How much time do people spend doing things in a lifetime? On average, people spend 235 days queuing, 115 days laughing, and 136/46 days getting ready (women/men). Trivial activities that waste your time will also add up to a substantial chunk of your life—unless you know how to use your time effectively.
For those who often lose track of time, this article will share tips on how to improve time management skills. They will help you regain control of your day and potentially save years of wasted time.
Good time management skills vs. poor time management skills
Just because you have a full schedule and don’t miss your deadlines doesn’t mean that you’re effectively managing your time. Let’s start by defining what effective or poor use of time means.
Here are the signs that you have good time management skills:
- Good calendar management
- Time awareness
- Effective delegation
- Little to no stress about commitments
- Little to no amount of overtime
And here are the biggest symptoms of poor time management:
- Constant rushing
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Poor quality of work
- Unfinished tasks
- Overextension and burnout
- No clear goals or responsibilities
- Tiredness, no energy
7 best tips to improve your time management skills
Without arguing the importance of time management skills, let’s go straight into tips for boosting them.
1. Prioritize your tasks
Not all tasks are created equally. One task might have a closer deadline than the other. Or you might need to complete task A before you can take on task B.
Whatever the case may be, it’s always helpful to create a list of tasks that require your immediate attention. You can have a short planning session at the start of each workday or week.
2. Set deadlines for small tasks
Time-consuming tasks should be divided into smaller, manageable tasks and create a timeline for completing each stage. This will help you stay on track and monitor your progress. Being able to check off items will also give you a sense of accomplishment and help you stay motivated.
3. Understand your patterns of productivity
Do you know how productive you are throughout your day? If not, keep note of when you get the most things done.
If you’re an early person, plan your most important tasks for the morning. If you don’t hit your productivity peak until the evening or the night, don’t force yourself into an early routine.
4. Minimize distractions
Rather than trying to ignore distractions—like loud colleagues or app notifications—handle the problem. Put on headphones and listen to background music, turn off the notifications and put your phone aside, etc. In other words, create the perfect environment that allows you to focus.
5. Avoid multitasking
Many people grow up to believe that multitasking is a great way to get a lot done at once. But in reality, you can’t split your attention between multiple tasks without losing focus.
Because the brain isn’t nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as you may think, try to concentrate on one thing at a time.
6. Learn to say “no”
You may think that accepting many responsibilities will make a positive impression and demonstrate your dedication. But if you fail to set the limit to what you’ll say “yes” to, you’ll accomplish the opposite.
Practice saying “no” to tasks and commitments that you know will not fit in your schedule.
7. Take time off
It’s not sustainable to complete large amounts of work without taking breaks. For example, if you start choosing work over your lunch breaks, you’re putting yourself up to fast burnout and overwhelming stress.
Don’t underestimate the value of stepping away from your work every time you check something off your list.
Helpful time management techniques
Different people need different ways to organize their time. Here are some of the timeless techniques you can try:
- Pomodoro: Break down your work into short intervals, e.g., 15-25 minutes. Put on the timer, focus on the task for the interval, and take a break (around 5 minutes) when the timer rings.
- Eisenhower Matrix: The technique is also called urgent-important matrix. Divide your tasks into four categories: urgent + important (do), urgent + not important (delegate), not urgent + important (decide), not urgent + not important (delete).
- Time Blocking: Write down each hour of the day and set tasks for each block of time.
- Eat That Frog: “Eat a live frog the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Complete the most difficult tasks first to get them out of the way.
In trying to develop effective time management skills, it’s important to figure out a process that works for you.