Improve your time management

Do you frequently find yourself with a week’s worth of tasks to be done in half a day? Here’s how to manage your time more successfully 
by Bethan Rees

Does your to-do list get longer as the day goes on, rather than shorter? Maximise your productivity through efficient time management with the following tips, and enjoy the extra leisure time (see our article on work-life balance).
Audit your time Begin by assessing how your time is currently spent. Whether it’s for one day or a full working week, record how your day is currently being split up. This can be done on paper, or your phone, or by using some of the free time tracker software available. Try and be as natural and as honest as possible to give an accurate portrayal – lying to yourself won’t help. 

Figure out what goals were achieved and how long they took, and how much time was wasted – through your own fault or through unscheduled meetings or distractions. How many breaks did you have? Was your time spent well? You might be surprised by how much time you spend on your emails, or how many cups of tea you’ve made. These aren’t necessarily a negative, but to improve your time, you need a starting point and something to compare your progress to. 
Evening listsYou might find that making a to-do list helps structure your working day. Some people do this first thing in the morning when they get to the office. However, writing a list the evening before could be more effective.

In an article for job site The Muse, Kat Boogaard, a career and self-development writer, reports that doing this has been beneficial for her workday and her work-life balance. She writes a list at night to ensure that small tasks that may have been put aside during work hours – a follow-up email or a small purchase, for example, are not forgotten the next day. If she were to wait until the next day to include it in her list, the likelihood of remembering all of it is “pretty much slim to none”. 

She says this method is a ‘capstone’ for her working day. If you’re the sort of person who finds it difficult to ‘switch off’ from work mode, writing a list before you leave the office can help you unwind by removing the lingering thoughts from your head, which will mean a more relaxed evening. Plus, it can help bypass morning stress because you will know exactly what needs to be done and can begin your tasks immediately.  
Unsocial mediaSocial media can be a wonderful thing, but also a terrible distraction. Switch off notifications on your phone to avoid being distracted by your mate’s snaps from the night before or an endless stream of memes. You may be one of the few people who can glance at your phone and return to the task at hand, but if not, remove the temptation.   
Tough ones first?In an article for Forbes, contributor John Hall references advice from behavioural scientist Dan Ariely. According to Ariely, the best time to work is usually during the first hours after waking up, which Hall describes as “the time we usually waste checking Facebook or catching up with the news”. Hall writes: “The first task on my to-do list is always the toughest. It’s the one that demands the most focus and the deepest thought: the report writing and the number crunching … I know that I’ll get more done in the day if I do the work that demands the most brainpower first, when my brain is feeling its most powerful.” 
What’s on the agenda?Meetings are an inevitable part of working life, but a poorly planned meeting can feel like a waste of time, eating in to your valuable working day. Creating an agenda that outlines the topics to be discussed at a meeting can give structure and help bring a discussion back to business if it goes off on a tangent. 

Managing your time effectively is important for both business and personal life. With these simple steps, your time can be spent more productively, and enhance your work-life balance.  

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Published: 02 Nov 2018
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • work-life balance
  • tips
  • Time management
  • Career advice

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