Feeling short on time? Does your to-do list seem impossibly long? You’re certainly not alone. While every person has the same 24 hours each day and most have roughly the same number of working hours as their coworkers, there are those who seem to get a lot more out of their time than others. While there may be a number of reasons for this difference, and no two people can expect to achieve the exact same results, there are principles that can help each of us get the most out of our time and feel confident that we are approaching our potential for productivity and accomplishment. The following five tips will set you on the path to effective time management:
- Focus on results before you focus on efficiency. While we certainly want to be productive and efficient, we need to keep the horse in front of the cart by knowing the results we want and being able to achieve them. Only as we get the results we want can we meaningfully work to improve our productivity. When we have a track record of achieving our desired outcomes, we can work to cut our inefficiencies and find the fastest, most direct path to those outcomes.
- Work from a list. Using a written list can add two productive hours to your workday. According to an article on briantracy.com, simply using a list will increase your productivity by 25 percent on day one. This translates to two more hours of productive time in an 8-hour shift. Imagine what you could do with an extra two hours in your workday!
- Prioritize. Our time is bound to be filled with something, and, contrary to what we may like to believe, order is essential. A simple illustration uses a jar to represent our finite amount of time. The tasks we need to do are represented by rocks of varying sizes (representing tasks of varying priorities) from large pebbles to grains of sand. In order to get the large pebbles into the jar, they must be added before the sand, and the sand can comfortably fill in the gaps. Just as this illustrates, the only way to achieve our priorities is to give them priority time at the top of our to do list.
- Compare and save. Compare your list of priorities with a list of tasks you spend most of your time doing. This comparison will help you to see whether or not your activities align with your goals. Making a small investment of time (you could probably have a meaningful result in five minutes) will pay big dividends in time saved. We all know that our time is most fulfilling when we know that we are reaching our goals, and this exercise can help us to identify and target the changes we need to make, whether through adding activities, removing activities, or both.
- Track and Review. Progress is best made when we take some time to review and evaluate. On a daily basis, this can be done throughout the day as you use your checklist. It is also good to set a short time (five to ten minutes will probably suffice) on a weekly basis to review your time usage in comparison to your priorities and see if the things you are planning time for and crossing off of your list are in proper alignment with your priorities. Making little course corrections as you go will keep you from stagnating and letting little excuses and diversions pile up. Simply trying new things each week will keep you on your toes and moving toward maximum productivity.
These tips are a good starting point for anyone that wants to get more out of their time. What do you do to get the most of your time?