Have you experienced too many days of mind-numbing work, only to be faced with the realization that you haven’t accomplished a fraction of what you’d intended?
Of course, this happens to everyone occasionally, but if it is becoming a routine occurrence in your life, it’s time to do some sober introspection so that you can make the necessary changes.
If you haven’t taken the time to assess how your routines are impacting your productivity, now is the time to do so. Most, if not all, time management failures can be traced to four root causes:
- Procrastination—If you have adopted the mantra, “Never do today what you can postpone until tomorrow,” or if you view tomorrow as an acceptable labor-saving device, you have a procrastination problem. Unfulfilled tasks are a distraction that interfere with our ability to be productive individuals. They turn our focus from the task at hand to those tasks not done.
- Poor organizational skills—Organization is a prerequisite for productivity. These skills reach far beyond a simple “to do” list, and also encompass management style. Organization means taking responsibility for ensuring that you achieve the best possible results from your staff, for your vendors, and for your clients.
- All work and no play—A well-rested person is a more productive person, but beyond rest, make time for recreation. Allow yourself the time necessary to relax and “smell the roses.” There are no firm and fast rules here. Some people need six hours of sleep, others need eight. Relaxation and recreation mean different things to each of us. The point is to refuel by getting the appropriate rest and recreation that meets your needs.
- Work with, not against your internal clock—Understand your personal rhythms. Get in touch with your internal clock. Most of us think of this in terms of being a “night” person or “day” person, but it is more than that. Everyone has peak hours for energy, productivity and focus. These vary from person to person. Learning when you are at your best will allow you to schedule your most arduous tasks during your personal peak performance times.
10 tips for better time management
Here are 10 useful tips and suggestions you can use to enhance your time management skills and make every day productive:
1. I’m not a proponent of daily “to do” lists, largely because they become unrealistically long and often cannot be completed. This leads to frustration, contributes to your sense of failure and, as a result, robs you of ambition and momentum. In my view it is more productive to develop long-range plans, up to a year out. This provides you an overview of where you are going, keeping you on track but reducing day-to-day anxieties. This keeps you motivated because by completing a task you can see the progress toward your goals.
2. Meaningful productivity requires that tasks be prioritized appropriately. Tackle the most challenging tasks during your peak productive time (as discussed earlier) and schedule less challenging tasks for off-peak times.
3. Take a proactive approach to your work. Productivity suffers each time a crisis must be handled. Be a planner, not a cop. Planners shape the future and cops react to crisis. Proactive habits will minimize the development of crises and maximize your productivity.
4. Guard against perfectionism by expanding your paradigm of a job well done. If you are a perfectionist, you will find it more difficult to achieve the level of productivity to which you aspire. Recognize there are things you should simply get done, there are things worth doing well, and there are things worth doing exceptionally well. Perfectionists don’t know the difference—do you?
5. Everything discussed here requires discipline. Undisciplined individuals will not accomplish their goals. Train yourself to be disciplined. One way to create discipline may be to reward yourself when you complete a task, maybe with a snack or a short walk.
6. Masterful time management is not just task oriented, it is people oriented as well. You can multiply success by utilizing the talents of others. This will increase your available time and energy. Good people skills enable you to successfully enlist the help of others. In short, learn to delegate effectively. Those who try to do everything themselves usually fail.
7. Learn to say no. How many meetings have you attended in the past month that were a complete waste of time? Saying no to futile causes can recapture valuable time which will improve your productivity.
8. Multi-tasking is a figment of the imagination. No one can truly focus on multiple tasks at one time! Doing something well demands focus and single-tasking is the only way to achieve that focus. Moreover, single-tasking allows you to maintain that focus through to the next task because your mind is clear. Does texting while driving make for a good outcome?
9. Speak openly about your goals and objectives. This will provide you with an added incentive to see them through because others can hold you accountable.
10. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking daunting projects into smaller components. Finish one small piece at a time. Consider this as “the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” philosophy.
Each of us has been granted a twenty-four hour day. How we manage those twenty-four hours will be the most important factor in determining our success or failure. Time is a precious resource and we have each received equal portions, but the way we spend this time will result in many different outcomes. Time cannot be bought or sold. Therefore, this priceless resource must be spent wisely.
Which time management failure do you most often fall prey to? How are you working to combat this?