Education & Career Trends: November 20
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS
Excerpts are taken from an article published on psychologytoday.com.
Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time in the day? We all get the same 24 hours – so why do some people seem to achieve more with their time than others? The answer: good time management.
Time management is the process of organising and planning how to divide your time between different activities. Get it right, and you’ll end up working smarter, not harder, to get more done in less time – even when time is tight and pressures are high.
The highest achievers manage their time exceptionally well. And by using time-management resources, you too can make the most of your time – starting right now!
Time Management and Productivity
When you know how to manage your time effectively, you can unlock many benefits. These include:
- Greater productivity and efficiency.
- Less stress.
- A better professional reputation.
- Increased chances of advancement.
- More opportunities to achieve your life and career goals.
Overall, you start feeling more in control, with the confidence to choose how best to use your time.
And by feeling happier, more relaxed, and better able to think, you’re in a great place to help others reach their targets, too.
How to Improve Your Time Management Skills
Start by assessing your existing approach. How good are you at organising your time so that you get the important things done well? Can you balance your time between different activities? And when you do make time to do something, are you able to focus – and get it finished?
If you’re looking to take control of your time, here are six tips and strategies to get you started:
1. Conduct a time audit.
Start by assessing where you spend your time. Create a visual map of the approximate hours you spend on work, school, housework and chores, commuting, social media, and leisure activities. Then, you can drill in on school or work, dividing your previous week into days, then hours. How much time did it take to finish that paper? Did a work project take longer because you were scrolling on your phone?
Set goals based on this outcome. Planning and setting time limits on your tasks and priorities can free up time for what’s most important to you, like spending more time with friends and family.
Start by dedicating a half hour every Sunday to intentionally planning your week and setting daily goals.
2. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to set your priorities.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a popular tool that helps you distinguish between tasks that are important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. The quadrant has four boxes in which you can split your tasks to prioritise what you should focus on first. They also correspond with the 4 D’s of execution: do, defer, delegate, and delete.
- Quadrant 1: Important and urgent. Do these tasks first. These are the priorities that are most relevant to your goals.
- Quadrant 2: Important but not urgent. Defer these for later in your schedule.
- Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important. Delegate these to others, if possible, especially if they do not contribute to your long-term goals.
- Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent. Delete these tasks, or do them when you have free time because they are distractions from your priorities.
For an even simpler approach, create a task list and mark each item as urgent or important. Often, we prioritise urgent tasks instead of important ones—such as tasks that may be creative, important, and fulfilling but do not have a deadline—so identifying and labelling them can be a helpful step toward accomplishing your personal and professional goals.
3. Employ methods to “chunk” your time.
Once you have a better idea of what your priorities are, setting limits can be an excellent time management tool. There are several options for chunking your time into digestible pieces.
Try the Pomodoro method. This technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, a university student who was overwhelmed by studying and assignments. The Pomodoro method requires using a timer to break down your work into 25-minute intervals, separated by 5 minutes of break time. After four pomodoros, you may take a longer 15-30 minute break. Pomodoro (“tomato” in Italian) promotes concentration and relieves mental fatigue, which is especially useful for open-ended work like conducting research, studying for an exam, or finishing a consulting project.
By “chunking” time, you make big projects and goals less daunting. Less procrastination, more productivity.
4. Focus on one thing at a time.
For most of us, multitasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one task at a time. One study found that only 2.5 per cent of people can multitask effectively. Doing too many things at once can impact your cognitive ability, making you feel unproductive or dissatisfied with your progress. Arranging your time so that you complete one task before starting another can boost your confidence.
Further, it may be helpful to compartmentalise tasks. If you are a writer, for example, you might dedicate Monday to research, Tuesday through Thursday to writing, and Friday to editing.
5. Reward yourself.
Rewards can be a great source of motivation for adopting good time management habits. For each important task you accomplish, you can give yourself a little treat. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. Here are some simple ways to motivate yourself:
- Take a break to enjoy your favourite snack
- Going for a short walk outside
- Call a friend or family member
- Meditate for five minutes
- Listen to a podcast episode or a chapter of an audiobook
For bigger rewards, you can indulge in activities like reading a book in the bath, planning a night out with friends, or booking a getaway. Exciting rewards can help you push through an especially tough project or work period.
6. Use apps to block out distractions.
Sometimes, rewards and good intentions are not enough to keep us focused. An app or browser extension can help you minimise distractions by blocking you from using social media or touching your phone. Here are some apps and extensions you can try:
- Forest is an app that helps you stay focused and off your phone. The company partners with an organisation called Trees for the Future to plant trees when you spend virtual coins earned in Forest.
- StayFocused is a browser extension that prevents you from using time-wasting websites like Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, Instagram, and more. It’s highly configurable, so you can customise it to your specific distractions.
- Freedom is a tool that can block both websites and apps on all of your devices, simultaneously. Take advantage of their free trial to know if it’s right for you.
How to create your time management strategy
Now that you have some potential time management tips and methods in your toolkit, it’s time to create a strategy. You might experiment with several techniques before establishing the most effective long-term habits and routines for you.
Establish goals and priorities.
Consider your lifestyle, whether you are a student or a working professional (or both), whether you have a family or aspire to become a digital nomad (or both!). Think of your long- and short-term goals for your career and personal development. Make sure the goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. What will it take to achieve them? How can you manage your time to maximise your productivity?
Once you have established your goals, prioritise them in order of importance. It may be helpful to use Post-its or pen and paper to visualise them.
Choose the best method for you.
Using the list of tips above, decide upon a method or two to implement. Based on what has worked for you in the past, you can mix and match different time management skills. If you are unsure of which ones will work for you, pick one at random and give it a try.
Plan and implement.
Apply your chosen method over some time. A month is typically enough time to evaluate whether a strategy is working. Over 30 days, monitor your progress. Take notes on how you feel after one or two weeks. Was one method more effective than the other?
After one month of your new time management methods, it’s time to reassess. What’s working? What’s not working? Adjust your strategy and plan to be more effective. Continue to practice these habits each month, adapting them as your priorities change. What works for you when you are a student may not be the same as when you start a new job.
Remember, practising time management is an ongoing process, and life happens. It’s about progress, not perfection.
Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)