Do you ever feel that there’s never enough time in a day to accomplish everything that you planned the night before? Are you getting frustrated because it just seems that all you’re doing is work and never spending quality time with your family? We’ve all been there at some point. But, if you learn how to use your time more effectively, you’ll be able to become more productive and satisfied with your personal and professional lives.
Record How You Spend Your Day
If you want to get the most out of your time, you first need to identify how you spend your days. How much time do you spend on Facebook, watching TV, or staring at the characters surrounding you on the subway commute? How long does it take you to complete tasks like writing a blog post or sending out an invoice?
Spend a week recording how you spend each day so that you can become aware of how much time you’re being both productive and unproductive. Even better. Make a time log that divides your days into half hours block so you have a better illustration of how you spend the time between when the alarm goes off in the morning and when you settle into bed. After the week has concluded, examine the times that were most productive and the times where you could be more productive.
Due.com has a powerful time tracking tool that can you record the time it takes for you to complete a task. It comes with a handy widget so that you can work on other tasks without keeping the browser open.
Prioritize Your To-Do-Lists
To-do-lists can be a great way to help you remember tasks and stay organized so that you use time effectively get the most out of your day. The only downside with to-do-lists is that they can easily get loaded with multiple tasks that you probably won’t get to in just a single day.
Every morning you should look over your to-do-list and identify the two or three most important tasks for the day. These are the most essential tasks that have to be completed before the end of the day – like completing a blog post or having a phone conference with a potential client. Once these tasks are accomplished, you can start working on the other items – even if it’s not until tomorrow. But as long as you have you crossed off your most vital tasks, you’ve already had a fruitful day.
Wanting to please everybody seems like a great idea in theory, but there are going to have to be times when you just have to say ‘no’. Taking on too much prevents you from getting your most important tasks accomplished. For example, if you’re a freelancer web designer, you may initially welcome multiple jobs. But you’ll quickly learn that you don’t have the time to build five websites at the same time. Your time is valuable and saying no will help you use your time more effectively overall.
Remember, you don’t have to rude. If you politely explain that you don’t time for a new project or troubleshoot a problem on a webpage, the person asking should understand. If you know that you have time for them at a later date, they may chose to wait until you’re available.
It’s completely normal and understandable for you to get overwhelmed when you’re looking at a full workload. Take a step back, breath, and break down those tasks. Instead of worrying about twenty articles you have to compose, work on the urgent article. Once that’s done, move on to the next. In other words, take one step at a time.
Keep in mind that when you start to break down tasks, you have to realize what you can manage and what you can not. If you’re asked to write those twenty articles in two days, you may have to ask for an extension or decline a couple – remember, you sometimes have to say ‘no.’ And, you may also want to try time management tools – such as Todoist, which can also be used to create your to-do-lists – to help manage your projects.
Stay Focused On One Thing At a Time
Research has proven that multitasking doesn’t work. In fact, you lose up to 40% of your productivity by multitasking. Again, instead of trying to juggle fifteen things at once, focus on thing at a time.
If you’re still having trouble with getting started on single-tasking, then give the Pomodoro technique a spin. In a nutshell, this technique breaks down tasks into intervals. You may dedicate a thirty minutes to write an article, then take a five minute break. Following the break you continue writing for thirty minutes. You’d actually be surprised at how much more you’ll be able to accomplish with this method. Staying focused on one task at a time and taking breaks helps you use your time more effectively overall.
Different tasks involve different types of thinking. That’s why you should batch similar tasks together. Let’s say that you are in charge of a content marketing campaign. You have to complete three articles, an instructional video, and an infographic. It may make more sense to knock-off the articles first before moving onto the video or graph. Personally, if I am submitting multiple articles, I will write them first in a Google Doc and then submit each one onto WordPress at the same time. Instead of breaking my flow of writing, I complete the articles and then do all the editing, formatting, and inserting images in WordPress.
You can also take a cue from Tim Ferriss. He batches his emails so that he only goes through his inbox at scheduled times throughout the day. This allows him to stay on top of his inbox so he doesn’t have to check his emails during evenings.
Small distractions can take you away from using your time more effectively. You may think it’s rude or unprofessional to ignore an incoming phone call, text, Facebook notification, or instant message. But those are frequent distractions that can eat up valuable time. Unless it’s an emergency, you should block these distractions as much as possible when working.
Schedule Recurring Appointments and Tasks
With so many tools readily at our disposable, you can easily schedule recurring appointments and tasks. Say you have a monthly phone call with team members or clients. You’ll be reminded if you place that appointment in your Google Calendar. No matter, at least you know that you have that regular appointment scheduled.
You can use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts throughout the week, MailChimp to send out a monthly newsletter, and even Due.com to invoice recurring clients. Scheduling these tasks frees you up from doing them on a daily or weekly basis. This means you have time to focus your energy somewhere else.
Finally, don’t forget to include some time for yourself. Whether it’s just five minutes to mediate, an hour to workout, or monthly night out with friends or family, you need time to clear your head and enjoy yourself or you’re just going to get burnt out.