Do you feel like every day you need to do more with less time? You are not alone! Today’s 24/7 lifestyle keeps everyone busier than they have ever been before. And it seems like every time a new convenience comes along – email, texting, smartphones – demands grow right along with it. Constantly feeling rushed while worrying that you have forgotten something important is stressful and ultimately detrimental to your health.
Fight back by honing your time management skills to wring the most benefit from every minute, while avoiding doubling back to catch things you have forgotten. Here are 4 tips that you can implement today to help manage your time better:
1. Keep a Time Diary
This is not something you need to do on a long-term basis, but it’s a great way to get a handle on where you spend most of your time. Simply keep a log for a week and write down what you do each day and how long it takes. Use a paper notebook, a text document in your computer, or a specialized smartphone app like Life Cycle or ATracker – whatever works best for you.
The most important thing is to keep track of everything, including meal and commuting times, breaks, and unintentional procrastination moments. Be honest so you can build an accurate picture of where your time goes. After you have tracked yourself for a week, you will be able to analyze it and see where you spend most of your time, where you may waste time, and where to combine or shorten tasks and gain more time for priorities.
2. Say No More Often
Learning to say no, politely but firmly, when someone asks you to do something you don’t have time or desire to do, is a critical skill for time management. Once you have decided to say no, don’t waste time afterwards second-guessing yourself or feeling guilty.
Many people find themselves overtaxed and spread too thin because they don’t decline requests and invitations even when they know they should. It’s hard to set firm boundaries, especially when your reluctance to say no has made you the “go-to” person at home or at work. But if you are ever going to accomplish your own goals, you need to learn the art of the polite refusal.
3. Add Time Targets to Your To-Do List
You probably have a daily to-do list, even if it’s just in your head. To get the most from this list, put it in writing in some place easy to access throughout the day. Your to-do list is crucial, so try different approaches until you find one that works for you and is easy to use consistently, whether it’s a handwritten planner or an app on your phone.
Once you have the habit of using your to-do list, start adding time targets. For each item, estimate how much time you expect to spend on it. This will help you prioritize and order your day. It also gives you concrete targets to try to meet or beat. Since tasks seem to expand to fill the entire time you have allotted for them, a firm time limit will help you rein in this tendency.
4. Remember to Reward Yourself
It’s discouraging and demotivating to constantly focus on where you mess up or fall short. Don’t forget to notice and reward yourself for any progress, no matter how small, in bettering your skills. This can be as simple as a notation like a star or exclamation point in your time diary or to-do list. Even better, take some of the time you have carved out to do something you really enjoy, whether it’s spending time outdoors, watching a favorite reality show, or playing a video game. Enjoy and savor the time you have made for the fun things in life!
Improving your time management ability will help you reduce the stress in your life, work toward your goals more efficiently, and genuinely enjoy living the life you have always wanted.
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