The lazy days of summer are about to fade away into the crazy days of fall. Whether fall has you heading back to school or simply back inside after a season of summer fun, now is a terrific time to give your time management strategies a tune up. Ahead are ten tips to help you make the most of your time any time of the year.
- Know your priorities. The first step to gaining control of your time is to know your priorities. When you know what’s most important to you, you’ll become more deliberate about how you spend your time. What matters most to you? Take a few minutes now to jot down your answer to this question.
- Get your appointments and to-dos out of your head. Keeping to-dos and appointments in your head only adds to your stress. And it makes it much harder to prioritize your activities. Use a calendar, to-do list, planner, smart phone or tablet to track these obligations, and then, use your brain power for getting them done.
- Choose your yeses carefully. When you say “yes” to one activity or task, you’re ultimately saying “no” to something else. Use your priorities as a filter to decide which tasks and activities to say yes to and which ones to say no to. When you choose your yeses (and no’s) wisely you’ll spend your time more purposefully and create a life you love.
- Know how to say no. Say things like “Thank you for the offer, but I’ll have to pass this time.” Or “Thank you, but that doesn’t fit in my schedule or priorities at this time.” Having some pre-rehearsed, friendly ways of saying “no” will help you muster the courage to decline offers graciously when that’s the best decision for you.
- Make sure you have some fun-stuff on your to-do list. Are you aware of how the tasks on your to-do list make you feel? If your to-do list is like most, some of the tasks deplete your energy, while others energize you. The terrific thing about those energizing tasks is that they act like little productivity power pills—they give you more energy and enthusiasm to tackle the other items on your list. So, to make the most of your time, make sure your to-do list has activities that you find fun and that energize you!
- Give yourself permission to quit. Just as it makes sense to stop eating when you’re full, it makes sense to stop projects when they’re no longer satisfying to you. Reevaluate any project that has been lingering on your to-do list in a state of partial completion. Ask yourself this question: Given what I know today, if I hadn’t already started this project, would I choose to start it again? If the answer is no—give yourself permission to quit. You’ll free up your time for more important projects and activities.
- Tap into the power of completion. Completing a lingering project or task fuels your energy and gives you motivation to tackle the other items on your to-do list. The endorphin rush that comes from checking something of your to-do list is real—so pick a project that’s near completion, and make it a point to finish it ASAP.
- Minimize the little time wasters. Little time wasters are like little impulse purchases—over time they add up to a lot of time and a lot of money! Five minutes on Facebook, ten minutes spent procrastinating on an important task, and a few minutes (several times a day) checking email instead of handling it—adds up to a lot of wasted time! Become aware of your little time wasters, and then minimize them. For example, if you currently check your email every fifteen minutes, see if you can cut this back to checking every twenty minutes. Assuming you work an eight hour day, this step alone would equate to eight fewer interruptions—and time leaks in your day! Just think what you could get done in that amount of time!
- Tackle your highest priority task first. Deal with your most important task when your energy is the highest. You’ll get the task done more quickly and getting it done will boost your confidence for handling the rest.
- Understand what time management really is. Time management isn’t about filling every moment of your day with productive activity. Instead, time management is about feeling good and using your time purposefully. It’s about feeling energized and in control of your day. It’s about being able to relax and enjoying the moment, instead of being distracted or worried about the items on your to-do list. It’s about creating time in your schedule and your life for the people and activities that matter most to you.
In the end, how we spend out time is how we spend out lives. Are you making the very most of your time?