Time is the only thing you can spend where you can have nothing to show for it. We’ve all been sucked down the rabbit hole of social media, only to emerge minutes, if not hours later, knowing that other than looking at Robert Downey Junior memes or stalking your high school sweet heart, nothing much has been achieved. It can be depressing and disempowering. We’re all glued to our phones; however, rather than us using our devices as productive tools, we are used by them. Breaking free of the pull of social media — and using our time more productively, effectively and satisfyingly — requires discipline. And mindful time management.
Combining mindfulness with time management is an effective technique to create more time for the things that bring you joy (hat tip to Marie Condo) and the things that you know you should be doing. Mindfulness, simply put, is the act of being present in the moment, and noticing what you are doing, feeling and thinking. It’s an especially useful technique to teach you how to manage your time because it’s about awareness — and awareness is one of the first steps to change.
Read on for more time management tips if you’re struggling with ideas on how to manage your time — and have more control over your life.
1.Notice your time
Do you know where and how you spend your time? Like really know? Unfortunately, there is often a gap between what we think is happening and what is actually happening. Thanks, brain. If you want to manage your time more effectively, you must do an audit. Track your activities — all of them — in an app like Traqq for at least one week, preferably two. You’ll have deep insights into how you spend your time, and you’ll probably be shocked. Use this data to start tweaking and adjusting your activities so you are spending your time on things that are important to you.
2. Decide what’s important
It’s all well and good to do a time management audit, but if you don’t have a plan, then it’s a waste of time — pun intended. The foundation of a good time management plan should be deciding what is important to you based on what you want to achieve — both in the short-term and long-term. If you want to be a published author, watching Netflix for six hours every day for “story, plot and character research” won’t help you with your goals if you don’t actually write. You’ll also need to schedule daily writing and editing time. Yes, time to actually get it done.
3. Schedule your time
The brain doesn’t like to think too much, which explains why habits are so hard to kick. Your brain loves being on auto-pilot. It takes a minimum of three weeks to create a new habit, much longer to break a bad one. Your time audit will show you where your “bad” time habits are. Are you on Facebook for two hours before going to work? Twitter for an hour during lunch? Maybe Reddit or Pinterest or News is your addiction? Replace one “bad” time habit at a time with an activity that meets your goals. As you slowly change your routine, new habits will form that will systemise your life.
4. Switch it up
A key phase of systemising your schedule and managing your time is switching off those activities that don’t serve your purpose and plan, and turning on those that do. Your audit will identify those activities that gobble up valuable time and add nothing to the quality of your life, and will help you notice those activities that you should be spending more time on but don’t. Running a marathon, if that’s something you want to achieve, won’t happen if you don’t set aside time for training. You’ll have to ensure that your schedule reflects your goal, and commit to it so it becomes a habit. But it will take a minimum of three weeks, remember? So you’ll have to switch on your discipline mode in the meantime.
5. Switch it off
If social media is your downfall, and you are constantly checking in (it’s not you, social media and smart phones have been designed to keep you glued), switch the notifications off on the offending app. Delete all distracting social media apps from your phone, and only use them on your laptop at designated times. Ditto email. Or games. Whatever is your Achilles heel. Check and respond only at allotted times. If you must be on social media for work, be mindful in how you use it. Are you really using it for work, or is this just a justification you tell yourself in order to post a new Boomerang, or engage in a robust debate about the best Avengers movie?
6. Time your time
Training your brain to be task and goal oriented — unless your goal is eating Doritos on the couch in your underwear while you binge-watch Netflix — takes effort. A way to bypass effort involved it to use the Pomodoro technique, where you do what needs to be done but in a set amount of time. It forces your brain out of procrastination mode and into competition and urgency mode. Try a 15 minute sprint first, take a break and then schedule another 15 minutes. Before you know it, you’ll have you brain trained to work in highly productive chunks of time.
7. Planning for productivity
One time management tip that all time management experts swear by is planning. Plan out your week — schedule meetings, deadlines, tasks, exercise, learning, errands and downtime in your diary or calendar. You can go old school and use paper or a spreadsheet, or use an online calendar or time tracking app like Traqq, or project management tools like Trello. Once you have your week planned, plan your day the night before. Know what it is you want to achieve before you start your day will have you rocking your To Do list and feeling super satisfied. And that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
8. Limit your to do list
Ticking items of your To Do list is both empowering and satisfying, but the secret to a To Do list that works — and one you’ll keep using — is to only have three things on it. Having three items on your list is the perfect number of items. If you have a To Do list as long as your arm, you’ll procastinate because your brain thinks you’ll never get all this done so why bother to even start? Too few things and your brain will still procrastinate because it thinks: these things are easy, so I can do this anytime so I’ll start them later. If you have just three things on your list, your brain thinks this is both achievable and easy, so you can avoid procrastination. If you’re still not feeling it, start with the simplest thing. It will get your brain into the flow, and ease you into the task zone.
9. No agenda, no meeting
In a workplace setting, we’ve all been in meetings that have no point and go nowhere. Meetings are often talk fests that achieve not very much apart from wasted time and wishing you were somewhere else. The only way to ensure meetings aren’t a waste of time is with an agenda sent ahead so people can prepare. Know the point of the meeting, and what it is you want to achieve. And if there’s no agenda, cancel the meeting. Life’s too short to be in a meeting that goes nowhere.
10. Know thyself
Are you a night person or a morning person? Managing your time effectively means that you must know yourself and your rhythms. There is no point scheduling a training run for that marathon at 5PM if you’re at your peak at 5AM. And if you’re a morning person, it makes sense to schedule difficult or challenging tasks when your brain is working at it’s best. Understanding how you and your brain work during the day the will ensure maximum success for the least amount of effort. If you’re not sure when you peak and when you flag, use mindfulness. Notice the rhythms, and if you have to, go back to your original audit.
11. Downtime and rewards
All work and no play makes Jack or Jane very dull people. And stressed out. And resentful. And unproductive. While it’s important to schedule your time for effective time management, over-scheduling, that is scheduling every minute of every day, is a not healthy. Human beings need time to play and relax — and even be bored — in order to be innovative and creative, and most importantly, balanced. Over-scheduling leads to stress and stress raises cortisol levels, which can cause all manner of health issues. So chill. Binge watching Netflix is fine. Just not all the time.
12. Just say no
One of the hardest words to say in any language is the word no. It’s hard because we worry about how people will perceive us when we say it. We want to be seen as helpful and kind, but if we say no to a request or a meeting, we worry that we’ll be perceived as difficult or unhelpful, and that mucks around with our sense of self. The thing is: by saying no strategically, you can establish and maintain firm boundaries and carve out precious time that you don’t waste on people or activities that bring you zero joy (Marie Condo again). If you find saying no difficult — and you’re certainly not alone there — you can always opt for a soft no — say you have to check your schedule before you can commit! And if you’ve followed these time management tips, this is the truth!
Traqq is a time tracking application that you can use to monitor and track your tasks, activities and hours. If you’re managing employees, you can easily monitor the productivity of your staff with online timesheets, and build in rewards to incentivise your team.
Act now! Don’t waste another minute! Contact us now for a no obligation, free demonstration.