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Effective Time Management Skills

  • Amruta Bhaskar
  • Sep 29, 2020
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Have you ever wondered how it is that some people seem to have enough time to do everything that they want to, whereas others are always rushing from task to task, and never seem to finish anything?

It cannot just be that some people have less to do. It’s much more likely that they are using their time more effectively: in other words, showing good time management skills.

Time management is the ability to use your time productively and efficiently. You could also think of it as the art of having time to do everything that you need, without feeling stressed about it. It sounds simple, but it is much harder in practice. This blog explains some of the principles behind good time management. Managing your time well will help you get the most done in a day. Today people have many interests beyond their main pursuits and time always seems to be in short supply.

1.   Prioritize your work

If you get important tasks done first you will find you can do the remaining tasks with a relaxed mind. If you leave important tasks for the last moment completing them under time pressure will likely affect the quality of your work. You may also end up wasting time worrying about the undone important tasks rather than using the time to do them.         

2.   Find a distraction-free workspace

To prevent unwanted and unintentional distractions have a dedicated workspace. Sometime you may require a space with access to resources such as a library. So plan your workspace options well. Don’t let your time management plans be upset by a workspace not being available or not being distraction-free. Always have back-up spaces ready.

3.   Carve up time into blocks

This will enable you to assign a specific time to a specific task. Once you have assigned time for each task you will be able to implement your plans. Without letting one task affect another. The time blocks should not be too long. You may lose interest in an activity after a while and may not be able to sustain focus. On the other hand, they should not be so short as to be not long enough to complete an important task. Blocks of 30 minutes to an hour are good. For large tasks, you can have a series of blocks with short breaks in between them.

4.   Make sure you plan for the blocks of time you need everyday

Each of us needs to put aside time for activities that we do everyday. For example, eating meals, sleeping, exercising, praying, travelling, spending time with friends and pursuing a regular hobby. You should ensure that the time you spend on these activities is not too much. And that you have enough time for other activities you need to do. On the other hand, your plan should make sure there is enough time for activities you do daily.

5.   Set and achieve milestones

Many tasks will not be done in a single block of time. You can however set milestones that you will pass on the way to completing the entire task. If you are not organized in your approach to them your effort may be too disarrayed. You may lose the will and momentum to get the task done well. But if you organize your effort and set milestones you can know you are making progress. You will build momentum as you pass the milestones. A key milestone is the first milestone. Once you have passed it you will have momentum. Often the absence of a clear first milestone makes a task appear unduly challenging.

6.   Review progress regularly and make necessary adjustments

Tasks may not play out as you expect them to and therefore it is important to schedule a review often. During the review, you can adjust your time plan based on your experience with the ongoing tasks.

7.   Use resources wisely

By wisely using resources you can make tasks easier and get them done well in time. For example, if a task requires a skill that is not in your domain, you should consider having someone with those skills help you out. For example, designing the graphics for a presentation slide. Learning peripheral skills is something you can take up in hobby time. It should not be done in the time set aside for an important task.

8.   Once a task is assigned to review it at the earliest convenience

You may not be able to get started on a task right away once it is assigned to you. However, it is important to review it while the context is still fresh in your mind. If you have forgotten details of the context, doing a good job will become more challenging. It is best to review the task once and note important aspects of it. That way you will not need to remember them till the time when you can take up the task.

9.   Have daily and weekly tasks lists and long term plans

To do lists free up your mind from the job of remembering tasks. You can be focused on doing them. For the long term, you can have a plan. The tasks that make up the plan can serve as natural milestones.

10.                Learn to avoid delaying things unnecessarily

Many of us tend to put off tasks, even important ones. There can be many reasons for this. It may be that the task is not clearly defined. It may also be that one is not sure how to get started. But if it is an important task one must not let these issues prevent one from getting started. Once you get started you will have a better chance of meeting the challenges. And if progress is still not possible you can ask for help. Once one learns that it is better to do a task than to put it off one will be able to get more done. Be realistic, don't allow trying to do a perfect job to become a reason for not doing a task at all. If you get started in time you will have the opportunity to improve the quality and aim for perfection.

11.                Sleep enough

Do not make a time management plan that does not provide for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Not sleeping enough will make even simple tasks appear challenging.

This distinction between urgent and important is the key to prioritising your time and your workload, whether at work, at home or when studying.

It enables you to work out what to do first, and what can be left either until later or not done at all. For example, if you leave an urgent but unimportant task, you may find that it becomes unnecessary.

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