You have 1,440 minutes to spend today. Are you using them wisely?
To say you’re busy is an understatement. Just like me, you’re running a business, which means you’re pulled in different directions, all day long. Priorities change daily, sometimes hourly. Working through your to-do list can be a challenge. But here are some proven tips for time management that you can start doing right now that will make a difference to your productivity. Trust me, I couldn’t do without a few of these myself.
So, from my desk to yours, here are 26 time management tips that you can start using – right this second.
1. Before you get in to your office each day, have a plan for one thing you want to accomplish. Do that one thing first. (If you really want to kick it up a notch, make the plan before you leave the office the night before.)
2. Group common tasks together on your to-do list. Examples: Phone calls to make, things to write, personal items, etc.
3. Only Handle It Once. “Decide immediately what to do with each paper, phone message or email the first time you look at it, so you don’t waste time going back to it later,” says organization expert Peter Walsh, star of Enough Already! With Peter Walsh.
4. Set aside certain times of the day to read your email and return calls. Let your staff know that you about those windows of time, and ask them to come tell you in person if something needs your immediate attention.
5. Respond to emails right away. Don’t let them sit so long that become daunting. This doesn’t mean check them and respond as they come in – see tip #5.
6. Write down everything you have to do today. This way, your mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks. This is the basic principle from the classic and beloved time management book aptly titled, Getting Things Done.
7. Tackle the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. The feeling you get from finishing up the more difficult tasks gives you the energy to take on the next item. (Also think about the times of day when you’re most productive and schedule tasks according to your personality. If you’re a morning person or a night owl, try to schedule tasks for those times.
8. Limit distractions. Block out time on your calendar for big projects. During that time, close your door and turn off email and your phone’s ringer. (Mayo Clinic)
9. Take small breaks, often. Get some fresh air to clear your head.
10. Don’t worry about making everything perfect. 60 Second Marketer boldly suggests that, if you want to get things done, you “focus on moving as quickly as you can while still maintaining an ‘A’ quality of work. On a 100 point grading scale, a 90 is just as much an A as a 100 is … It will take 4 times longer to get your project from a 90 to a 100 than it would have been to leave it at a 90”. Unless you’re a surgeon, that is.
11. If you want to get a better handle on how you spend your time in social media activities, try Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes a Day approach. He says you should choose 5 things to focus on for the year and put all your daily to-do’s in one of those 5 categories. Spend 95% of your time in those areas; anything that doesn’t fit into one of those areas should be marked off your list. The 6th box labeled “the other 5%” is like sugar — a little might be OK but your day should never contain more than 5% of the activities that don’t fit into your five areas of annual focus.”
12. Allow time for interruptions. They’re going to happen, so plan for them.
13. Delegate. “Remove yourself from some of the business’ day-to-day functions and find someone [to fill in for you during that time,] so you have enough uninterrupted time to look at the big picture and make decisions about the company’s future direction.” Thanks, Richard Branson, for this and nine other awesome time management tips.
14. Stop over-committing. Say no to things that aren’t going to make you any money.
15. Shorten your commute time by 10% by avoiding time-consuming left-hand turns on busy two-way streets by taking right turns instead.
16. Exercise while watching your favorite TV show.
17. Listen to podcasts or audio books in the car, while exercising, while waiting for a meeting or even in the lobby at the doctor’s office. You’ll be surprised how much extra time you can find to stay caught up on news and industry events.
18. Break large tasks into smaller ones, then tackle each step one-by-one.
19. Make a decision now. Putting off a decision means that it’s going to keep weighing on your mind. Say yes, no or maybe and move on. If you need more time to think about something, say “maybe” and think about it during a time when you can afford to set your mind to think it through in more detail.
20. What’s the Next Action? Plan what you need to do to finish a project, and focus on the very next thing you need to do to move it forward. Usually doing the next, little thing will lead to another, and another, until we’re either done or we run into a block: we need more information, we need someone else to catch up, etc. More than 50 more ideas like this one from LIfeHack.
21. Set up a standard response to email inquiries you may get a lot of. For example, if you get frequent inquiries about your location, set up a templated response that you (or another employee) can copy and paste into a reply.
22. Wake up earlier. Even an extra 15 minutes gives you more time to run an extra errand or just stop and think.
23. Figure out what distracts you. Maybe it’s the Internet. Maybe it’s Facebook. Maybe it’s small talk with employees. Think about what time traps you fall into, then set up times during your day to allow yourself to indulge in those things and a time limit for doing so.
24. Clean your work space. Experts agree that the first step to increasing productivity is to clear and organize your space. Eliminate everything that isn’t necessary, then create a system for the things that are.
25. Get enough sleep. At least 50% of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Even just a “slight sleep deficit has proven to decrease cognitive functioning, including processing time, ability to perform complex tasks, creativity and memory, weight gain, loss of coping skills, increased anxiety and decreased immunity”, according to Entrepreneur.com.
26. ______. You fill in the blank. Tell me what tip you think should go here. What do you do to make the most of your time?