Time is the most precious resource we have and yet we still struggle with managing it in our professional lives. Fortunately, there are several time management hacks which both managers and employees can learn and employ to effectively manage their time at work.
Have you ever wondered why some people are super productive? You know the people who always respond to emails and finish projects on time. It’s not because they have some kind of super power or extra time on their clocks. They are that productive because they are masters of time management.
Here is a list of time management hacks that managers and employees can use to better manage time.
Focusing on a single task at a time is one of the simplest time management hacks there is. Despite the fact that it has been popularized as a sign of high intelligence and/or mental capacity, multitasking is actually a wasteful way to work. Instead, you will achieve more if you choose one activity at a time.
Use a calendar every day
Keeping track of your all your appointments in your head is ineffective and actually often leads to anxiety from the fear of forgetting something. That’s why successful people use calendar tools. Be it a physical calendar notebook or a digital one like Google Calendar, being able to check and see how your week ahead is scheduled or receiving email reminders for important activities is very useful.
Learn to review the past week
Learning how to look back on your past 7 days is one of the best time management hacks to develop. It is a practice that can help you to better plan your schedule, stay focused on your goals and also keep track of new developments as they happen, where you would ordinarily subconsciously overlook them.
First, review your calendar for the past and current week – look for loose ends, meetings and other matters that need more attention. Then review your email inbox (both personal and work) and achieve inbox zero. Lastly, review your goals for the year and make plans to work on them in the coming week.
Plan to do only four hours of real work daily
You may have a standard eight hour work day but the reality is that only half of that day is likely to be highly productive. High value strategic tasks are what companies and clients pay for – coming up with new product ideas, ways to reduce cost and other improvements.
However, it is difficult (and more or less impractical) to do all day long. The rest of the day is often taken up with meetings, responding to email, browsing the Internet and the like. The key is to make sure that you schedule your most important, high value tasks for the time of the day when you are at peak performance – in the morning, before you get tired.
Chop large projects down into small tasks
The ability to accomplish large projects is one of the most important time management hacks. However, such large projects like organising a corporate conference, for example can feel impossible. Upon being assigned to do it, you may feel like you don’t even know what exactly you are supposed to deliver let alone where and how you are supposed to start delivering it. The key is to get started by asking for advice from people who have accomplished similar projects and then writing a plan for yours.
Break it down into the broad stages it has to go through from start to finish and then break those broad stages down into the particular deliverables needed to render each stage complete. Then figure out the specific task needed for each deliverable and break those down into even smaller tasks than can be accomplished in 2 to 4 hours. At this point you will have broken the entire project down into manageable to-do lists that you can tackle one by one day in, day out.
Do no more than three priority tasks every day
At the beginning of the day, it is easy to come up with a to-do list with dozens of items. However, this is often from the assumption that the day will go exactly as planned which it unfortunately rarely does.
Unplanned phone calls, requests from the boss and others, personal emergencies and the like often quickly overturn the best laid plans. Instead, simply figure out the three most important tasks of the day which, despite all the usual unexpected events of any given work day, you can manage to accomplish.
Learn to let other people do things for you
You can’t (and shouldn’t try to) do everything yourself. Effective managers and successful employees routinely delegate tasks so they can focus on their work better. You need to be able to figure out when someone else is better suited to work on a certain task. The steps to effective delegation are: describe the task and deadline, explain it to the person you are delegating to and ask to be kept informed.
Get easy wins right away
While it may seem counterintuitive tackling the smallest, easiest task first is actually an excellent time management hack. Sometimes you need to get an easy win by completing a smaller, easier task. For example, making your bed as soon as you wake up. This gets your brain going, confident and eager for another task because you just got something done and it’s out of the way.
The key is to make sure you don’t get carried away and spend all of your time on easy tasks but only use them to get your brain warmed up to take on the bigger tasks. Keep it to no more than three easy tasks in a row and then tackle a larger. When you feel discouraged, do another series of easy ones.
Schedule travel time on your calendar
Travel time is a reality that we need to learn to manage. For example, scheduling back-to-back meetings when you know you need to move from one building to another is unrealistic. Make sure to plan for travel time using a worst case scenario (e.g. heavy traffic) – that way, you are more likely to arrive early.
Get enough sleep
Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day is one of the most underrated time management hacks you will ever come across. Cutting out sleep to have more fun or get more work done is a short sighted strategy.
While it might be easy to pull off in your 20s, it is a dangerous habit to accustom your body to. Being tired all day renders you unable effectively manage your time, no matter how organised you are.
Learn to say no
Saying no without hesitation and explanation is one of the most effective time management hacks. Saying yes to new responsibilities is a great way to grow your career when you first get started. Yet, this is a habit that you can take too far and end up being a people pleaser who struggles with saying no and thus always ends up with a pile of tasks they can’t finish on time.
Admit mistakes quickly and move on
Covering up mistakes wastes everyone’s time including your own. You can achieve much more in life if you admit your mistakes, solve the problem and move on. Most managers are willing to forgive mistakes, especially if you are honest and work hard at preventing the mistake from happening again.
While time management is a skill that everyone should learn as soon as possible, it can be strengthened at any time. Learn and practicing the time management hacks discussed above can go a long way in improving the productivity of both the managers and employees of any given organisation.