Between growing to-do lists, never-ending meetings, and constant interruptions, it’s difficult to get much done at all most days. If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself frustrated when the day seems to slip away.
With growing responsibilities to fit in the same old calendar, it may be tempting to work into the evening or weekend. But this only leaves you feeling drained while taking precious family time or time for yourself.
So what to do instead?
If you’ve ever wished your days lasted an additional few hours, read on to find the time management tactics I swear by to stay organized and keep my task list under control.
The Time Management Tactics You Can Implement Today
Understand Your Work Style and Rhythms
No matter what productivity habit you pick up, they won’t serve you well until you understand when and how you work best. If your role involves a mix of creative and strategic work, plan your schedule based on when you feel most productive in each category.
Many managers block their mornings for deep, focused work and reserve the afternoons for meetings and administrative tasks.
Remote work has meant a significant increase in time spent in meetings, which makes it hard to plan focused time in your day. One tactic I’ve seen to leverage the short periods in between is reserving these intervals for quick admin tasks like replying to emails. These activities don’t require as much focus and are the perfect way to stay engaged before joining another call. Another benefit of saving this time for admin tasks is that you’ll have bigger blocks of time in the morning by not starting your day with a full inbox to sort.
Schedule the Big Items First
Have you ever heard about the big rocks, little pebbles, and sand? If you fill a jar with sand, it’ll be next to impossible to put big rocks in there. But if you put the big rocks first, you’ll be able to fill the gaps with sand later on.
Similarly, your biggest (read: most important or most time-consuming) tasks should take priority when organizing your schedule.
To use this strategy, start with the tasks you can’t move, like meetings or appointments. And anything on your list that requires your undivided attention. Once these are set on your calendar, add your day-to-day tasks, ongoing projects, and finally, any items that aren’t a priority but would be nice to complete.
Another factor to consider is how many “big” items you’re adding each day. There’s a rule called the 1-3-5 rule which is a way to prioritize items on your to-do list. I recommend you test it if you haven’t already.
Plan for Interruptions
It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to work through an entire day without interruptions. In fact, studies show that we concentrate best in short intervals, with the commonly agreed intervals being around 45-50 minutes.
Prevent spending more time than necessary on unexpected interruptions by accounting for them in your schedule. Whenever possible, break your work into 60-80 minute blocks of time and plan for a quick break in between blocks. You can also use the Pomodoro technique (there are countless apps you can use), which is a 25-minute interval followed by five-minute breaks. I personally think this is too short for most tasks, but you can experiment and find what works best for you.
Set Milestones and Deadlines
One common cause of procrastination is feeling intimidated or paralyzed by a big project. This can happen because you’re looking at the entire project and don’t know where to start or can’t find enough time to complete it at once.
Instead of approaching projects with an all-or-nothing mentality, break them down into manageable pieces and plan the timeline for each. Otherwise, the final deadline will loom over your head and only leave you feeling rushed.
Finally, I hinted at this tactic in the previous sections. Many of us struggle with multi-tasking, which is proven to have a negative impact on productivity. In fact, when you’re multi-tasking, all you’re doing is interrupting one thought process in favor of another.
Instead of trying to divide your attention into multiple items, batching work means dividing your workday (or week) into time blocks dedicated to specific tasks.
Batching work is an effective way to accomplish a lot more with your day because it gives you a clear plan. So you’re not wondering what to do next. Instead, you can dive in for a fixed period and work through your task with undivided attention. Plan your batches considering when you work best and you’ll have a recipe for productivity.
Time Management Is Priority Management
It’s easy to say I just don’t have the time when things start falling off the rails. And while I won’t tell you that we all have the same amount of hours in the day, I will say that you have the ability to carve out the time for the things in your life that truly matter to you.
That’s the reason the items on this list focus on your individual needs instead of providing quick fixes that likely won’t stick.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and needing support? Book a consultation and together we’ll explore strategies to help you better manage your career and life.