Time management is not really something we learn at school.
Maybe if you went to college you might have been introduced to it. But more likely you were left to just get on with lectures and coursework with the result of Red Bull and takeout-fueled all-nighters as you struggled desperately to get your paper finished.
Oh yeah, we’ve all been there.
What about at work? Surely they will answer the question of how can I better use my time at your 9 to 5. I mean it would benefit them if you were better at managing your time…
But the problem is, by that point, they expect you to know.
And so you can become an adult without anyone answering the question of how do you learn to manage time!
You can become an adult and have no idea how to actually get anything done other than in crazed working sprints that leave you burned out and empty.
And also, not fair.
After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.
But that stops today. Because this blog post is the introduction to time management and productivity that you never knew you needed.
Full of bite-sized tips you can action right away or that act as a lead-in on a much larger subject, the bottom line is that you’re going to be throwing procrastination out the window, getting more done in less time and no longer feeling stressed and busy without anything to show for it.
Translation: Your boss is going to love you despite you leaving an hour before everyone else (I mean your work’s done, why would you stay…)
Your home will be a delight at all times because you can bust out a clean and tidy in less time than it takes for you to cook dinner, and there will be zero guilt for spending the whole weekend binge-reading fanfiction because everything else you needed to get done in life is err done…
Winner, winner, right? Let’s get to it!
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Basically, its a cheatsheet to you getting more done in less time. I know, who wouldn’t want that…
The Importance of Time Management
Aka, should time be managed?
Because right now I know some of you are muttering under your breath that you like being spontaneous.
That you like to go with the flow and honestly, your best work is done on all-nighters when the deadline is only five hours away, it’s 3 am already and in reality, you have nine hours of work still to go.
But I’m calling bullshit.
And secondly, planning and managing your time leads to more spontaneity in your life.
Picture the scene. It’s Friday afternoon and your friend texts you asking if you fancy a weekend trip away to the neighboring state once you’ve finished work.
Yesssss you think, you love random road trips like these. But then you remember the presentation you have to do on Monday, the really freaking important presentation you have to give on Monday.
The one you were meant to be working on all week but instead procrastinated and floofed about.
You text back saying sorry but you’ve got to work. All weekend.
Had you planned your time better and actually got your work done in it’s designated time you would be on your way to your out of the blue roadtrip.
Instead, you sit in your apartment all weekend finishing the presentation and suffering from FOMO as you see the pictures your friends took on the spontaneous road trip you should have been able to go on but couldn’t because you didn’t manage your time…
How do I get the most out of my time?
Okay, now you’re convinced that managing your time really is pretty darn important let’s talk about how to get the most out of your time and there are two concepts that are absolutely crucial to this.
- Work smarter not harder
- Don’t glorify busy
These concepts intertwine with each other and while they don’t exactly mean the same thing, they kind of have the same end result.
In our society we tend to be paid for the amount of work done or hours worked versus the results we produce.
For example, let’s say you work in an office doing general admin for a legal company. You’ll most likely be on a salary where you’re contracted to be in the office from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
So regardless of whether you can get your work done in one hour or whether you’re absolutely useless and do nothing all day, you’re still going to get paid for the hours you’ve been there and looked busy.
Because so many of us experience this at work we take this mindset into all areas of our lives.
Focusing on being busy, not the results that we’re getting.
But this is not a good use of our time.
Because you can be running round like a headless chicken day in day out feeling completely exhausted and burned out, but never getting anywhere in life.
SO to get the most out of your time you need to give up on being busy and start working smarter, counting your results not the number of hours you’ve been doing stuff.
Of course I do understand that in some situations (say at work when you have to be in the office from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm) you can’t just get done what you need to get done and leave.
But try taking these concepts to as many different parts of your life as possible and see how much more free time you have on your hands!
How can I do more in less time?
Now we get to the more practical stuff.
If you’ve ever asked that question, how can I do more in less time, then undoubtedly you’ve felt like you didn’t have enough time.
Kinda goes without saying, right?
So the first thing we need to talk about is that there are 168 hours in a week.
Let’s assume you sleep eight hours every night which is 56 in total, so you now have 112 hours left.
The average person (and that’s probably you if you actually tracked your time honestly) spends around 45 hours working and commuting to work, so now you’re down to 67 hours left.
Plus, let’s add another two hours per day for things like getting ready, eating, etc, so that’s 14 hours per week.
And on top of that, another one and a half hours each day for cleaning, laundry, etc etc, which is 10.5 hours per week.
You still have 42.5 hours per week left over.
That’s enough time to work another full-time job.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you really do have enough time when it’s managed properly.
Laura Vanderkam wrote an amazing book on this concept called “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think” and if you’re just getting started with time management then I would so recommend it!
Overall Time Management Strategies
Okay, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the overarching time strategies that everyone should be aware of and doing in their lives, whether they’re a CEO of a billion-dollar company or a stay-at-home Mom with three littles under her feet.
