Updated: May 5, 2021
How to Make More Time Today!
Many of us have been told how imperative time management skills can be from a very young age. Anti-procrastination efforts start as early as elementary school, with educators and parents harping on children to stay on top of their homework and chores. In adulthood, we swear to ourselves that we’ll do laundry prior to settling into an evening of Netflix or enjoying a glass of wine in the bathtub. Procrastination is not only a vicious cycle that feeds a lack of productivity, but it can also adversely impact your health and wellbeing.
Time management is more than just something that responsible people abide by. It is a tool that, when implemented correctly, can positively impact your overall health in a number of different ways. Time is arguably the most valuable commodity available to us as humans, and the development of positive aspects of our lives directly depend on how much time we have to spare doing them. In other words, the less time we spend sitting around putting off looming obligations, the more time there is to do things like further our careers, form meaningful social relationships, and learn new skills.
When you learn how to improve your time management, you will:
Reduce Feelings of Stress and Anxiety: When you avoid getting things done, you make a task that would otherwise be a small molehill into a massive mountain. When you are effective with time management, you aren’t stressed about meeting deadlines.
Stop Cramming: Your work will be of better quality when you stop cramming. People who manage their time correctly are less likely to find themselves rushing to get tasks done, and consequently, doing subpar work.
Gain Time: Once a task is done, you don’t have to worry about doing it anymore! When you manage your time, you have more flexibility to relax and do the things that make you happy.
When considering how to be better at time management, take note of these common mistakes:
You’re Not Spending Any Time Planning
Often, it can seem as if there are simply not enough hours in the day to complete all of the things that we want to accomplish. Since lengthening your days to be longer than 24 hours is not possible, you’ll need to consider planning your time in order to check off all of the items on your to-do list; leaving adequate time for sleep, socialization, and relaxation. Identify upcoming deadlines or goals, and block out scheduled periods of time to get specific projects done. With time management, it’s important to set aside a portion of your day to do things that fulfill you. For some, this is settling into a good book, taking a hot bath, or calling a friend you haven’t caught up with in a while.
Each individual’s schedule and laundry list of obligations is different. Working with a professional can help you determine how much time you should be spending on leisure activities, and how much time you need to block off to complete the must-do items on your to-do list.
You’re Not Prioritizing Your Tasks Correctly
Sometimes, it can feel like you have a million things to accomplish at once. With time management, there are lots of ways that experts suggest you should prioritize your to-do list. Some suggestions include:
Complete your most challenging work of the day first, and save your easiest tasks for last. While it may seem tempting to save your big-hit items for after lunchtime, your willpower can wane if you save difficult tasks for the end of your day.
Complete the most important tasks first, and save less important tasks for later in the day. By doing this, you save yourself a headache if the last item on your to-do list falls off the plate and has to be put off until tomorrow.
There are lots of different tips and tricks that experts suggest when it comes to prioritizing your tasks. It’s worth discussing your personal situation with somebody who can help you identify which of your many to-do’s you should be completing first, and which should be saved for last.
You’re Giving In To Distractions
Distractions are all around us each and every day. At the office, your pain point could be a chatty co-worker that keeps you from getting things done. At home, young children may consistently take your attention away from making progress in completing tasks around the house. And no matter where you are, social media and email can be a giant roadblock when it comes to time management. Whatever the case may be, there are ways to mitigate distractions. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
Turn off your smartphone notifications. It is understandably difficult to focus when your phone is lighting up and pinging every 10-minutes. If the temptation to scroll through Facebook or Instagram is too great, consider leaving your phone out of reach or place it on a charger located in a different room. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Find a time of day where you can work quietly. This is especially helpful if you have young children to care for. Get up early in the day and get a head start on your to-do list before they even open their eyes. It might be challenging to get out of bed in the morning, but you’ll be grateful you took the time to work productively.
Clean your workspace. There is a reason that some people are perpetually neat. When you have clutter polluting your desk, in your home, or in the car; it can be difficult to organize your thoughts and have a clear mind. Remember: organized space = organized brain.
There are a vast number of ways to limit distractions, depending on your unique situation. Bear in mind that the quickest way to accomplish goals is by doing so without any distractions or interruptions.
