Time management is not a quality, but a lifestyle. A person who knows how to manage his or her time can achieve more than he desires. You see, we do not even realize how and where we waste our precious time. We only realize the time we have wasted when it’s gone, and our tasks are undone.
Many parents complain of their kids being unproductive, or even adults seek help in managing time for me. It has been quoted by Miles Davis,
“Time is not the main thing, it is the only thing.”
Whatever we accomplish in life, whatever we believe and do every day, all those things take time. It is not us, but the time that runs our lives. Now that you know time is what carries life, you already know how important it is to manage time.
In 1998, I was married and had one daughter. I was a housewife back then and would do all the household chores. I used to plan many things, but would not fulfill them and think to myself that I do not have enough time.
Once, I and my friend were having a cup of coffee, when I jokingly said, “ 24 hours are too little to accomplish all my tasks. There should be 36 hours in a day.”
She laughed and replied, “ It is not only you, the time is the same for everyone. The president of America or Prime-minister of India, all get the same 24 hours. It is on us how we make the most of those 24 hours. You first need to check where do you waste your time the most”
Most people waste time using the phone, watching television or talking to someone, and many more. I heard her, understood her point, but did not bother to implement it in my life.
It was in 2004 when I went for a spiritual training course, one of the people from the group asked, how should she manage her time. She was a working woman and had to manage family, work, house, and other chores.
The coach there taught us a beautiful life lesson. He asked think that you have three rabbits and you need to catch them. Now, when you’ll try to catch the first one, the second rabbit will run away when you’ll try to catch the second one, the third one will escape, and you’ll be wasting the entire day. You will end up being tired and unsuccessful.
But, how can you fulfill this task? He suggested simple planning and management can help you catch all of them. He said if we could put some carrots, all the rabbits will come to eat them, and you’ll get hold of three of them easily and quickly.
The moral of the lesson is that planning, wisdom, and execution can change your perspective about not having enough time. If you pre-plan things, you’ll execute your plan and get results quickly. However, if you start working without a plan, you’ll end up getting late or missing a deadline.
The lesson was indeed useful, but I didn’t know where to execute it. In 2007, when I lost my husband, all the responsibilities were put on my shoulders. From managing home, raising my daughters, and taking care of our business, I had to manage all single-handedly. At that moment, I realized these are the three rabbits that I need to catch, and it is my planning and determination that can help me do so.
Today, when clients ask me why they are unable to get the results of their efforts even after working for so long on a project, I don’t get surprised. There’s one common reason for all these complaints, and it is that most people today do not give their 100% to a task.
For instance, they’ll watch TV while eating, reply to emails while working, take phone calls while cooking, and many such activities. When you do not perform one job with complete attention, it will take extra time.
A very important tip that I apply to my life and give my clients is to give their 100% to every task. If you are at work, don’t think about the chores of the home. While you’re home, stop stressing about your work deadline. When you start giving your 100% to each task, you’ll take less than the required time to finish that task.
What is Effective Time Management?
In simple words, time management is the activity of organizing and planning your tasks. It is your way of managing your time. It determines how you divide your time between specific activities.
If your time management is efficient, you’ll see outstanding results. But, if your management is inadequate, results will not be seen. The main idea behind effective time management is to “ Work smart and not hard.”
It is time management skills that allow you to do more things in less time. Even when you have short deadlines, pressure, or tight schedules, you’ll be able to accomplish tasks efficiently.
15 Time Management Techniques
- Check Your Routine
As I discussed earlier, time management does not start immediately. It takes time to show its effectiveness. However, the first thing that you need to do before planning your day is to create an audit.
Firstly, you should check your routine. See what you do throughout the day. Once you note down the day’s activities, mark the activities where most of your time goes. Find out where you spend the most time throughout the day.
Many people fail to understand that they’re wasting time on a task that could be done in minutes. You can also use a time management app to track your day’s activity.
For example, you could be spending most of your time on social media or phone calls. Once you know where you spend most of your time, we can move to the next step.
- Pre-Plan Your Activities
Now you must be wondering that time management is all about planning your day and what’s new to it. Well, I’m not asking you to plan your day, I’m asking you to plan your activities.
