There is a universal desire to overcome procrastination and become the most productive we can be. Constantly putting off or delaying things we need to do is not a modern problem. Procrastination has been around for centuries, but now we have some time management strategies we can learn and implement to limit our time-wasting.
What is procrastination?
Procrastinating doesn’t always look like simple avoidance of a task, but it can also be mismanaging the tasks you need to do.
People tend to fall victim to Parkinson’s Law. It’s an old saying that work expands to fill the time we allow for it. This idea means that we can make a small, simple task drag on if we don’t manage our time correctly.
Here are some time management strategies to help you get everything done.
Before you can start actively managing your time, it’s essential to know where your time is going. In what areas are you wasting time? Is there a particular time of day that you’re more likely to decline in productivity? By creating a picture of how you’re spending your time across several days, you can start to notice patterns and get an idea of what tactics might be more useful to you.
Plan in Advance
Carve out a specific time, either the night before or first thing in the morning, to plan your tasks for the day. By having a set plan in place, you don’t waste time figuring out what to do next. Instead, you’ll be able to move between tasks more freely.
Take time to identify the main priorities for the day and make sure they’re at the top of the list. Tell yourself that they’re non-negotiable. If nothing else, make sure that you complete those top things that you need to do.
Prioritize to Boost your Time Management
How can you determine what takes priority? One of the most popular prioritization tools is called the “Eisenhower Box.” It is a decision-making strategy that helps to organize tasks and manage action steps. Tasks will fit into one of four categories.
- Urgent and important – these tasks need to get done right away.
- Important, but not urgent – these tasks will go into your schedule for later.
- Urgent, but not important – these tasks will be delegated to someone else.
- Neither urgent nor important – these tasks will be eliminated entirely.
To determine what is important versus urgent, ask yourself if something is reactive. Do you need to return a phone call or email? These types of things are urgent. Important tasks refer to items that are important to the bigger picture. They are the tasks that contribute to our long-term goals.
The Eisenhower Matrix is popular because it is so adaptable. We can use it to clarify large-scale productivity plans and smaller day-to-day action plans.
The consensus among productivity experts is to do the most important and urgent tasks first when your willpower and energy are highest.
We’ve all multitasked at some point, and it seems like it can’t do much harm. But just because we’re doing multiple things at once, we’re not actually getting twice as much done. Splitting our attention between tasks means sacrificing the quality of work and can make things take longer. Dedicate attention to one thing, and when it’s complete, move on to the next.
Batch Similar Tasks Together
Doing similar tasks in the same pockets of time can help reduce fatigue by not constantly switching gears. Batch phone calls together or run your errands all in one trip. By interspersing these things throughout the day, you interrupt any possibility of getting in a rhythm. If you keep tasks in batches, you help eliminate distractions and make the most of your time.
Use To-Do Lists Productively
Lists are critical in guiding our focus on what needs to get done. It helps catch little things you may forget and make sure we’re prioritizing the right things. But placing too much focus on to-do lists can actually hinder our time management. Creating too many tasks on a single list can quickly become overwhelming and stressful. Overly long lists make it harder to discern what’s important, what’s urgent, and what’s not.
It may be more effective to create lists for each project and break measurable steps down into smaller tasks that you need to complete the goal. It’s motivating to see all the steps laid out, so you know the exact blueprint to get where you need to be.
To-do lists don’t consider each step’s time investment, but integrating our action steps into a schedule is a good time management practice.
Use an Online Calendar for Time Management
Online calendars are great tools to manage your time. They sync across devices, it can integrate with your email, and it’s easy to access and reference. You can create blocks of time in your calendar to map out your day, and things are easy to drag and drop if you need to make changes.
It’s an excellent visual tool to show you just how much time a task takes in a schedule compared to the rest of the day. After tracking your time, you’ll be able to estimate the length of a task more and more accurately.
Create Buffer Times in Your Schedule
Scheduling tasks or meetings back to back may seem like the best use of your time, but we can fall victim to the planning fallacy. This fallacy is a cognitive bias that underestimates how much time it takes to complete a task. If there is no room for movement in your schedule, it won’t take long for your timing to get thrown off track.
The best way to manage your time in a schedule is not to book yourself solid. Leave some time between tasks or meetings to account for the possibility that things may run long. You can even complete things early and have more buffer time, giving you more time to recharge between tasks.
Work with a Rhythm to Improve Time Management
The Pomodoro technique is a popular time management tool, long praised by productivity experts. It’s universal. It works so well with many people because it’s a rhythm our bodies understand. Biologically, we have an internal rhythm that we pass through that affects our energy levels. We move through intervals that are 120 minutes long, and we are most productive during the first 90 minutes. Following the peak, mental energy declines for 30 minutes.
We all have a biological prime-time. When you get to know your body’s rhythm, you can manage your time more successfully. It allows you to plan to do your most mentally grueling tasks during your prime time and the less draining tasks – or a break – when energy dips. Experts recommend doing the Pomodoro technique within the 90-minute peak – 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break, then repeat.
Adopt the 2-Minute Rule
A time management strategy that helps defeat procrastination is the 2-minute rule, where if something takes 2 minutes or less to do, complete it right away. It stops the small things from piling up, crosses something quick and easy off the list while giving you a little feeling of accomplishment. It may surprise you just how many things take less than 2 minutes to complete and if you catch up on these things throughout the day, you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t Worry About Perfection
Perfectionism is the enemy of time management. It makes everything take longer than it needs to. Nothing will ever be perfect, but you can waste valuable time trying to attain it. When you complete a task, try not to tweak it endlessly. It’s best to be a realist rather than a perfectionist. Keep your expectations attainable and when you finish a task, try not to ruminate over it and move on to the next job. It can be tough to do, but setting parameters with yourself can help projects get done more efficiently and stop it from sucking up too much time.
Keep a Distraction List
Our brains aren’t perfect. Sometimes our minds wander off, and we have thought utterly unrelated to the task at hand. Keeping a distraction list helps to limit the disruption these thoughts can cause. It can be a tab open to a document or a piece of paper next to you, but the less time you spend rummaging around to make a note of your thought, the fewer interruptions you experience. You’ll be able to jot down what’s come to mind and get right back into the workflow.
Time management doesn’t have to be overly complicated or overwhelming. By making just a few minor lifestyle tweaks in your working habits, you’ll be able to get more things done and maybe have some time to spare.
Where con I learn Time Management?
There are several online course platforms where you can learn for free about it.