1 – Set Goals With Action Plans
If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve (your goal) how the heck are you meant to plan your time strategically to help you reach your goal?
AND if you don’t know what actions are going to help you reach your goal, then again, how are you meant to plan your time to help you reach your goal….
It’s just not going to work.
Luckily I wrote a post that explains exactly how to set goals and create action plans that mean hitting those goals is a walk in the park.
2 – Prioritize
You’ve got to learn to prioritize.
While, as demonstrated earlier, you actually have a lot more time than you initially thought, it’s still not enough time to do everything.
A favorite personal finance blogger of mine Paula Pant has an amazing quote about money:
“You can afford anything, but not everything.”
Well, I think the same thing applies to time…
You have the time to do anything, but not everything.
And so prioritizing becomes key.
Of course, prioritizing isn’t easy, often having to choose between something you want to do that’s super fun and something that will get you closer to your goals. But it’s a skill worth learning.
3 – Have a To-Do List
Or even better a Master To-Do List System!
You need a way to keep track of everything that has to be done in your life and honestly, I’ve always found a to-do list to be the easiest and most effective way.
No need to reinvent the wheel, aye!
4 – Schedule Tasks
With my personal favorite method: time blocking!
Remember when you were at school and you knew exactly what you were meant to be doing and when, and, low and behold, the things that you needed to do (aka learn) actually got done.
That’s because you had a schedule that you had to stick to — your timetable.
Of course, when you become an adult no one bothers to make you a schedule anymore. I mean maybe someone will expect you at work between 9 am and 6 pm but apart from that your time is your own.
And that’s where things might start to go a little wrong. Because unlike when you were a kid you now have responsibilities that need taking care of in your unscheduled time…
All that to say, if you want to actually get stuff done you’re going to need to create a schedule to make that happen.
Rather than Math between 10 am and 11 am, it might be clean the house from 6.30 pm to 7 pm…
The video below explains everything you need to know to start implementing time blocking in your life.
5 – Delegate Tasks
The last, main time management strategy on our list is delegation, because at some point you will have too much on your plate than you can physically get done.
And then you will need to delegate.
Of course, I don’t recommend you want until you literally cannot get everything done, it’s better to start delegating *before* you begin drowning in your to-do lists.
Now I know a lot of people have a major problem with delegation, and if that’s you then I bet you’ve had a thought like this before:
- When I delegate tasks out I spend so much time fixing whatever that person did that it doesn’t save me time so there’s no point!
I’m going to be honest with you, if that’s the problem you’re having then you’re not training up whoever needs to take on the task well enough.
I don’t care if that’s your employee at work or when you’re trying to get your son to do his own laundry, if the task hasn’t been done well enough you haven’t trained them well enough.
That or your standards are just too high.
So first really think about your standards. I know we all have certain ways of doing things and we like things being done our way but does it really matter if your son leaves his laundry in the washer overnight before he moves it to the tumble dryer?
I mean he’s the one that will have to deal with slightly damp smelling clothes, not you, and maybe that just isn’t something that concerns him…
If you think your standards are acceptable, then you are probably delegating too late which means you don’t have enough time to really teach that person how to do the task.
Start delegating earlier *before* you have too much to do so you can spend time making sure your son understands why he needs to wash his football kit separate from his school clothes…
Delegation is a vital time management skill that often gets overlooked, but if you really do need to get more done in less time, delegation is your best option.
Time Management Tricks, Techniques and Hacks
Above, we spoke about the main time management strategies that govern all your productivity.
But now I want to go over some productivity hacks to help you beat procrastination and make your work time even more valuable.
None of these things are mandatory, more like a menu you can pick and choose from to see what helps you in particular!
6 – The Pomodoro Technique
This is a great little procrastination destroyer, perfect for implementing when you have a mammoth task ahead (like a chunky paper that’s due) but can’t seem to get started (probably because you’re overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task…)
All you have to do is commit to working for 25 minutes (set a timer), then you get a 5-minute break and then work for another 25 minutes.
It sounds stupidly simple, but convincing yourself to work for just 25 minutes is actually quite easy, especially with the lure of a break!
7 – Never Multitask
I know, I know, we’re brought up to believe that multitasking is a good thing, but research shows that there is no such thing as multitasking, it’s a myth.
Instead, what we’re actually doing is switching between the tasks, and every time we switch we have to refocus again.
This charges us a switching cost, which basically means that whenever you switch tasks you lose some time in refocusing back into the task.
You will have definitely noticed this in your day-to-day life, like have you ever tried to write a paper or a report while also watching TV. It takes at least double the time it would if you were to just write the paper.
So stop multitasking. Focus on one task at a time and just get it done.
8 – Minimize Distractions
Sounds freaking obvious, I know.
But my goodness how many of us don’t do this.
In fact, as I write this I’m being distracted by how messy my desk is. Fail.
So take some time and get rid of your distractions, whether it’s mess, the TV blaring or your dog barking at that squirrel outside for the hundredth time.
