My grandma always says the older you get the faster time goes. I’m not sure if this is true but it does seem like these days are just flying by and getting everything done can feel impossible. Since there’s just no way to add extra time to the day (I’ve tried), it’s so important to spend it carefully and intentionally. In attempting to get a handle on my schedule I’ve done a ton of research and work to apply better time management skills. So, without further ado, (since I know the clocks a tickin’) here are my 10 favorite time management tips!
1. Time Tracking
I firmly believe that every well managed schedule starts with time tracking. Until we really get good insight into how we spend our time it’s difficult to manage it.
Time tracking is very similar to food tracking but instead of writing down everything you eat you write everything you do (including meal prep and eating). It’s important to do this for at least a few days including workdays and non-workdays. This helps you better understand how the changes in the demands on your time impact the way you spend it. Plus, it helps you see gaps and segments of wasted time you may be able to better utilize.
Pro-Tip: Don’t just track what you’re doing… track how much time you spend. I was surprised to find in my time tracking work that I wasn’t considering drive time in my daily schedule. YIKES! It turns out if you have a half hour appointment that starts at 12:00 you can’t schedule another one all the way across town at 12:30. Who knew?!?!
Since this is #1 in my time management tips and the one EVERYONE needs to do, I created a FREE guide with deep dive instructions. Learn exactly how to time track and what to do once you’ve finished your tracking week so you can create your ideal schedule (HERE)!
2. Question EVERYTHING
Thank you to Ryder Carroll for this handy tip! So, if you don’t know, Ryder Carroll is the creator of the Bullet Journal (BuJo), which is a handy alternative to the traditional planner. Bullet Journalling is a little to loosy-goosy feeling to me so I find I need more aspects of a traditional planner. Perfection is somewhere in the middle in my opinion. But Carroll’s sniff test for what goes into your BuJo is a smart, tried and true method to weed out the nonsense that may be throwing you off track!
So, here’s how I apply the big BuJo questions to my schedule. Before I write anything into my Bullet Planner I ask myself the two Carroll questions.
- Is this essential? (Will there be undesirable consequences if I don’t do it?)
- Does this matter (to me or someone I care about)?
Plus, I like to add a little bit of my own flavor to this process by asking the question that’s most likely to weed things out.
- Is this mine?
I tend to do things for other people without even being asked and I often forget to delegate. This question helps me remember to prioritize my stuff and share the load! Eliminating things that don’t belong on your schedule to begin with is one of the simplest time management tips of all.
Speaking of prioritizing. My friend Sam at Smarter & Harder points out that prioritizing is really a myth. He’s pretty smart and has written about time management here on UA as well. So, I put a lot of stake in his wise words. And to be honest, I’m thinking he’s shaking his head in dismay that this item has even made my list, but it just had to! Sorry Sam!
Technically, it is true that by definition you can only have 1 priority (seriously, read his post if you want to understand this more). But that isn’t the way the term is commonly used anymore. So, similar to words like cool and literally the definition of priority has changed and can now be applied to multiple things. But NOT everything!
Right, everything in your life is not a priority. And getting crystal clear on what is and isn’t will make time management so much easier. Once you know what matters most to you it becomes much easier to spend your time intentionally.
In the early part of getting control of your schedule your priorities and urgent matters will be the first to go into your task list. Once you’ve gotten a good rhythm going you should be able to get ahead and the urgent matters will begin to fall away leaving you more time and energy for your priorities and decreasing your stress level!
4. Task Batching
One of my kids once told me that if they want a friend to come over, they always ask me because I love having visitors. But if they want to go somewhere, they ask dad because he doesn’t mind driving places. At the time the child was under 7. That’s right, it takes no time at all to learn that I can’t stand driving and hate running errands. It’s like the bane of my existence. Hence my early exploration of task batching!
