As you know, today’s society is all about non-stop action. From the morning wake-up and commute, to a jam-packed workday, to a productive evening to prep to start it all again the next day, our lives are all about time management.
The only thing is, not everyone is a master of the skill. As such, we find ourselves trying our best at the practice, but often feel ourselves completely overwhelmed at the end of almost every day. Clearly, there are some cracks in many of our time-management schemes.
And, even more apparent is the fact that so many people are on the same boat. Time management isn’t an easy skill to acquire, but once you have it — and once you have it right — you’ll be cruising through your professional and personal engagements, barely able to remember a time where your schedule stressed you out.
Ready to beat the clock? Here are three of the biggest time management mistakes — and three of the easiest ways to fix them.
Mistake: Scheduling Your Day to the Minute
Google Maps has told you the drive to your client meeting will take 20 minutes, so you give yourself exactly 20 minutes to make the drive: no more, no less. The same goes for the conference call you scheduled and the lunch date you have set up with your friend. Zero wiggle room makes you more likely to stay on track during the day, right? It turns out that a packed schedule is no way to lead a productive life.
Fix: Giving Yourself Leeway
You can’t predict a red-light-free commute, or a question-free conference call, or a short catch-up conversation with your friend over lunch. In other words, you should always give yourself a little more time in your schedule to complete these types of tasks so that you’re not rushing around or late for the next thing on your list. It may seem like a waste to factor an extra five, 10 or 20 minutes into your schedule for this type of spillover, but it’ll make you more productive and punctual in the long run.
Mistake: Doing What’s Least Important, First
That assignment that’s been staring you down on the corner of your desk? It’s not going to disappear on its own — you have to do something about it. But you’re able to keep it at bay by focusing on other things: what you want to do, what your co-workers want you to do. In the end, you’ll rush to finish that monstrosity of a task because you didn’t give yourself the time you needed. It might end up being less than your best quality, too.
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Fix: Prioritizing Your Days With Honesty
Yes, that quarterly report is the worst thing you have to do at work, but putting it off is the worst way to tackle it. Instead, sit down at the start of each month and think about all that you have to accomplish. Take on the most important tasks first thing in the morning or early in the month before you focus on other to-dos so that it’s no longer hovering over you.
Once they’re done, you can work on smaller assignments or tasks given to you by colleagues. Be sure to take time each hour to re-evaluate your workload and refocus on what you have left to do. Soon, you’ll be powering through each hour of work until it’s time to clock out.
Mistake: Taking On Too Much
You want to be seen as helpful and accommodating on the job, and that’s honorable. You should always try your best to be these things, of course. But, in doing so, many of us have the tendency to say “yes” to everything, even if we’re already overwhelmed. You can imagine what happens to your careful scheduling when you’re given more and more to do, right? Yes, your time management skills go right out the window.
Fix: Learn to Say “No”
It’s a delicate task, but learning the art of saying no to your boss, co-workers or clients can be the difference between a hectic, stressful, overwhelming work week and one in which you’re focused, calm and much more able to produce your highest quality work. Often times, the quality of your work is a good enough reason to say no, and it’s highly unlikely someone would argue with that as a reason for you to take on less. With a more manageable amount on your plate, you’ll be able to manage your time so much more efficiently.
Now, Time to Time Manage
Your key to better time management starts with you. No more back-to-back scheduling, no more putting off your to-dos and absolutely no more yeses when you want to say “no”. Instead, take on your workday realistically and with clarity. In doing so, you’ll be happier, more successful and incredibly accomplished by day’s end. If that’s not the best result of a crash course in time management, then we don’t know what is.
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