We live in a hectic, crazy, on-the-go world. We talk fast. We eat fast. We rush from place to place. We have too much to do and not enough time to do it. We are stressed.
Our fast-paced lives can make it more difficult to find balance and live a healthy lifestyle. Do you have trouble fitting exercise into your routine? Are you making poor food choices because you feel pressed for time? Have you sacrificed sleep to fit more into your day?
What if you could add an extra hour to your day just by better managing your time? You can create a more balanced life by implementing these 13 tips to improved time management.
Track your time
It is a very difficult thing to do, but tracking how you spend your day can be a real eye-opener. You can use a pen and paper and write down everything you do and how much time it takes. It can be surprising to see how much time you spend doing unproductive things. Or, you may discover that simple tasks are taking way too much time. After you’ve tracked your time for a couple of days, you’ll have a better idea of where your time goes.
I have a love/hate relationship with to-do lists. I like to make a list so that I can see all the things I need to accomplish. On the other hand, I feel bad if I don’t get them all done. Lists keep us organized, help us stay on task, and let us know what still needs to be done. There is also something very satisfying about marking tasks off the list.
Once you have your to-do list, you need to prioritize your action items. I try to write the more important things that must get done first at the top of the list. Or, I add stars by those tasks with more urgency. It can take some practice to determine what needs to be done first or absolutely must be completed by a certain time.
I know I am typically more efficient when I set larger goals. What do I need to do by lunch? What needs to happen today? What should I accomplish this week? You can also set specific project goals. Finish a report by Friday. Reach my sales goals by the end of the month.
When you reach a goal or complete a task, it makes sense to reward yourself. Rewards give you more motivation to get things done. Let’s face it, sometimes bribing yourself may be the only way to get an unsavory task completed. Your reward can be as simple as taking a quick walk around the office or grabbing a cup of coffee. Or, you can plan to take a relaxing weekend trip when you achieve a big goal.
Do one thing at a time
I believe that multi-tasking is a farce and actually creates more stress than it alleviates. You can get more done in less time if you focus on one thing at a time. You can also feel more calm and in control when you accomplish one task before you move on to the next.
Clear out the clutter
Do you waste time trying to find things? Do you misplace your keys, purse, important work-related papers, or even your to-do list? When you clear out the clutter, you will find that it’s easier to find things and manage your time. You can also focus on the task at hand rather than worrying about the clutter or missing items.
Take a break
Give yourself a few breaks throughout the day. At some point, we all hit a wall. Even though you’re going through the motions, you aren’t really getting anything done. Even five minutes of relaxation can help you recharge your batteries and increase your productivity.
Staying positive and having positive thoughts can help make a busy, stressful day more manageable. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have enough time,” then change your thinking and say (out loud), “I have time to do what I need to do.” Just saying it can help you feel more relaxed and liberated.
At some point, you know when there is too much to do and not enough time. To save your sanity and reduce your stress level, it’s time to say no. You may need to say no to friends, family, co-workers and even yourself. Will this task help you reach your goals? Is it a priority? If you know that doing one more thing will mean making a sacrifice somewhere else, then say no.
Stop trying to be perfect
If you try to be perfect, then you may be paying too much attention to details that don’t necessarily matter. The trick is knowing when you need to be perfect and when you don’t. A proofreader needs to be a perfectionist when it comes to grammar, spelling and sentence structure. If you’re sticking address labels on 1,000 postcards, it’s okay if some of the labels are slightly crooked.
Plan for tomorrow
Before you stop for the day, take a few minutes to plan the start of your day tomorrow. First, it’s easier to procrastinate if you don’t have a plan of action. Second, you can start the new day with momentum. Your plan may need to change as the day unfolds, but at least you have a good jump on the day.
Go to bed
As we have blogged in the past, sleep is critical to your health and well-being. Allow yourself an hour or so of downtime to relax and unwind before you go to bed. Make sure you get enough sleep – typically at least 7 to 8 hours. If you wake up well-rested in the morning, it makes it much easier to take on another busy day.
We all have our ways of working more tasks into our day. What tricks do you use to better manage your time?