Since I work from home, I try to keep errand running down to once every couple of weeks. Yes, that does mean that there are times I don’t leave my house (except for a walk) for 14 days straight. No, I don’t know how my friends put up with my insane hermititude (hermit + attitude… is that a word???). It takes a lot of scheduling oversite to batch all errands into 1 day every 2 weeks, but I was SUPER motivated and committed. And now I task batch basically everything! This is one of the time management tips I love most because it makes it so easy to stay focused!
Task batching is pretty simple. You just clump like tasks with like. So, write all your emails and check your email at the same time, return all calls, run all errands, meal prep, etc. This can even be done on a larger scale with work projects. For example, if you’re a blogger like me, write all your posts for the week on one day, schedule all social media at once, and if you use your own pictures set up a specific shoot time to take all of them.
It’s easier to get things done if you aren’t switching back and forth between tasks. And while we’re on that subject, knock off the multi-tasking. That isn’t a real thing, even if you are a woman! Less than 2% of the population is actually capable of this. It’s just not how the human brain works.
5. Turn off Notifications
That brings me to the next of time management tips on my list! Turn OFF your notifications!
There are several very good, very important, and very big reasons to turn off notifications and this is but one! The distraction caused by your tech are costing you, big time! (Pun intended). This isn’t a matter of opinion but fact! The University of California, Irvine researched the subject of distractions and found that on average it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after being distracted.
Well, here’s the thing, I don’t know about you but if I don’t turn off notifications, I’ll be nothing but distracted! Between social media, texts, telemarketers and every other miscellaneous thing my phone wants to notify me of, I’d be pinged at every 20 minutes, I’m sure. And that’s just one device!
Difficulty focusing makes everything take at least twice as long, so turn off those notifications… NOW!
6. Power Hour
Ahhhh… the power hour! One of my favorite time management tips for getting through the tough stuff! You know, when you’re facing a tough project or something you’ve been putting off and you have to put your nose to the grindstone and just get it done. Yep, that’s the time for a power hour (though you can use them daily as well).
A power hour is a completely distraction free hour of work. That means 100%! Your phone doesn’t even go in the same room as you, you go to the bathroom before you start, and you get comfortable and dig right in.
I find it helpful to do “swallow the frog” (least liked and most mundane, avoid it if I could) tasks with a morning power hour. This gets those items off my list immediately, so they aren’t hanging over my head and it prevents me from spending hours distracting myself in order to avoid them. That said, I most frequently use power hours to get goal work done and I recommend you do the same. Few things feel better than an entire, distraction free, hour working on something you’re really passionate about.
Schedule your power hours in advance by blocking off an hour in your calendar and writing what you’ll be working on during that time. Don’t forget to gather everything you’ll need for your power hour project before your time starts. And if you have an appointment after or it’s something you particularly dislike working on, you can always set a timer, so you aren’t distracted by checking the clock!
7. Time Blocking
Time blocking goes hand in hand with power hours and task batching and is a great way to take these time management tips a step further. To use a time blocking method of time management you segment your day into blocks and tasks you complete within them. The most familiar time block is likely the morning routine. And while this example isn’t dependent on task batching or a power hour, we all understand the idea of setting aside a block of time for tasks that will set the perfect tone for the day.
To implement time blocking you simply box off time in your schedule and write in what you’ll be doing during it. Very often time is blocked by batched tasks. So, for example, your time blocks may be labeled “morning routine”, “correspondence”, “errands”, and “writing”. Often a timer is used to indicate when it’s time to switch tasks.
You can time block as much or as little as you like but most people who use this time management tip do so extensively. And they often block all their working or waking hours.
8. Create a Morning Routine
Speaking of morning routines. Spending an hour or 2 kicking off your day sounds like the exact opposite of great time management. I know! I’m with you! It took me a long time to get my head around why a morning routine is beneficial and even saves time. So, let me share why this is one of the greatest time management hacks ever!
