Are you always cutting deadlines close, rushing to appointments, and feeling behind on essential tasks? Time management could be the culprit, especially when technology makes it so easy to get off task. If you’re struggling to stay on top of the task list, these five time management tips could help you use time more wisely and get more done.
Create a jot list.
Life is busy, and it’s hard to keep everything straight. You might be hard at work on an important report, but then remember you need milk. It’s hard to stop thinking about it—milk, milk, milk. Instead of letting yourself get distracted and thinking about groceries all afternoon, keep a notepad by your keyboard to make it easy to quickly jot down important thoughts for later. (You could use a task list on the computer, but then you risk opening more windows of distraction.)
Organize tasks by priority.
The most productive people prioritize tasks by importance and start at the top. Whether you use a three-color traffic light system (red, yellow, green) or number priority on a scale of one to five, ranking tasks in order or importance will help you get urgent assignments done first.
Work from a realistic calendar.
Most of us underestimate how long something is really going to take. We all want to be superheroes and blast through tasks like lightning, but in reality, sometimes the days just go too fast and we end up with too little accomplished at the end. Rather than staring down a task deluge every day and hoping for the best, use a daily and weekly calendar to plan out the most important tasks by how long they will actually take. When you use a calendar to portion off time, you’re more likely to create reasonable task goals and actually stick with the plan.
Set aside time to plan.
Having a huge task list and diving right in may work for some people, but those people are rare. Setting realistic goals requires a little time and planning. Instead of telling yourself today will be different and then beating yourself up when things aren’t finished, set aside a few minutes every day to match your task list with available time in the calendar.
Plan for interruptions.
People aren’t machines, so smart taskmasters factor in time for interruptions. The secret to great time management isn’t avoiding interruptions entirely, but corralling them into manageable time limits. If people are constantly popping in for questions or calling off the hook and you need to focus on a project, consider creating set hours you’re available for calls and impromptu meetings. Post the schedule on your wall and set a voice message so people know when it’s best to swing by or expect a returned phone call. Coworkers and clients should be able to reach you if something is urgent, but limiting outside distraction will help you get more done when it matters.