1. Be honest with yourself
It is so important to be honest with yourself and realistic in terms of the goals you set. For example; if you know you are a procrastinator, set yourself a deadline before the real deadline, this in turn prompts you to get started much earlier and relieve stress in the long run. Identify where you’re wasting time and try not to multitask when you have to focus, complete one task at a time and be realistic in terms of the time you set to each task; some tasks require quality completion rather than speedy completion.
2. Work smarter, not harder
Rather than being rigid in how you approach tasks, try and be thoughtful and always ask yourself if something can be done more efficiently or eliminated altogether and try to find more solutions. Managing your time isn’t about squeezing as many tasks into your day as possible. It’s about simplifying how you work, doing things faster, and relieving stress – essentially it is being more productive!
There really are enough hours in a day for everything you’d like to do, but it may take a bit of rearranging and re-imagining to find them.
Try to sort tasks by must, should and want meaning things you must do, things you should do and things you want to do. The musts are crucial to complete so do those first. Another good way of organising tasks that need to be done is by categorising them into:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent and not important
4. Learn to say no
Your time is precious. Don’t waste it on people and projects that don’t align with your mission and goals. If you value your own time, others will learn to value it to. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
5. Avoid Distractions
What’s distracting you? Messages? Phone ringing? Flatmates? Try turning your phone over, giving to a friend to look after or switching it off altogether. Calls during this time are recorded and you can easily contact them afterwards if it’s something important and this will help you to concentrate better. Close the apps you aren’t using. Close the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way. If your friends are distracting you, try going to the library silent area.
6. Give yourself time limits
This means restricting your work to X amount of time, this provides a greater amount of structure as well as prevents you from overworking yourself. By setting time constraints for these items, you will focus more and work more efficiently. Aim to complete tasks early. When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time. For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.
To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be unacceptable.
7. Plan Ahead
Try and plan the night before or the morning after to give you a clear idea of what needs to be done. Writing a To-Do List is a great way to make progress visible for yourself, once completed this establishes the feeling of accomplishment. Revisit your accomplishments from the tasks previously set and congratulate yourself on your successes. This review period will increase your confidence and help you create the next to-do list. To-do Lists also direct your focus and make you aware of what you are working towards, they also provide a challenge.
8. Take breaks
The human brain can only focus for about 90-minutes at a time. Schedule a break at least every 90 minutes to avoid burnout and maintain high productivity throughout your day. Taking regular breaks allows you to recharge and replenish your energy, it also gives you time to reflect, what has worked well and what hasn’t gone quite so well giving you the opportunity to either change your approach or technique. Breaks give you time to relax and zone out as well as reward yourself.
9. Plan for the unexpected
Sometimes things can come up that you may not have planned for so it is key to have contingency time. This could be an hour of your day that can be used to complete extra tasks that need to be done, if you have nothing extra to do then use it as a break. Additionally, try not to pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.
10. Turn routine tasks into habits
Routine tasks become habitual because they are manageable. Due to the fact that you are so used to doing particular tasks everyday or weekend you will rarely break this routine. Because of this, my mind is in the habit of doing the tasks and has the tendency to become quite natural and enjoyable. For most people, creating and following a routine lets them get right down to the tasks of the day rather than frittering away time getting started.