Time management is a familiar topic among business leaders and academics. But, how much can learning to manage time really improve your performance and your life…and what will it take to change your habits and learn to manage time effectively?
Let’s start by answering the first question. Effective time management skills can absolutely improve your productivity and your overall performance in the workplace and in the classroom. What’s more, when you learn to manage your time at work or at school those skills easily translate to improvements in personal time management as well, meaning that you achieve a better work-life balance, reduce stress, and enjoy your free time to the fullest.
So, now let’s tackle the second question. It can certainly be difficult to change long-standing habits or behaviors, however, there are a wide array of effective time management strategies, techniques, and rules that have been shown to dramatically improve time management and productivity when used consistently.
Before we explore these useful time management methods, let’s dig a bit deeper into why it is so important to learn to manage time effectively.
The Importance Of Time Management Skills
Improving your ability to manage time can have a positive impact on both your professional and your personal life. Here are just a few of the ways that better time management can drive improved outcomes in all areas of your life.
One of the most notable benefits of learning to manage time is the immediate improvement in your work performance. In fact, time management and productivity have always been intertwined with one another. The better you are able to manage your time, the more likely you are to create an effective schedule, stay focused on your tasks, prioritize your efforts, and achieve your goals.
As your time management skills improve, your work or academic performance will surge as well. These performance improvements are an awesome confidence booster. Additionally, you will enjoy the benefits of building a solid reputation as someone who can deliver on a deadline.
As your confidence soars and your reputation grows you will find that doors just seem to open for you at every turn. Employers appreciate team members who have proven that they can produce quality work and stay calm and collected under even the tightest of deadlines.
Better Work-Life Balance
Of course, the benefits of good time management aren’t limited to the office or the classroom. Learning to manage time in your professional life translates to more time to play, relax, and spend time with family and friends.
Stress and time management are another pair of commonly linked concepts. Good time management skills can help you dramatically decrease your stress levels. It is hard to relax or get a good night’s rest when you know that you are unprepared for a big presentation, or that you are behind on an important project. When you are able to effectively reach your time management goals, you will no longer be running chronically behind schedule and that will take a big weight off your shoulders allowing you to relax.
The Consequences Of Failing To Manage Time Properly
Now that we have talked about the advantages of learning to manage time properly, let’s take a look at some of the consequences of failing to implement effective time management skills.
The Domino Effect
It is vital to note that poor time management has a negative impact on far more than just the individual. In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, an individual missed deadline could easily impact the performance of other team members, the organization as a whole, and the organization’s clients.
As repeated failures to manage time properly begin to pile up and impact the workflow of other tensions will increase among the team, and between the individual and those responsible for ensuring that work is completed and delivered on time.
The stress of tensions at work, poor job performance, and career insecurity will eventually take a toll on the individual’s physical health due to poor quality of sleep, anxiety, and other stress-related ailments.
Master These Six Core Principles To Manage Time Effectively
While these consequences may sound dire, they are easily avoidable by mastering the core principles of time management.
1. Plan Your Time
You can’t manage time effectively without proper planning. After all, how can you reach your goals, prioritize your tasks, or meet your deadlines if you don’t know what they are? Good time management starts with solid planning. This could be as simple as a to-do list, or as complex as a project timeline broken down into a precise order of operations and deadlines for each task to be completed.
2. Get Your Priorities Straight
Once you have established what needs to be done, you need to start determining which tasks or projects are most crucial. These may be tasks that must be completed for other tasks to move forward, or they may simply be higher-value tasks with a greater return on investment, or those tasks with more severe consequences for late delivery.
3. Manage Schedule
After creating your plan, and determining the priority of each task, you will need to take a realistic look at your schedule and allocate an appropriate amount of time to dedicate to the completion of each task.
4. Get Organized
You are now ready to move into the action phase of completing your work. Now is the time to get organized. You will need to determine what tools, if any, you will need to complete your tasks and make sure that you have gathered all of the supplies you need to get to work. This could mean research materials, or it could be downloading a particular software program, or enlisting the help of third-party designers or other team members.
