Good time management can teach you great skills to progress in your career, such as self-discipline and your decision-making ability, as well as giving you a better work-life balance. Time is incredibly valuable to us, and learning how to use it wisely can be vital to helping you progress, inside and outside of work.
How poor time management can affect your business
The effects of poor time management on your business can be significant. Not only can they lead to frustrations for you and your customers or clients, they can also result in work and revenue being lost. Specific consequences of not managing your time properly include:
- Missing deadlines: Failure to deliver work on time will leave customers disappointed and cut into the time allocated for your next task
- Undermines the quality of your work: Poor time management can lead to rushing and finishing jobs to a standard you’re not happy with
- Diminishing productivity: Without prioritizing your time properly you can allow unimportant tasks to take longer than they need to
- Promotes stress and anxiety: Creates unnecessary stress that is bad for individual employees and morale
- Increased costs: Inefficient working can lead to overtime, which is an additional and avoidable cost
- A lack of professionalism: Poor time management factors add up to seeming unprofessional to colleagues and clients
8 simple ways to improve your time management
1. Delegate work
The key to managing successfully is delegating tasks to your employees, but when the team’s performance reflects directly on you, you may feel as though you want to complete all tasks yourself. If you are someone who struggles with delegation, it’s important to remember you don’t have enough time to do absolutely everything.
If you have trained your employees correctly, there’s no reason why they can’t complete tasks, provided you pick the right person for the job. Consider the workloads of your employees - do they have enough time to complete all their tasks? Although delegating too many tasks might feel as though you’re not taking any responsibility, you’re still just as vital to the result.
2. Schedule your time
Do you ever spend hours on a certain task but at the end of the day feel as if you haven’t accomplished anything? You may be putting in extra hours or delaying other jobs because all your time is dedicated to this one task, but nothing is getting done. If this is the case, you might need to schedule your time better, even if it’s making a simply ‘to do’ list.
Scheduling your time means prioritizing what work is more important to get done in the time that you have. This means being realistic about how much time something will take and what you achieve within this time. You should also consider time taken up by meetings, phone calls and last minute tasks that take up unexpected time you may not have planned for.
You also need to ensure you are achieving a good work-life balance by scheduling time to see family and friends, while also having time to yourself to do your favorite hobbies.
3. Use anti-procrastination strategies
We often find ourselves procrastinating when we feel overwhelmed by a specific task, or we may avoid a task altogether because it’s particularly unpleasant. However, procrastination can largely affect our productivity levels and waste a lot of time and energy.
You can avoid procrastinating by using different techniques that help you get over your hurdles and get the job done. These anti-procrastination strategies include breaking your work up into smaller tasks and focusing on one task at a time. This means larger projects don’t seem so daunting and once you have completed one task, you feel more motivated to carry on with the next.
Another way of beating procrastination is changing your environment to somewhere where you want to crack on and do your work, not curl up and fall asleep. If you feel your current workspace is dull, why not give it a revamp?
4. Set a deadline
When you have a lot of work on your plate, it’s easy to get stressed out. However, one of the reasons this occurs is because we often accept more work than we can handle and have multiple tasks to do at the same time.
An easy method to tackle this is to set deadlines for yourself, as this will help you accomplish your goals. If you set a realistic deadline and stick to it, you can avoid getting stressed and complete all your tasks on time. Try setting deadlines a few days before you’re due to start the task in hand, as this way you will finish all other tasks that might get in the way beforehand.
If you need a bigger push to complete all your tasks, you can create deadlines with consequences and rewards in mind. If you achieve your deadline, celebrate by doing something fun or buying yourself something you’ve wanted for a while. If you miss your deadline, stop yourself from doing something you would normally enjoy.
5. Block out digital distractions
Digital devices have become ubiquitous and with them has come a feeling of urgency that makes us check them constantly. In order to manage your time effectively and get large-scale jobs done you need to cut out the distractions represented by smartphones, social media and the internet in general.
The instinctive solution is to turn off notifications so you won’t be disturbed. This can work with email and you can set an out of office message for anyone who expects an immediate response, before dedicating 30 minutes to the task in one go later on.
Recent research has found that muting notifications on your phone can in fact lead to you checking it more often, however. Scientists in Pennsylvania discovered that not receiving updates can result in more stress for people most susceptible to fear of missing out. Perhaps phones need to be turned off completely or put in another room altogether to really reduce the potential for distraction.
6. Create a routine and stick to it
Linking to the point above about blocking out time without checking your emails or phone notifications is creating a schedule and sticking to it. Not only does this allow you to know what you’re supposed to be doing at any point in the day, but it also sets expectations with others. If your colleagues know the best time to get a response from you is at a certain time, they’re more likely to contact you then.
Putting your schedule on paper is an effective way of clearing your mind and feeling organized. You can refer back to it when you feel yourself going off task and it’s reassuring to have a plan. If your priorities change from day to day, it can be useful to write the next day’s structure down before leaving the office so you know exactly what you’re doing when you start work.
7. Avoid multitasking
Segmenting tasks and giving each one your full attention in turn really is key to effective time management. When we’re busy it’s tempting to try and complete many pieces of work simultaneously, but multitasking is actually an inefficient process. Time and productivity are lost as you switch between tasks.
It’s also likely you’ll see the standard of your work dropping if you multitask, as you simply can’t establish the same level of focus when your mind is divided. Prioritize the most important things on your to-do list and be realistic about what you can get done, otherwise you risk overwhelming yourself and ending up with half-finished projects.
8. Take occasional breaks
Some people thrive off being constantly busy, with short deadlines, endless emails and piles of documents to sort through. However, this doesn’t work for everyone and taking breaks are important when you are faced with a lot of tasks.
It’s impossible to stay focused when you are working eight or more hours straight and not taking time out, so make sure you give yourself occasional breaks. If needed, set an alarm to remind you to take a short break, whether this be a walk or grabbing a coffee. A break could even count as a short five minutes of meditation at your desk.
As long as you are taking a break every hour or two, you are going to feel better and get more work done in the time that you have.
Overall, it’s important to remember there are only 24 hours in a day, and only a certain amount of work can be achieved within this time, without driving yourself into the ground. Managing your time better can be critical to having a happier work-life balance and creating a more successful career for yourself.