have the same amount of time in our day? Simply, they have mastered good time management skills. I have summarized 3 Time Management tips that I have condensed from a number of different resources. Hopefully, these will help you finish more tasks and get you closer to accomplishing your S.M.A.R.T. goals.
1) Create a Prioritized To-Do List
At the beginning of every day, take 15 minutes to consciously decide how you want to spend your time. This is also called making a plan for your day. Write down everything you need to do that day. This list should include steps needed to complete a S.M.A.R.T. goal, tasks or project items for work or school, errands, basically anything that needs to be done.
Once you have your To-Do list, prioritize your list based on the importance and urgency of each task. Put an ‘A’ by the things that you MUST get done today or there will be significant consequences. These items are classified as important and urgent. Then, put a ‘B’ by the items that you would like to do and should get done today, but will only have mildly negative consequences if they are not done. These items are usually classified as important, but not urgent. Finally, put a C beside everything else. These items are anything that is urgent, but not important or not urgent and not important. These items are kept on the to-do list until you can move them up to an A or B level.
After your To-Do list is lettered, start with your ‘A’ tasks and ask “what is the most important task I need to do today? The one thing that if accomplished, will provide the biggest result?” Put a 1 next to that task. Then put a 2 by the next most important task, then a 3 and so on. Do this for your B items as well.
Then use an electronic calendar or daily planner to schedule time blocks to complete your tasks, making sure your ‘A’ tasks have sufficient time to be completed (more on this in the next tip).
2) Stop “Multi-Tasking”
There is common misconception in our culture that you must be able to “multi-task” or perform more than one task at a time in order to be more productive. However, humans aren’t computers and can’t parallel process information. In reality, there is no such thing as “multi-tasking”, and it’s impossible for your brain to focus on two things at once. Instead, your brain has to quickly switch back and forth between tasks and continually “reload” information into its memory. This process, called Cognitive Switching, actually causes you to lose time in your day and lowers your IQ.
Instead of multi-tasking, try batching. Batching is allocating a certain amount of time in your day where you only focus on one task. You close your email, hide your phone, turn off the TV, put on some headphones, and only focus on your ‘A’ tasks that you identified earlier. You will be amazed at how much more you can do if you eliminate outside distractions and focus your brain on one task at a time.
3) Exercise and Eat Healthy
There is an enormous amount of research that shows regular exercise and a healthy diet will benefit multiple areas of your life. One of these areas is your productivity levels. One study concluded that unhealthy eaters increase their risk of being unproductive by 66% and people who rarely exercise increase their risk of not being productive by 50%.
Resources I Used For This Article and Other Suggested Resources for Time Management
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, by Josh Kaufman
The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
Time Management App: Things
Time Management Software for all devices: OmniFocus