5 Simple Time Management Practices to Make Everything More Manageable
Juggling a lot of things don’t have to be challenging. Here are five simple practices you can do to make managing your time easier.
There was a time in my life when I simultaneously had a full-time job, ran two businesses, did freelance work, and took a master’s degree. All while enjoying my me-time of binge-watching, 6 to 7 hours of daily sleep, and keeping my partner happy. Many people have called me out over the years for having “too much time in my hands.” I often wondered what that meant because it didn’t make sense how anyone couldn’t have done it. It was only later on that I realized that how I did it was so engrained in my everyday activities, that I didn’t realize they were even time management strategies to begin with.
Here’s five practices I do to make everyday more manageable:
Prepare the night before
I plan out the night before (or morning of) how I’ll tackle my day — writing to-do lists for my passion projects, thinking of the best route to maximize my business errands, or setting up my plan B if things don’t go my way. I’m obsessed with digital tools that make me more efficient, but I also always prepare ahead to keep the mindset of productivity.
My siblings often call me out for being too much of a Type A for doing this, but it’s also the exact reason why they wonder how I manage to do everything I do when they can’t.
It takes me 10 minutes to do, but it saves me 3 hours of time the next day.
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Do first the tasks that take less than 10 minutes
When I have a number of tasks and subtasks pending, and they are not dependent on one another, I finish tasks that take the shortest time. I usually allot about 30 to 40 minutes of my day, just ticking of tasks that can be finished quickly.
Aside from the satisfaction of checking off items on my list, it builds the momentum of my productivity. Who doesn’t want to see themselves accomplishing tasks, especially if there’s a long list of where they come from?
Practice the 4Ds Solution
I’m guilty of keeping my work inbox as one of my tabs in the browser throughout my working hours. It’s not the best habit to have, but I’ve countered it by practicing the 4D’s strategy from The Power of Focus by Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt.
They proposed this approach to separate fake, urgent tasks from highly important ones and regain time control.
- Delete — Half the emails you get in your mail can most likely be deleted immediately. It also includes saying “no” to unimportant meetings or altogether canceling fluff activities that aren’t really necessary.
- Do — This is as straightforward as it can get. Replying to urgent emails or tasks that need immediate attention should be done.
- Delegate — Reassign work to make way for more important matters. You help your growth and that of the person you delegate it to because it lets you take on tasks that are worth more of your time. One of my favorite discussions on delegation is from the Manager Tools Podcast. My former boss shared this with me, and it helped me put things into perspective.
- Defer —Set aside time later for emails that will take a longer time to deal with or items that are not time-sensitive so you can use your time now for core matters.
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Find your most productive time
People are amused when they find out I wake up between 5 and 5:30am every day. The recurring questions posed are how and why. I’m a morning person through and through, and I have certain times of the day when I’m most productive, one of which is between 7am to 9am, such as when I’m writing this post now. So for my most productive time blocks, I allot tasks that require a lot of thinking and delivering — such as writing blog posts such as this or working on my freelancing gigs. When I used to study, I used this time to do my research or write the many papers we were required to submit every semester.
Stop making a to-do list, carve time blocks
I mentioned how I create to-do lists for my tasks, but I haven’t shared that I do this with time blocks. Instead of just a laundry list of everything I need to do, I set a specific time in my day on when and how long I should work on them. In fact, at work, I also block off my calendar for tasks I do so my colleagues know I’m busy. Doing this helps in the following ways:
- It keeps me disciplined to only work within an allotted time so I don’t use up the free time I want to watch my movies.
- It makes sure that I won’t postpone tasks again and again because my to-do list has no timeframe to follow.
- It blocks off my calendar from meetings so people can think twice if they need to reschedule (which may mean it’s not urgent), or if they really need me there.
More than strategies, time management is a mindset. And the core characteristic to make everything more manageable is discipline. No time management practices will work if you don’t follow how they were made to be, and no tool can help you manage your time better if you don’t use and maximize their purpose. At the end of the day, it’s a question of how productive do you want to be.