Develop the motivation and simple habits to help you manage time better, feel good about your work and get more from life.
The pressure to get through a high workload and hit targets (whether self-inflicted or otherwise) is made even more difficult without special attention to time management. Like it or not there are only so many hours in the day and it’s easy to get distracted, become absorbed by one job leaving no time for others or simply to give in to procrastination.
Everybody talks about work life balance these days, but you won’t get to strike any balance without being aware of exactly how you need to spend your time and how you actually do spend your time.
There’s a lot more to managing time and getting the most out of those precious passing hours than merely checking in with the diary every day or making ‘to do lists’. Over the years I have learned a lot about effective time management and I’m happy to share what I believe are the 3 Best Time Management Tips below, techniques that always work for me and I hope work for you too;
Set Goals and Deadlines with Visible Markers for Direction
Setting a goal is merely providing you with a way forward, it makes you focus on what you want to achieve at the end of the journey so you know you’re doing the right things to help you get there.
But it can also provide you with an end date – the day your goal should be achieved. In my experience the pressure of an end date has a similar effect to studying for an exam: it gives you the incentive and drive to apply yourself to the task within a specific timeframe. The pressure of a deadline makes a huge motivational difference, even if you are the one who put it in place, so it’s a good idea to keep that deadline very real and visible.
I don’t want to sound old fashioned, but those phone reminders that we use to nag ourselves merely serve as stress inducers and time vacuums – we often acknowledge them for two seconds, turn them off and simply try to ignore the guilt. But when we turn them off they’re gone, for now, ignored. So the time you spent setting them up and turning them off and agonizing over being reminded is time wasted. Keep your phone reminders for those once-off appointments, like the time to collect your kids from school if you don’t normally do that, a dental appointment or a reminder of the place you agreed to meet an acquaintance that day.
If you’re not good with diaries or schedules in whatever form they come, the best idea is to get a Year Planner and pin it on the wall by your desk or wherever you work and have clear markings that are easily identifiable at a glance. That way you cannot avoid seeing it every day, even in a subliminal way, whether you open your diary or not! It may not have fine detail, but it will draw you in and get you focused and settled, acting like a signpost and sending you in the right direction just when you need it.
And when you are creating your daily/weekly schedule remember to include out of work hours too. Knowing that you have personal as well as professional interests within the schedule and seeing how much personal time you actually do have, tends to lighten the mental load. Attitude is everything!
Concentrate When It Matters
If your mind is wandering away during your work hours, you might as well be asleep. For me, work life balance comes from being able to give myself permission to go do something for myself – whether that be working out, watching a movie, doing housework, going for a walk or spending time with family – because I earned it. I don’t have to feel guilty because I know I used every working hour in a real and productive way, whatever the outcome. The only occasions when I don’t enjoy leisure time is when I feel regret for lost hours or feel overwhelmed by the workload, so I try to concentrate when it matters and then I really enjoy my time off.
If lack of concentration is due to fatigue, remember that exercise will help you to sleep, which will help you to concentrate, so make sure you schedule time every day for something physical and then get a good night’s sleep. The motivation to exercise can sometimes be a challenge and my personal mental trick is to tell myself just to start, do the first couple of moves and then I can stop any time I wish. Once I’m started I begin to enjoy it – those endorphins kick in and then I don’t want to stop. It works every time!
It’s a good habit to eat properly through the day too (balanced nutrition) so you don’t get sugar highs and lows, and drink lots of water – your brain needs it.
When you work from home, make sure everybody knows your working hours and then stick to your guns. Also try getting up really early – it’s the best part of the day, your mind is refreshed and you’re less likely to be bothered by phone calls or other distractions. Oh, and close your email account while you’re working or set it up to download at specific times only. The less ad hoc distractions the better.
Procrastination versus Motivation and Habit
Look, it’s work. Even if you love your job there will always be aspects that you don’t enjoy that much and tend to want to put off. It happens to everybody. Motivation is a hot topic but I want to focus more on how procrastination affects your ability to manage your time effectively and how that has a knock-on effect on the end result, eating away at your motivation even further. Motivation and procrastination are linked and together they can become a vicious cycle and a downward spiral of eating away at your time unless you form better habits.
As I’ve already alluded to previously, getting started is the hardest thing. Mostly people put something off because of their mental attitude toward that particular task. Usually it’s easier to do work that you enjoy but when you have to do something that you feel you have to do, rather than want to, then it becomes a lot more difficult to apply yourself.
One thing to remember is that when you constantly move the things you don’t like forward in your diary because you’re putting them off in your mind, it will inevitably result in your near future containing more of the things you don’t like as you try to catch up. The problem tasks build and your job gets less enjoyable as the week or month goes on.
So ensure your daily schedule incorporates something you don’t like doing and slot it in for early in the day. And if you have to move things forward, make sure it’s not always the stuff you dislike. Maybe you really need to change your job at some point if it is full of things you don’t like doing, but for now you need to get on top of the job at hand and feel better about it.
Developing a habit of facing difficult jobs and attacking them early has numerous benefits. When you get to tick off a job you don’t like in the morning the rest of your day feels easy and you will be much more enthusiastic about the rest of your work and your overall job in general. Take a load off your mind by telling yourself you can start a task and you can stop any time you want, as you’re slotting those tricky jobs into your schedule. You’ll then approach each task with less expectation and pressure and more attention and focus, leading to successful completion.
Like all things that seem difficult at first – housework, paperwork, exercise, etc. – once you do it as a routine, over time you will begin to become slightly addicted to the sense of accomplishment you feel when the job is done, even if you didn’t like the work itself. Motivation doesn’t always come before the work, sometimes it can come as a result of doing the work. Be persistent in this and eventually you will crave the satisfaction of dealing with things instead of procrastinating, your time will be much better managed and you will be more productive.