Morning routines help create long term habits that are good for you. Things you typically schedule into your day and have to think about and work up to can be easily stacked into your morning routine so you can get them out of the way without a second thought. Exercise is likely the best example of this. You can typically slide 30 minutes of movement into your morning routine pretty easily. Or you can schedule it in the afternoon, hem and haw about whether you feel like it, change your clothes, lace up those sneakers and blow an hour in the process.
In addition, a solid morning routine has been shown to increase productivity throughout the day. This means you can get more done faster.
So, if you aren’t already kicking off your day with a solid morning routine, what are you waiting for, set one up now! This is one of the time management tips every one needs! Don’t know how… don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Check out this post!
9. 3 Days in 1
This Ed Mylett method is pretty uncommon and to some seems outrageous, but depending on the type of work you do, it might be perfect.
The general idea is that you break the hours in the day into 3 parts and complete a full daily routine in each. Ed recommends 3 6-hour days but I’m pretty sure you already know what I’m going to say to that… ummm NO! Far be it from me to contradict, but this only leaves 6 hours for sleep. And that’s detrimental to productivity, cognitive processing, and physical and mental health. So, if you’re going to give it a shot, go for 3 5-hour days instead. Get your 8 hours of shut eye every night!
How it works…
Here’s how this unique approach works; you treat each 5-hour block as a full day. So, in each block you dedicate time to all your priorities. This means you eat a meal, exercise (even if only for 10 – 15 min), spend time with family, work on your goals, and do your job in each of your 3 cycles.
You may have noticed that this approach pretty much kills the task batching option. But it could also potentially include 3 power hours in one 24-hour day. And that might all seem like a bit too much. But if you work from home in a mentally demanding or creative job this may just be the perfect fit. It gives you ample breaks and opportunities to shift focus and energy which is exactly what some thrive on. It also helps you be extremely deliberate with your time.
I’ve tried this method and for me it’s an absolute no go! I rely very heavily on task batching and find it difficult to transition to new tasks or a new 5-hour cycle. That said, the idea is fascinating, and original. I can see how for some it might be the perfect solution. This kind of out of the box thinking about time management is ingenious. So even though, it didn’t work for me, I encourage you to check it out. Hat’s off to Ed for this super original idea!
10. Guard Your Time
When I say guard your time, I mean like a big scary watch dog! There is no commodity more precious in your life than time. You can’t create more of it or buy it. And how you use it could be the difference between a lifetime of regret or of joy and peace. There is literally (in the original definition) nothing more precious or limited. Do you buy that? Like, really, REALLY buy that? Because if you do, you need to act like it! Guard your time, learn to say no. Recognize that when you say yes you are giving something away that you will never get back! Remember your yesses are a gift of your most precious, do not cheapen them, do not give them lightly. It is a kindness to yourself and everyone else in your life to learn to say no! When you say yes to everything it’s meaningless and those around you don’t feel valued. If you agree to do something the people you care about should know that it matters, you aren’t just acting out of obligation or fear of saying no. You’re the only one who can give that to them so do it!
Say yes to things that help you grow or align with your goals and priorities. Say yes to things you really want to do and people you really want to spend your time with. For everything else… say no! Spend your time about a million times more carefully than you spend your money! You will have opportunities to make more money in your lifetime but not more time. You’ll never get more time!
For those of you who read those last couple sentences and felt like YES! I need to pack that schedule and do ALL the things!!! Time to HUSTLE HARDER! Don’t get it twisted! Time management isn’t about packing as much into your day as humanly possible. It’s also about resting and spending time with the people you love doing what you love. Enjoying your time is just as important as being productive. Using time management tools to schedule yourself every second of everyday for maximum efficiency is completely missing the point. Which is to get the most out of life and enjoy every moment to the fullest. So, be sure to schedule that vaca, have coffee with your friends, go on date night, and play a game with the kids. These might be the very most valuable investments of our time! Oh, yeah, and self-care… schedule a bit of that every day and you’re sure to reap a great return!
What time management tips do you use?