Deal with the issue and watch your productivity increase.
9 – Just Focus on Starting
If you have difficulty with procrastination like myself…
As in you regularly spend three hours watching rubbish Youtube videos only to realize, shock, that you’re three hours behind with work and getting it all done is now going to be impossible unless you don’t bother sleeping tonight.
Then you have a major meltdown and cry, and finally, get on with the work through nothing but an intense fear of missing out on too much sleep.
Yeah, something like that…
Anyway, this little trick is bound to help as it’s helped me avoid the above situation countless times.
Just focus on starting, then do the next inch, and the next inch. Don’t look ahead and see the whole big project, just focus on the next tiny, weeny step you have to take.
10 – Take Breaks
Y’all this isn’t rocket science.
If you’re tired, burning out or have been working for more than two hours you need to take a break.
Science says so. Although the data on how long your breaks should be and how often is a little bit hazy, they all agree that focused work is where your productivity is at, and frequent breaks promote focused work.
11 – Say No
You want to get more done in less time.
But have you ever considered just having less to do…
It’s time to flex your “No” muscle.
Our society conditions us not to say no, which means we often take on wayyyyy more than we should.
The result being that we end up drowning in to-dos and tasks that we really cannot do a good job on.
How do we deal with this? By being honest and realistic with our time — saying no when we already have a full plate.
(Yes I know it’s hard, but like with all things, when you start saying no it gets easier and easier.)
Still not sure you believe in the whole saying no thing, then read this book, or even just the summary on Amazon might do the trick!
12 – Eat The Frog
Obviously, I’m not suggesting you actually eat a frog.
In the realm of time management “eat the frog” means get the worse or biggest job of the day done first.
So if there is a task you dread or it’s just big and chunky, do that first thing and get it off your plate.
You will feel so proud of yourself you won’t be able to help power through the rest of your to-dos.
13 – Sleep
Not getting enough sleep will destroy your productivity.
No ifs or buts.
If you’re not convinced and think your four hours of shut-eye per night is fine, then I dare you to read this post and tell me if you still believe that to be true.
Like actually read it, not just the title and then decide it’s not relevant. Read every word, maybe even give it a try and then if your productivity doesn’t go through the roof I will eat my hat.
Or maybe even give you a voucher to get one of my products for free, that’s how much I believe it to be true.
14 – Start Early
Now I know some people say they’re night owls and that they do their best work late into the evening.
But I don’t buy it.
Because I used to think I was a night owl.
Turns out I wasn’t. I just wasn’t getting enough decent sleep and then I would be super wired in the night because I wasn’t looking after myself well enough. So I was working in some weird, sleep-deprived state that kind of felt like when you’ve drunk too many Red Bulls…
When I actually got decent sleep (and that required implementing a sleep routine) mornings instantly became my most productive time.
In fact, I even woke up at 5 am for a while and my goodness you can get a lot done then!
So get up early and get to work, you’ll be surprised how much you can get done…
15 – Done is Better Than Perfect
It’s time to throw your perfectionism out the window and start working at a B- level not A+ as Brooke Castillo says.
As a control freak and also recovering perfectionist this is hard. But wow does it cut down on procrastination and how long stuff takes.
16 – Give Your Task a Time Limit
Ever heard of Parkinson’s law?
Basically, what it means is that if you give yourself three weeks to finish that report, it will take three weeks.
But if you only give yourself a day, the report will only take a day.
Start giving your tasks time limits and see what happens…
17 – Plan Margins Into Your Day
While I’m all about effective planning and using all your time wisely, I also think you need to plan white space into your day because life happens.
Your dog gets sick and has to be rushed to the vets. You get a headache and need to lie down for 10. A friend calls who you haven’t spoken to in ages.
Those things could easily throw your entire day off, so plan for life to crop up and give yourself some breathing room in your day.
18 – Batch Like-for-Like Tasks
Ever considered how some people can meal prep seven days’ worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner in three hours on a Sunday afternoon, yet it takes you an hour just to cook Monday nights dinner…
That is the power of batching tasks!
If you have any similar tasks or the same task that you do on the regular, consider if you can batch these tasks.
By this point, I’m hoping you have learned how to manage your time effectively.
Or you at least know where to start and what you need to further research and work on.
But, before I go, I’ll leave you with one more very use time management tip.
19 – Track Your Time.
If, after implementing countless time management strategies and productivity boosters you still can seem to get everything done then tracking your time is the next logical step.
For one week write down exactly what you are doing with every minute of your day.
Yes, it’s tedious. But it’s only for one week, so buck up buttercup and get it done.
I can almost guarantee that you’re spending way more time than you realized either watching TV or scrolling through social media and that’s why you’re not getting anything done.
That was certainly the case for me… Oops.
Don’t forget to download your time management tips PDF
Click the button below to grab your printable PDF version of all the important bits in this post.
A cheatsheet you can save for later so you can keep increasing your productivity and watch those to-dos get crossed off in record time!