You were supposed to be at a meeting 10 minutes ago. Unfortunately, however, you got caught up answering emails. So now, you’re stuck at a traffic light and desperately trying to will it to switch from red to green.
Hmmm… it sounds like someone may need some help with time management skills. Agree? If so, you’re in the right place.
Here are 12 essential time management tips to help you work smarter and not harder.
1. Create a Detailed Schedule
The first of our time management skills is to create a detailed schedule. Schedule tasks into 30-minute blocks and stick to your schedule religiously.
A schedule helps you get laser-focused on the most important tasks without getting distracted by other responsibilities and ensures that you’re giving said important tasks as much attention as humanly possible. If you don’t schedule your most important tasks this way, you’re bound to float from task to task without ever truly finishing one.
Your schedule should be as detailed as possible and should change from day to day. Block out time for cold calls, emails, bookkeeping, and otherwise. The more specific you are in separating these repetitive tasks, the more you will get done; it’s as simple as that.
2. Tend to Difficult Tasks Before Easy Tasks
Most human beings tend to put off difficult things as much as possible. They’ll do every little thing in the book to avoid the hard work that challenging tasks entail.
The issue with this is that a lot of people waste valuable time. After all, are those small tasks even worth spending time on? In all likelihood, no.
There’s also the issue of energy. By tending to small tasks first, you’re wasting the much-needed energy required for challenging tasks. As a result, you’re not putting your whole energy into those big tasks; the big tasks are getting half your effort and attention span.
This is why it’s imperative to handle challenging tasks first and small tasks later. For example, don’t waste 30 minutes fine-tuning a schedule when you have crucial calls to make. Instead, get on the phone and get those calls out of the way first.
3. Establish Deadlines
It’s also vital to establish deadlines. Time deadlines force you to beat the proverbial clock and ensure that you’re doing as much work as possible in as little time as possible. If you don’t set deadlines, you’re bound to waste substantial amounts of time; even worse, you might never get the job done.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should put tremendous pressure on yourself. On the contrary, your deadlines should be reasonable as they pertain to your timetables and personality. However, they do need to exist.
Set your final deadlines early in the process, and then break one task down into small portions. Once you have those portions established, set deadlines for them as well. These time deadlines will keep you pushing forward and will ensure that you aren’t wasting too much time on any one thing.
4. Turn Off Distractions
Life is filled with distractions. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can let these distractions get the best of you, causing you to deviate from schedules and deadlines. This deviation ruins all semblance of time management and can destroy your productivity as a byproduct.
Therefore, whenever you’re working on something, you need to 100% stay focused on it and eliminate distractions as much as possible. For example, don’t think about the message that just popped up on your phone; don’t have music playing in the background; don’t have the TV going in the distance. In other words, you should avoid multitasking.
Put yourself in a quiet room to minimize distractions and think about the task at hand. Doing so will help keep you on track and ensure that you stick to your daily schedule so that you can have a productive day.
5. Decide What’s Most Important
As an entrepreneur, you likely don’t have time to tend to everything on your to-do list. Attempting to squeeze all of these tasks from this to-do list into a single day will result in failure and frustration because you will set yourself up with impossible goals. Therefore, when creating a schedule for the next day, you must have a clear strategy and decide which tasks are the most important.
Think of which most important tasks need to be done immediately and which ones will significantly impact your business venture in the long run. Then, put these on the schedule. All other tasks should be pushed back until you have time to dedicate to it.
6. Set Alarms
When you’re busy working on something, you can have difficulty knowing when it’s time to move on to the next task. There’s a solution for this, however: set alarms.
This way, you’ll audibly know when it’s time to move on from one task to another. You’ll also be able to see how much time is left to complete tasks and will be able to focus your efforts accordingly.
Yes, this can create a feeling of pressure. However, that’s sometimes needed to push a person along. Don’t let it burn you out, but let it guide you through your day.
A common mistake amongst entrepreneurs is to go full bore all the time, leaving no time for enough sleep, eating healthily, or getting fresh air—all essentials for mental health. This might feel like you would get greater productivity out of yourself with longer hours. However, in most situations, these working habits result in a lack of productivity and will leave you feeling tired half the time.
