The benefits of effective time management are plenty and once you start adopting and applying these tips and strategies to your daily life, you will see how much more time you have to enjoy life, be more creative and access opportunities.
So let’s start saving you some time with these 22 practical time management tips you can start applying today.
The Weekend Before
The weekend before the work week is seen as a time to relax, unwind, put your foot up on the couch or put it down on the party floor, but weekends should be just as productive as your work weeks. Of course, you are not going to leave out fun time but schedule at least 3-5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday to attend to these:
1. Find outfits for the entire week. You would be surprised how much time we take looking for outfits on a daily basis, for some people this task can last almost an hour. Do you know how much you could have accomplished with that time? This is why people like Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama wear basically the same clothes every day.
2. Iron outfits, clean shoes. Same as searching for your outfits, ironing also takes up a ton of time, especially if it is that 100% cotton blouse or shirt that wrinkles each time you flip it to the other side. Iron your outfits and clean your shoes on the weekend to give you two fewer things to worry about in the week.
3. Meal Prep. This one can be a bit of a challenge. It is hard enough to find what to eat when you are hungry, much less knowing what to prepare for the entire week. However, cooking your meals, placing them in containers and putting them in the fridge or freezer to last the entire week will save you not only time but also the headache of wondering what to eat. Happens to me all the time!
4. Organize Calendar. Use the weekend to organize your calendar and get an idea of where you need to put resources for the week. Do you need to focus more on time with the kids? Do you need to cut out more time to prepare for meetings? Do you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment? This will help you do just that.
The Night Before
We are used to putting things off until the morning of. Whether it is preparing yourself for work, getting the kids ready for school or packing for your overseas trip, leaving things for the last minute is just something we humans have mastered. Prepare for the next work day with these tips:
5. Organize breakfast and snacks. You might have meal prepped your major meals such as lunches and dinners for the entire week, the weekend before. Now it is time to organize your breakfast and snacks to eat throughout the day. These should be much easier to prepare than lunch/dinner.
6. Prioritize tasks with deadlines. If you have deadlines that should be met the next day or a few days away, start working on those so you will be less stressed when these times or dates approach.
7. Schedule important emails. If possible, schedule important emails to be sent out first thing the next morning from the night before. Why not send them out the night before? You don’t want to get them lost in the receiver’s email clutter and prevent them from prioritizing your email.
When it is scheduled to be sent in the morning, chances are it will be at the top of their email pile. Learn how to schedule emails in Gmail here, if you use a company-provided email, find out how to do this from your employer.
8. Limit entertainment to an hour. It is crazy the amount of time we waste watching television or online browsing cat videos. Limiting this time to an hour, especially on a weeknight will give you an extra 2-5 hours on average to complete other tasks, or more importantly, get rest.
9. Meditate. I bet you have never seen meditation as a time management tip anywhere, but it is one of the best ways to calm the mind which helps you assess your priorities and put things into focus. Give it a try!
The Day of
Prepare for a full day with these tips:
10. Wake early. This is one of the most difficult parts of the day, but if you went to bed early and got enough rest, it shouldn’t be that bad. Waking early will keep you from rushing, enable you to catch up with the news and happenings for the day and take time out to eat your breakfast.
11. Leave out 10 minutes before your scheduled time. If you normally leave out at 8:00 am try to leave out at 7:50 to compensate for the time you will be in traffic, etc.
12. Reply to urgent emails first. Upon arriving at work, attend to the most urgent emails first. This will prevent you from forgetting because you got caught up with something else.
13. Be early for meetings. Arriving at meetings late, especially if you are well dressed could be considered “fashionably late,” after all everyone should see your outfit, but do that some other time. Arriving at your meetings early prevents you missing out on important points and looking unprofessional.
14. Avoid unnecessary chit-chat when you have a lot to do, chat at lunch. On Mondays especially or after a holiday break we all want to talk about how much fun we had, but leave that for lunch. Those stories aren’t going anywhere.
15. Avoid staying at work late, if it’s not necessary. Unless you are that champion employee who is going for a “Stay at Work Late” award, get your ass out of the office as soon as the clock strikes the end of a shift. You have things to do.
The Evening After
Prepare for your evening with these tips:
16. Run errands and if needed, have a list to guide you. After work, you might need to pick up the kids or a pet from daycare, do some grocery shopping, go to an appointment, etc. Create a list before doing this if you have multiple things to do or buy, this will save you idle time figuring out what to do next or what to get. You can easily use apps like Evernote or Keep to do this.
17. Block out time on the calendar for home chores. Everyone has home chores, no proper time management is going to get you out of this one. Block time off on your calendar
18. If you have kids, block out calendar time for homework and play. No proper time management is going to get you out of this one either. Quality time with the kids is a must.
19. Repeat tips 5-9.
Apply these general tips to your everyday life:
20. Declutter as often as possible. Clutter is your worst enemy when productivity and successful time management is your aim. Clear your desk at work, your refrigerator, your bedroom, and your storage as much as possible to alleviate the issue of having to clean when you could be attending to more important tasks.
21. Finish whatever you start. In our hectic lives, our focus is everywhere and it is custom for us to start a task and leave it halfway to attend to something else. However, this is the best way to set up yourself for failure. Complete tasks you start and then move on to the next unless something more urgent comes up.
22. Learn how to stay calm. At the end of the day we all get super stressed, bogged down and demotivated when we think of how much is on our plates, but the best way to tackle this and ensure your time management process is successful is to learn how to stay calm. Getting worked up solves nothing, it only causes panic and makes the situation worse.
After all this, you must be saying damn, this seems so structured, can I not be spontaneous anymore? Of course, you can, this is only a guide to help you live a more productive, successful and peaceful life, it is not a rulebook. Tweak to suit your liking, but just remember that the most productive and proactive people will always be the most successful.