Most people, while planning, put their tasks in the sequence they want them to be accomplished. However, before allocating a time frame to an activity, decide the results of that activity.
For example, you have to send an email and start a particular task after that. While planning you should analyze how your day’s activity depends on the result of the email. Therefore, it should be given priority.
In this way, think of the results of your meetings and plans first and then allocate them a time.
- Set Time-Limit for Tasks
In my experience, there are two main types of people. One, you give yourself a time-limit before starting a task. Second, you start a task and let it happen as long as it takes. Now ask yourself, which one is better?
Of course, the first method. While planning your day, it is very essential to set time-limits for tasks. Time management is not all about accomplishing a day’s task, it is about completing work on time.
You can write an essay in one hour, but you can also write it in one day. The choice is always yours to make. While you are writing your plan, check the tasks that take longer than you expect. Set a time constraint on that task. By doing so, you’ll work more efficiently and promptly by focussing more.
Also, when you’ll have to finish a task in a limited time, you’ll get less distracted by eliminating those little time-wasters from your day.
- Do Not Make Daily Plans
Many people come to me and say we plan our day, yet we are not able to make the most of their day. However, planning your day is not enough to be productive. If you want to accomplish more, you should plan your week.
You can plan your week on a Sunday. As you’ll start your week with a plan, you’ll be able to focus more on priorities. If you plan your week on a Sunday, you feel more motivated and productive on Monday. However, if you plan your day each morning, first, you’ll be wasting a lot of time. Also, you will start your day with less motivation.
Take out some time on Sunday and create a plan for your entire week. Mondays are usually low-energy days, so you should schedule low-priority tasks on Mondays. You should plan your demanding tasks for mid-week. Thursdays and Fridays set the mood for the weekend, therefore, you should set easy tasks for those days.
- To-Do List
Now, most of you might be thinking about how we can plan weekly plans when we get a new task each day. Well, planning a week is basically dividing your tasks into days. However, for your daily activities, you should create to-do lists.
Make sure you create a to-do list priority-wise and put a tick against the task that you’ve achieved. Besides, set time-limits for to-do list tasks as well.
- Eat The Frog
“Eat The Frog” is an old method of accomplishing tasks more efficiently and promptly. I always ask people to use this method for effective time management.
It is a simple method that is straightforward. The “frog” is that one task in your to-do list that you have no motivation to do or you dislike that task. It can be making phone calls, presentations, or reading emails. Now, what generally happens is that we keep on delaying the task by making excuses.
Eating the frog means to accomplish that one task you hate first and then finish the other tasks. In simple words, if you don’t eat the frog, the frog will eat you. It means that you’ll end up feeling guilty for the rest of the day.
- Do Difficult Tasks First
It is human nature to begin tasks with full zeal and slowly getting bored as time passes. Basically, the first hour of the day is when we’re most productive.
You should use that hour very wisely. Your brain is fully awake and fresh to start a new day. Do the crucial tasks in that hour, and you’ll feel satisfied for the rest of the day.
As the day passes, your brain loses energy and starts getting distracted easily. You should do small and routine tasks during this time.
- Avoid Multitasking
No matter what you think how smart you are, multitasking is a myth. As I told the rabbit’s story, the more you’ll try to run after so many tasks, the more time and energy it will take.
While you’re at one place, concentrate on one task, finish it, and then start the next task. Not only will it take less time, but will also consume less energy. You can easily differentiate the quality of the work.
- Remove All Distractions
One of the major contributors to wasting your time is the distractions you surround yourself with. In the first step, when you were creating a list of the things that you waste most of your time on, you would have listed some distractions.
For instance, while you’re working on a presentation that you need to complete in 3 hours. You work for 1 hour straight, and a message pops-up on your screen. You pick your phone to reply and end-up wasting 10-15 minutes. Now, your presentation will take 3 hours 15 minutes to complete. But, you get another mail after 2 hours, and again you waste your half an hour. These 10-15 minutes distractions might not look much at that time, but as you get closer to your deadline, all you feel is guilty of wasting time.