Why is that? Burnout. Going at 100% all the time exhausts a person mentally, emotionally, and even physically, eventually leading them to a state of uselessness.
Therefore, you must rest from time to time. Consider taking regular breaks, even if it’s just a lunch break and days off every week. And at the very least, leave an hour-long block each day to kick back and do nothing. Once you leave some time to take care of your well-being in your daily planning, you will see that rejuvenation increases productivity.
8. Have Someone to Hold You Accountable
Your schedule won’t mean anything if you don’t stick it. But, unfortunately, holding one’s self to a schedule tends to prove difficult. So consider finding someone to do it for you: an accountability partner. And if you can’t find a suitable accountability partner, consider a business coach.
By assigning another person to hold you accountable, you will likely stick to your schedule and finish your intended tasks.
If you do this, though, you’ll have to find someone who will hold you to it. So, find the most no-nonsense friend you know and ask them to be your accountability partner. They’ll keep you honest and ensure you always have clear direction and are making progress.
9. Set Goals
Not only should you establish deadlines, but you should also set goals. Goals are essential in that they give you something concrete to work toward. If you have something concrete to work toward, you’re much more likely to stick to your schedule.
You’re bound to be very laid-back about everything if you have no goals. There’s nothing wrong with being laid-back in certain situations. However, it doesn’t exactly lend itself to increased productivity and time management.
10. Outsource Work
Running a business means tending to countless responsibilities. Try as you might; you can’t handle them alone. There’s not enough time in the day.
The solution to this problem is to outsource work that doesn’t require you and takes a lot of time to complete. Take bookkeeping, for instance. It’s painstaking, tedious, and exceedingly time-consuming.
There are much better ways to spend time than entering numbers into a spreadsheet. Pass this task on to a bookkeeper to leverage time and put your time toward more worthwhile efforts that only you can do.
11. Practice Effective Communication
As an entrepreneur, you must communicate with many people daily. As a result, you subject yourself to even more communication whenever you miscommunicate with one of these people. Poor communication wastes your time and makes it difficult for you to get things done.
As such, you need to practice effective communication. Don’t hint at things; don’t passively ask for things; don’t take 15 minutes to draw up perfect emails. Instead, be quick, concise, and direct.
Communicating in this way will not just save time but will also give you an air of authority. As a result, others will respect and take you more seriously.
12. Don’t Always Say Yes
Saying “yes” to things can sometimes reap benefits. It can also, however, lead to you becoming overworked and overburdened. This is why it’s vital for you not always to say yes.
Think about how agreeing to something will affect your schedule. Will it put tremendous amounts of pressure on you? Will it force you to put your responsibilities on the back burner? If so, you should instead say no.
In Summary: 12 Time Management Tips
BONUS TIP: Batching Similar Tasks
I used to be really bad at time management. I would start a task and then get easily distracted by something else—can anyone say bright shiny object syndrome? As a result, I would often find myself working on a variety of tasks simultaneously and never making significant progress on any of them. I decided to try batching, and it has made a world of difference.
Batching is the practice of grouping similar tasks together and working on them in a single sitting. For example, instead of responding to emails as they come in throughout the day, I now batch them all together and respond to them at set times. This allows me to stay focused and avoid distractions.
As a result, I am able to get more done in less time, and my overall productivity has increased significantly. batching is a simple but effective tool that can help anyone improve their time management skills.
Need More Tips to Help You Work Smarter?
As an entrepreneur, few skills are more important than time management. Effectively managing your time enables you to be as productive as possible without burnout. Managing your time correctly, in turn, enables you to run your company as successfully as possible.
Are you interested in more tips on working smarter and successfully running a company? If so, I, Dean Mercado, am the man to see.
I specialize in coaching entrepreneurs, helping them to work smarter, not harder. In addition to my blog’s productivity tips, I offer one-on-one coaching services. I’m the person to see if you need help optimizing your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Contact me now to discuss how I can help your business succeed!