I was supposed to write this blog 3 weeks ago. Then I got busy and all that time just drifted away because something more important, more urgent or more fun came up.
Here’s the thing about time management, you have to make the time to put it into practice, otherwise it’s always going to feel like just another thing you have to do. It’s like many other personal practices that make us better human beings; we have to first recognize that a we have a problem before we can make the changes needed to improve.
So here’s some tips to help you build your own time management practice:
- Decide what’s most important to you: It’s hard to make priorities when you don’t know what the most important thing is. Here are some options for prioritizing that I’ve used:
- Value of client relationship – clients with long-term standing or potential for future work
- Relationship with client – clients who are kind and lovely and appreciative
- Job responsibilities – how is my boss evaluating my success? Those things should be my priority
- Personal values – what are the most important activities for your own personal growth
- Accept that you have a problem: Like I said, the first step to self-improvement is acknowledging that you need to improve. So assume you have a time-management problem and be more aware and pro-active about how you approach it.
- Start saying no: Start with admitting to yourself that you can’t do it all, and be honest. If you are in a position where you have the option to say ‘no’, don’t sign up for more than you can do well in the first place. If you’re not in a position to say ‘no’, then at least try to be honest with others about the reality of the other work on your plate, the turnaround time or the quality you can achieve.
- Use your calendar: block off time in your day to accomplish important tasks. This not only serves as a reminder to work on those tasks, it also prevents others from pulling you into meetings.
- Put on blinders: when you’re working on something else that’s important, minimize windows and turn off notifications from other programs that are only going to distract you. You might even consider physically moving yourself to another workspace, if that’s possible, to eliminate distractions.
- Take breaks: I know this seems counterintuitive, but research shows that taking a break to stand up, take a walk and talk with others really makes a difference to help your brain focus. If you’re struggling to stay on task, maybe you need to give in and take a five to ten minute break before you jump back in.
- Look at cute photos of baby animals online: No for real. This is a thing. A scientific study showed that productivity increased when participants were exposed to cute photos of baby animals online. Thank you, Science!
There’s an endless amount of research and articles around productivity online. Just make sure you don’t spend so much time researching that you forget to actually be productive.