If you want to accomplish your tasks on time, you need to stop getting distracted. Declutter your work desk or study table. Do not keep extra books, stationary, mobile, iPad, or anything that distracts you. If possible, put your phone and computer on “do not disturb” mode and give your 100% to the task undertaken.
- Take Breaks in Between
Science says that the human brain can concentrate on one task for 90 minutes at a stretch. It means, after 90 minutes, you’ll be getting distracted, bored, or tired. It is when you need a break.
You can have a cup of tea, take a stroll outside, talk to someone, but avoid using your phone during the break. Always remember, the break is to freshen up the mind. If you’ll use your phone, you’ll be feeding more information into it, and your brain won’t relax.
- Stuff the Waiting Time
Although multitasking is not a good idea to increase productivity, there are some intervals where you can do tasks. It is the “waiting time.” We all have to wait in queues, waiting rooms, metro-stations, airports, or even wait to reach our destination.
Now, this is the time that you utilize to do some subtle tasks. For example, I usually reply and read my emails while I’m traveling. It gives me enough time to read the emails and respond accurately.
However, you don’t need to do something productive. You can utilize this time to relax. You may listen to light music, meditate, or read something. If you want to do productive things, then you can make phone calls, reply to texts or emails and not bluntly sit and wait.
- Add Exercise to Your Day
You must be wondering what exercise has to do with being productive. It does! Only a healthy person can make the most of his time. If you are unwell, you will not be able to do things quickly.
For instance, if you do not exercise, you’ll find it hard to sit for long hours and finish tasks. Moreover, exercise energizes you. It gives you enough motivation to stay active and fresh. But, if you get up from your bed and start working, your productivity levels will be very low.
You’ll feel lethargic and distracted always. Another benefit of exercise is that it reduces stress. We all know how stressed we feel when we have many tasks to do. Engaging in exercise can help you bust stress.
You don’t have to do any strong or long exercises. Short and easy exercises are as beneficial as longer ones. In your daily plan, make sure you spare some time for exercise.
- Take Proper Sleep
Time management skills revolve around many things. You cannot simply set a time and do some task in that time. If you want to use time management, it is important to make certain lifestyle changes.
Scientists believe that sleeping less to finish work causes even more problems. Today, people have developed a habit of working late at night. Even children prefer studying late at night when everyone’s asleep.
It not only ruins your sleeping pattern but makes you lethargic for the rest of the day. Our body needs 7-8 hours of sleep and that too at night. Sleeping at four and waking at ten is not right.
A tired person will always run away from his or her day’s tasks. In fact, tired people procrastinate more and get distracted from anything around them. Sleep eight hours every night. If a task is left undone, wake up early and complete it in the morning.
- Start Your Day Early
Most people waste half a day in planning and getting ready to accomplish tasks. I have seen many people who wake around 10 and start working around 12. Now you see, had they gotten up at 6 and sat at work by 9, they would have finished their work three hours earlier.
In the morning, your brain is fresh and rejuvenated. Morning hours are the best time to work. So, if you want to achieve more in less time, you need to get up early and start your day early.
It will not only help you finish your work on time but will also provide you time to relax or enjoy a creative activity.
- It is Ok to Say No
I know it gets hard to say no to someone when they offer something to you. I was also the kind of person who thought saying no would be rude, and so, I would agree and accept anything offered to me.
I would agree to help someone with their work when my own work would be pending. I would not refuse to meet relatives or friends if offered. However, with time I realized how precious my time is. I changed this habit. Now, when someone asks me to join them or offers anything to me, I simply tell them that I’ll check my schedule and get back to them.
If I had time or I could make adjustments and go, I would say yes. You should always be more aligned and dedicated towards your goals. You don’t have to instantly say yes and regret later for wasting time. You can take time, evaluate, make adjustments, and then decide what you want.
Your time is precious, and you should always know your priorities. Time management skills are very essential in today’s time. If you do not manage your time well, you’ll lose a lot of time and regret it later. As a famous quote says,
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
These simple and prompt time management techniques will surely help you make the most of your time.