Effective time management increases productivity, offers more time freedom, and enables you to get the job done. While all this sounds great, managing our time isn’t always easy. It requires the ability to prioritize and delegate tasks, limit distractions, and stick to a schedule.
As entrepreneurs, managing our time can feel overwhelming. Juggling work, family, and fun can be a challenge and we often finish the day feeling depleted. But it doesn’t have to be like this. With a few simple tricks, you can lead a life that is less stressful and more fulfilling.
In this article, we will give you the strategies you need to improve your time management skills including goal setting, overcoming procrastination, and more.
If you fancy listening to a podcast, you can listen to episode 64 of the Wanderlover Podcast where I share how I prioritize my time as a full-time traveling entrepreneur, as well as tips for you to stay on track when you’re just starting out.
Strategies for Effective Time Management
Good time management requires excellent organizational skills and the ability to plan and schedule tasks in advance. One of the most effective strategies for improving time management is the ability to prioritize tasks. A skill in itself, prioritization is a great way to get through your to-do list and meet deadlines.
In order to prioritize effectively, start with the most important tasks at hand. The best way to do this is to identify 2-3 tasks that need to be done within the next few days. Completing the most pressing task on the list will boost your confidence and get you off to a positive start. If there is a task that has been on your brain for a while, prioritize it. This way you can focus on other tasks with a clear frame of mind.
Setting Achievable Goals and Deadlines
Goals enable you to move forward, track progress and define your priorities. In business, a goal can be anything from increasing brand awareness to driving sales. Setting goals throughout your entrepreneurial journey will keep you motivated, provide direction and offer a sense of accomplishment.
When setting your goals, ensure that they are specific and measurable. A tried and tested strategy to use is SMART which simply stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. SMART goals will inevitably increase your chances of success and make tasks more manageable.
For larger goals, write down a list of everything you need to do to achieve the overall goal. Use this list to make smaller sub-goals and then break them down further with small actionable steps. For example, if your overall goal was to find a new job, your sub-goals would be to update your resume, search for jobs, write a cover letter, apply for jobs, and prepare for an interview. The actionable steps for ‘preparing a resume’ would be to find your old resume, update recent work experience, add recent qualifications, and update your skills.
Once you have your goals, sub-goals, and tasks set out, give yourself a realistic deadline. Reasonable deadlines will reduce stress and allow time for other projects. Assign deadlines for each task by using your calendar to ensure that it doesn’t clash with anything. By writing deadlines into your calendar, you can create a timeframe that’s manageable and not too overwhelming. This is an effective way to improve your overall time management and ensure that you get the job done.
Overcoming Procrastination and Distractions
Procrastination is something we’ve all been through. You sit down to complete a task and find yourself scrolling through your social media feed instead. Of course, sometimes we need that downtime to get our creative juices flowing. The problem arises when procrastination affects the job at hand and we find ourselves getting behind on our work. This usually leads to more stress and a lot of late nights catching up.
One of the main reasons for procrastination is boredom. That’s why it’s important to choose projects that align with our own goals and interests. Another reason for procrastination is a lack of belief in our abilities and anxiety. The constant need to be perfect is also a huge factor and can often prevent us from starting a task all together. Instead of aiming for perfection, strive to get the job done and refrain from spending too much time tweaking it. Once the job is complete, let it go. 99% of the time our work is good enough. When it’s not, just use it as a learning opportunity.
When it’s time to work, make yourself comfortable, turn off the notifications on your phone, and limit the number of times you check and respond to emails. The trick is to find a way to control your devices without them controlling you.
Try some mindfulness meditation beforehand to help maintain your focus. Another great technique is to reward yourself every time you complete a task. Think of something you would like to eat, buy or do and promise it to yourself to stay motivated.
If you find your mind drifting, get up and go for a walk. The fresh air can wake you up and help regain focus. You see, unlike procrastination, breaks offer the opportunity to fully disconnect from technology and reconnect with the world around us. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that your break can consist of anything. It might be a walk around the block, a game of tennis, or something more adventurous. Try to incorporate something you really enjoy that will leave you feeling refreshed, re-energized, and ready to get back to work. In order to stay focused and avoid fatigue, it is recommended that we take breaks every 90 minutes. Regular breaks are also known to enhance creativity, improve memory and provide a better work-life balance.
Maximizing Productivity through Effective Time Management
If you want to increase productivity and achieve that perfect work-life balance, there are a few other things you need to do. As well as prioritizing tasks and putting in strategies to prevent procrastination, you’ll also want to track your time to see how you’re spending it. Try a time-tracking tool like RescueTime which will show you exactly how many hours of work you actually do compared to how much time is spent browsing the internet or on social media. The results may be a bit shocking but you can then use it as a motivator to become more productive.
Another great way to manage your time more effectively is to create a daily schedule and stick to it. Gone are the days when you moan about everything you haven’t done yet. Using realistic goals and tasks, you can create a schedule that actually works. Other useful techniques include batching similar tasks together, choosing some ‘meeting only’ days, and learning when to say ‘no’.
While increasing productivity is your ultimate goal, be sure to avoid burnout. Burnout is caused by exhaustion and overworking and it can result in a lack of motivation. To prevent this from happening, take it slow and allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete your tasks. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves. Instead, be kind, set boundaries, and sleep more. Try to schedule free time and fill it with things that you love to do. Not only will this make you feel more relaxed but it may also spark some creativity.
You may also want to consider some online time management tools. Designed to keep you on schedule, tools like Scoro, Active Collab, and Slack will keep your diary, payments, and all communications in one place with the aim of limiting distractions and increasing productivity.
If you find that you’re feeling overwhelmed with your workload, it’s time to make a change. Make a pledge to improve productivity one step at a time, using the above strategies for effective time management.
A simple change like turning your phone off for 30 minutes could be all that it takes to regain focus and motivation. Be sure to set some clear business goals and break them down into manageable tasks with reasonable deadlines. Prioritize these tasks by importance, set realistic boundaries, and schedule everything. Most importantly, schedule some time for you. We are far less productive when we are stressed and overwhelmed so get outside and reclaim that time. You’ll be surprised by how efficiently you actually work.