5. Learn To Delegate
Now it is time to decide which tasks are most important to you, which absolutely must be completed by you, and which tasks could be delegated to other team members. This principle is one of the most overlooked time management skills. You cannot perform at your best when you have taken on more work than you can handle. Learning to delegate tasks to others is crucial to efficient time management.
6. Develop Self-Discipline
Last but not least, you must develop the self-discipline to implement the previous principles every time on every project. Even the best time management techniques won’t help you manage your time if you don’t use them consistently.
Now that we have discussed the core principle of effective time management, let’s look at some of the top time management tips to help you build better time management strategies.
The Best Time Management Techniques
It’s time to switch gears. We have explored the theories of how to manage time, so now let’s take a look at the practical side with some time-tested rules to help you reach your time management goals.
The Three “P’s” Of Time Management
You may hear time-management gurus refer to the three “P’s” of time management. Essentially, this rule is a simplified version of the six principles of time management with a bit of an actionable twist. The three “P’s” of time management focus on the core principles of planning and prioritizing, with an emphasis on performance as the third “P” in the equation.
While the first two factors may be very similar to the core principle, when combined with the third factor they form a unique trio that helps you to put your principle into action.
We have already discussed what planning entails, so let’s take a look at exactly why planning is so important. Proper planning can help you define your goals, identify your tasks, and determine when those tasks must be completed. By taking the time to plan, you can help to stave off bottlenecks, or stalled projects by ensuring that you are adequately prepared to tackle each task right from the start.
Take some time at the end of each day to jot down your tasks for the next day. Already have a calendar of daily tasks planned out? Awesome! Then spend that time at the end of the day doing a quick review of the next day’s schedule to ensure you are prepared to dive right in.
Like planning, we have already briefly discussed the importance of prioritization above. So let’s take a closer look at how you can prioritize your task to get the most out of your work time.
To properly prioritize your day, you will need to analyze your workload and assign each task a priority ranking starting with the most important, time-sensitive, or valuable tasks and moving down the list from there.
The three “P’s” rule generally suggests that you prioritize your tasks into the following basic groups:
- Important AND Urgent: Tasks that are both Important AND Urgent should be at the top of your priority list. These are the mission-critical tasks that must be done right away and must be done by you.
- Important: Tasks that are important but do not necessarily need to be done immediately fall under this label. These tasks should come next on your priority list.
- Urgent: This category is for tasks that must be completed right away but are not particularly important to reaching your established goals or completing your important projects. Generally, these are lesser tasks that you have agreed to do that do not directly relate to your actual goals. The goal is to eventually learn to refuse these tasks so they no longer appear on your list at all.
- Not Urgent OR Important: This final category is for all those tasks that distract you from your goals and are essentially nothing more than busy work at best, or distractions at worst.
It is this final step that truly defines the three “P’s” of time management strategy. The final “P” stands for “Performance”. This means that once you have completed the planning and prioritizing steps you focus all of your attention and effort on working your way through your list in the order in which you prioritize them.
The Four “D’s” Of Time Management
The four “D’s” of time management, also commonly known as the four “D’s” of productivity, are a set of steps intended to help you decide which tasks to prioritize, which to hand off to someone else, which to put off till a later date, and which to can be booted off your to-do list altogether. .
The four “D’s” in this strategy are: Do, Delay, Delegate, and Drop. The theory behind this particular time management technique is that all of your tasks can be individually sorted into one of these four categories helping you to plan and prioritize your schedule to accomplish the most important tasks first while putting off or handing over lesser tasks, and eliminating inconsequential tasks altogether.
The concept is simple. You will simply sort your tasks into the following categories and act accordingly to remove them from your list.
- Do: Important tasks that you must do yourself, right away
- Delay: Tasks that you need to do yourself, but you can put off till a future date
- Delegate: Tasks that you can hand off to someone else to complete
- Drop: Tasks that can be erased from your to-do list altogether
The “3-3-3” Rule Of Time Management
The “3-3-3” rule dictates that you break your workday into thirds. Spend the first three hours working on your most important and complex tasks. Spend the next three hours working on urgent but simple tasks, and spend the final three hours completing simple maintenance tasks. These time blocks can be shortened to accommodate the actual length of your typical workday.