We all complain about the lack of time. We don’t have enough time at work and weekends are always too short. So invest some time, read this article and learn the most crucial skills needed to manage time efficiently and have more time to do the things you love.
1. Goal setting
The S.M.A.R.T. method will help you set goals properly, while creating your goal/task you should make sure that it fulfills these 5 criteria. Your goal must be:
Specific. It means that you have to specify your goal as much as possible.
Measurable. It means that the fulfillment of your goal needs to lend itself to easy assessment. A good goal can be measured, for example: “lose 6 kg”. It gives us a chance to track progress easily.
Attainable. The important thing is to plan realistic goals. You have to think if your goal is possible to achieve with the skills, resources and time you have.
Relevant. You need to understand why are you doing this and what benefits will completing the task bring.
Time Bound. You need to set a deadline for your task. Most of us have a tendency to procrastinate, and without a time frame you might put off the execution of your plan forever.
An example of a good S.M.A.R.T. goal: I want to run a half marathon in June 2017.
2. Time tracking
The most basic skill that will help you manage your time better is time tracking. You need to carefully record and control what you do - that’s the only way to see when you waste too much time.
Toggl is a very helpful app for time tracking which allows you to easily measure time spent on various tasks. You can review a weekly report, see how much time you spent on which task and analyze whether you spent too much time on something. Read here how we use Toggl at Netguru to create transparent reports for our clients.
Eat That Frog technique: do the biggest, most scary task first. This method is designed to help with procrastination. If you start by doing million small tasks, you might end up not having time for the most important one. Imagine you have big stones and a bag of sand that you have to put inside the jar. If you put the stones first, then you can easily fill it up with sand, but if you put the sand first, there might not be enough space for the stones! To prioritize your tasks, you can use this matrix:
Quadrant I is for tasks that are urgent and important. They need to be done now.
Quadrant II is for the tasks that are important but don’t require immediate action. You should plan when you want to do them.
Quadrant III is for the tasks that are urgent but not actually important. You should consider delegating them.
Quadrant IV is for the tasks that are neither important nor urgent. You should eliminate them, because they are time wasters.
When you already have specific, well-defined goals and you have decided on their priorities it’s time to create a detailed, step-by-step plan on how to execute them. Plan the week ahead. Spend 30 minutes every Monday creating an action plan for the whole week.
Use tools, try different ones and find your favourite. Create a to-do list: use apps or pen and paper – striking out completed tasks will give you a great feeling of achievement. Keep a calendar: you can choose between traditional and digital ones. You can try Trello – a great tool for creating boards, cards and lists. Remember to be realistic! First, try to estimate how much time you need for each tasks. Don’t overplan your day, it only helps you to get frustrated, not productive. Plan around 80% of your day, leave 20% for unexpected situations.
Even having the greatest plan won’t help you if you can’t focus on your tasks.
Pomodoro Timer is a great tool to help you keep focused on one task only. You work in 25 min intervals with 5 min breaks. During breaks, you can reply to messages, get a coffee or eat a sandwich.
Avoid distractions. Book yourself some time in your calendar for important meetings or when you just need to work on something. Let everyone know that you are busy and snooze notifications.
Don’t participate in pointless calls and meetings. It is great to be involved in your team’s life, but you don’t need to go to every meeting you get invited to.
Clean your Gmail and calendar once a month. Keep your inbox clean, create filters and filter out the messages that don’t concern you. Read e-mails 2 times per day. Tops.
Remember that not every method will work for everyone. What works for one person might not necessarily work for someone with a different personality. Experiment and try out different methods. See what works best for you, and become a time management ninja.