No matter how skilled of a multi-tasker you think you are, dividing your time between multiple obligations is never an efficient way of time management. Multi-tasking is actually a term coined for a phenomenon that many experts refer to as “task-shifting.”
Task-shifting can negatively impact your health and job performance. Prior to 1965, the word “multi-tasking” didn’t even exist. But thanks to the development of technology, humans are now equipped, and often encouraged, to do multiple things at once. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to list “strong ability to multi-task” on a job resume as one of their applicable skills.
Humans are programmed to do 2 things at once with no problem, such as drinking coffee and holding a conversation, or chewing gum and walking at the same time. What humans are not capable of, though, is consciously completing 2 tasks at once. So, when you’re trying to write an email and talk to a co-worker about an upcoming deadline in tandem, neither of the 2 tasks are receiving your full, undivided attention.
Focus on 1 task at a time. You may feel like you’re not getting as much done as you could be, but in reality, your attention to the task at hand will wind up paying off in the long run.
You’re Not Taking Breaks
It can be easy to get into a groove with a task you’re making headway on, and just skip taking a break altogether. For some, breaks seem like a waste of time or something that can hurt your productivity. But in reality, taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, helps you become more creative, and supports time management. Your breaks don’t have to be long, or during frequent intervals. There is conflicting research on exactly how often and for how long breaks should be taken, but generally, taking a 5-10 minute breather every hour, and a 20 or 30-minute break every couple of hours is a safe bet.
Working in small bursts and taking short breaks when you’re feeling fatigued or distracted is not just recommended, it is imperative. Breaks ensure that your internal battery is recharged enough to avoid burnout, which can lead to days or weeks off the job.
If you have trouble picking your head up from your work, set a timer for 25-minutes and work until it goes off. For the next 5 minutes, take a break to stretch your legs, get a glass of water, make coffee, or chat with a co-worker.
You’re Underestimating How Long Tasks Will Take
When we’re not realistic about how long certain items on our to-do list will take us, it winds up throwing off the flow of our entire day. Type A individuals often undervalue the length of time that it will take to complete a task. While it’s good to be ambitious, this behavior can wind up resulting in higher stress for you in the long run and disrupting your time management.
Undervaluing how long something will take you to do can also cause you to take on too many tasks at once. When we assume that a task that will realistically take us 3-hours to complete will only take 1, we are left with a never-ending to-do list and wind up getting behind.
Try keeping track of how long your daily tasks take you and keep it in a journal or spreadsheet. Then, the next time you have a similar project to complete, you can be more accurate and realistic in estimating how much of your time it will require.
Procrastination is the achilles heel of time management. When you put something off, the initial relief of suddenly having more time to spend watching tv, cleaning, or going out for drinks is a really good feeling. But eventually, time will pass and the to-do that you’ve put off will still remain unfinished. If you have a hard deadline for this task or it’s something urgent, then you’ll wind up feeling more stressed, anxious, or guilty than you would’ve if you had just gotten it done. Try to tackle every major obligation as soon as possible. When you successfully complete the task right away, that time spent relaxing or having fun will be all the more fulfilling because your to-do list has dwindled in size, and there’s nothing looming over your head.
You’re Being a Perfectionist
While doing quality work is important, in most cases, the extra time that you spend trying to perfect what you’re doing is not time well spent. Especially in cases where you’re doing something new, you should always strive for good performance, but you don’t have the luxury of being perfect.
As we move through life, we are always learning. Every time we approach a new project, there will be hurdles, but we learn how to clear them over time. Without failure and mistakes, there is no real path to success. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance, and try not to get caught up on the details of everything you do being done to perfection.
What Are My Next Steps to Improve My Time Management?
Everybody is different. Something that works to help someone you know manage their time, may very well not work for you in the same way. A Health & Wellness Coach can be extremely helpful in, not only encouraging you to achieve your goals, but also in developing lifelong habits that will aid you in approaching each day with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence.
Health & Wellness Coaches will utilize motivational interviewing to develop a deeper understanding of what drives you, and to discover how they can help you achieve your goals and strengthen your commitment to change. From there, your coach can help you develop an action plan that includes your vision, mission, strategy, and plan.