Published on LinkedIn by Jana Kavcic, Career Adviser / Project Manager at Univerza v Mariboru
Time is a unique and limited resource that is available to us all in the same amount. It runs continuously and irreversibly. We cannot win back lost time; therefore, it is crucial to dispose of it effectively and according to a plan. Uncontrolled use of time contributes to a stronger sense of stress, concern and time pressure. The use of methods and techniques for a greater control over the use of time increases personal productivity, contributes to successful achievement of goals, reduces stress and has a positive effect on the balance between work and private life. Managing time is therefore about managing oneself.
With this questionnaire, you can check your time management skills.
Follow these tips to use time as efficiently as possible:
1. Set your goals according to the SMART method. The goals should be:
- Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve, what is your goal? The goal should be clear, well defined. Define specifically what it is you want to achieve (who, what, how, when, where).
- Measurable: How can you “measure” or check if you are meeting the set goals? Prepare criteria for progress and goal achievement, specify exact amounts and dates.
- Attainable: Are the set goals attainable? If they are set too high, we are not motivated. If they are too low, they are not challenging. Dividing long-term goals to short-term ones.
- Relevant: Can you achieve the set goals with “resources” at your disposal? Are they relevant? It is important that the goals we set are relevant for us as individuals according to our needs, wishes, plans and abilities.
- Time based: Define the time when the set goals are to be achieved. The timeframe for achieving the goals (short-term, long-term ones) gives us a sense of urgency and motivates us to better organise our time.
2. Determine priority tasks (for goal achievement). Make lists of all short-term and long-term tasks and plan your timetable or time use. Do not forget to include time for rest in your timetable as well as reserve some time for unforeseen activities. In the same timetable, plan activities related to professional and private goals. Do not forget to include free time as well and leave some time that is not specifically allocated in order to perform tasks that would come up unexpectedly.
3. Perform tasks according to your priorities and energy cycle. For this purpose, you can use the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule and/or the Eisenhower Matrix.
It is important to be aware of the difference between important and urgent things. Devote more time to assignments that are important to you and contribute to achieving your goals, but are not very urgent, rather than to unimportant and urgent matters. Try to delegate or automate those. Perform urgent and important things first (or at a time, when you have the most energy according to your energy cycle). Focus on one thing at a time. This way, the task will be finished quicker and better. Ensure that 20% of tasks that contribute 80% of the result (key tasks) will be performed.
4. Monitor the progress and performed tasks on a daily basis. Focus on the advantages of a timely finished task and following the goal. You can also use the reward or punishment system. Divide major tasks into smaller ones and set deadlines for them as well.
5. Use (web) tools that can help you monitor your own goals, organise tasks and plan time: Todoist, Any.do, Microsoft To Do, Asana, Trello, Evernote, Forest, Freedom, Focus To-Do, Google Calendar, etc.
6. Plan time for breaks – THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE increases your productivity and focus.
7. Analyse how you spend your time. Keep a diary on your activities (recommended for at least 1 week), organise your repeating activities into categories and get the information on how you use your time.
8. Identify the most common disruptors of your time or time constraints. Among the most common time constraints are telephone calls, social media, TV, frequent meetings, business travels, personal disorganization, lack of self-discipline, multi-tasking, ineffective delegation, excessive perfectionism and inability to say no. Which are yours? Find reasons for them, prepare a plan how to avoid or limit them and transform it into concrete measures. Consciously stick to them for at least 21 days. This is namely the minimal amount of time necessary to acquire new habits that can become a part of our new routine.