As anyone who comes back to college as a working adult will know, becoming an excellent time manager is an often unexpected benefit. But it can feel like a baptism of fire, as the demands of your work, home life and studies all cry out for your attention and pull you in different directions at once.
There are things you can do to make life easier for yourself, and it all starts with being a little more thoughtful about how you approach things, and considering if there is a more efficient way. Time management is really all about prioritisation, scheduling and organisation, so read on for our top tips that will help you to become more effective at managing your time.
You don’t have to be a celebrity or CEO to apply the concepts of outsourcing or delegation to your personal life. As Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, says: “Some fun math: If you chop three zeros off of your income and halve it, that's roughly your hourly income (assuming 40 hours per week average and two weeks of vacation per year). So, if you make $50,000 per year, you make approximately $25 per hour. For far less than that, you will be able to outsource nearly anything in your life that you dislike.”
Some easy examples: in Dublin, Laundrie is an app that arranges the collection, cleaning and delivery of your dry cleaning. Companies like Petsitters Ireland will walk your dog when you can’t. And doing your food shopping online can save valuable time for just a small delivery fee. Outsourcing these tasks can free you up to concentrate on things that have a greater value to you – monetary or otherwise – than what you’ve outsourced: such as spending quality time with friends and family, or completing an assignment.
It takes time to save time
Effective scheduling is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a good time manager - and yet it’s one of the areas that busy people commonly don’t take time for. Avoid making this mistake and start each and every day by reviewing your schedule and organising your daily tasks and activities.
Don’t answer the phone every time it rings or address emails as they land in to your inbox. Schedule a time for calls and emails and deal with everything in one block then. Turn off instant messenger and avoid time-sucks like Facebook and Twitter, unless you use these tools for your work, and if you do, use set times to avoid being distracted throughout the day and pulled off course.
And every Friday, schedule some time to reflect on the previous week and plan for the week ahead: we have an entire blog post on how to do that here.
Eat the Frog First
The title of Brian Tracy’s productivity book, ‘Eat That Frog!’, is based on the following quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” According to Tracy, your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you that will cause you to procrastinate if you don’t do something about it. Tackle it first and your day will go smoother.
Use the 80/20 rule
Another helpful concept when it comes to productivity and time management is the 80/20 rule, which states that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. When you apply that principle to goal setting, prioritising becomes much easier – you just need to learn to identify that 20%, and make sure you tackle those things first.
Need more help prioritising your to-list? There is a handy time management matrix in this productivity post.
Just say no
Saying no is one of the hardest, but most effective, time management techniques we can learn. If you give away your time to everyone who asks for it, you can hardly be surprised when you don’t have any left. Resist taking on more than you can manage: saying no, politely, is a better option than saying yes and failing to deliver, or falling down elsewhere.