Managing your time and using it wisely is a journey, and not something that can be easily mastered overnight. Implementing a plan will help, but it is not going to be a sure cure. Time management requires a significant amount of self-discipline.
Here are some tips to assist you with time management...
1. Set Goals
Set both short-term and long-term goals for your work day, work week, and work year. Take the time to make a written list of your goals, which will allow you to refer back to the list when you need some guidance. Keep in mind that it is okay to adjust the goals as your business needs or your role changes. Use them as a tool to guide you.
All work an no play is a difficult concept to sustain for very long. Build rewards into your schedule. If there is a task you really dislike, follow it with a task that you greatly enjoy. Build "mini-rewards" into your schedule to increase your productivity.
3. Keep Lists
Keep a running "To Do" list. The To Do list should contain both daily tasks as well as longer-term tasks. Having a To Do list will help keep your attention on the projects that require attention, and prevent some items from slipping through the cracks and being forgotten.
4. Be Realistic
Keep your expectations realistic. No one can do everything, and with that it mind, try to set realistic expectations of what you can hope to accomplish.
Prioritize the list of things to do. Some items might require immediate attention, while others may be necessary but not as urgent. And after prioritizing, try not to become a "firefighter" and only react to the urgent items. Be sure to still give proper attention to non-urgent items as well, as they are important too.
6. Use Time Wisely
If there are blocks of time that you spend waiting or commuting, figure out ways to use that time being productive! Reading, writing, proof-reading, reviewing your schedule, planning for your next activity, etc, are all things that can usually be done remotely to fill in some of the unavoidable "dead" time in your schedule. Try to find interesting and unusual productive things to do during those periods of downtime.
7. Set Limits
Set reasonable time limits for tasks. When working on those tasks, monitor the time that each item is taking.
8. Organize Work Space
Organize your work space, and remove any excessive clutter. Spending time looking for something is a waste of time... and time is a precious commodity. Both your computer files and your physical working area should be organized so that you can easily locate anything you need in a moments notice.
9. Minimize Distractions
If you find yourself consumed by social media, facebook, instant messaging, or other social mediums, set aside a specific and timed period of the day for participating in the online social community. Other than those specific periods of time, set your status to "unavailable" so that you are not interrupted throughout the work day. Minimize interruptions and distractions as much as possible.
At the end of the day, reflect on what you accomplished. If you were unable to account for a specific period of time, or you found a given day to be particularly unproductive, take an inventory and try to determine where your time management system broke down.
Keep in mind that not every day is going to be as productive as you would hope. Unexpected things always come up, and no matter how hard you try, your expectations just might not be realistic. Do not become discouraged. Instead, simply stay focused and make an effort to increase your productivity the next day.
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