When done well, time management helps you accomplish more in less time — so you can spend more of your day doing what you want to, not what you need to. Here’s how.
Track Your Time
The first step in time management is simple: Figure out where you time actually goes. You may think you have a good handle on how you spend your time, but the truth is we often over- or underestimate how long different projects take.
Try keeping a time log manually — here’s one from time management expert Laura Vanderkam — or using a time-tracking app. The goal is to gain a more realistic understanding of how your day breaks down so that you can find out how long different kinds of tasks really take you to complete. A time log can also help you pinpoint when and how you may be unknowingly wasting time so that you can be more productive.
Prioritize Your Projects
Once you have an accurate sense of how you spend your time and how long your typical work projects take, you can create a list of daily priorities. Set aside time at the end of every day to create a to-do list for tomorrow. When you do, don’t just consider deadlines; also look at a project’s business value and whether or not it can be delegated or outsourced.
Then, mark out time on your calendar for everything you plan to do. Since you’ve been tracking your time, you should know how long different kinds of tasks typically take you. This way, you won’t have to think about what you need to do and when each morning.
It turns out that we spend about 40 percent of our workday multitasking — much of it without realizing it. When you pause to answer an email, for example, you train your mind to switch back-and-forth between projects instead of learning to focus. And answering that email may require you to take a significant detour from the project you were originally working on.
All that time adds up. On average people only work 11 minutes at a time on a project, which can make it incredibly difficult to get things done. So cut down on your distractions. If you need to work on a project, block off your email, your smartphone, and any other devices or platforms you’re likely to get contacted on so that you can actually focus.
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