WHAT IS TIME MANAGEMENT?
Time management is the process of actively managing your time.
If you do not manage your time actively, you simply waste time as you attend to whatever to-do pops up.
Successful and efficient Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, plan out their time beforehand.
You too can decide how much time you want to spend on certain activities or areas of your life.
This makes it possible for you to exert control over what your day, week, or month looks like.
Decide on what your priorities will be by implementing time management skills.
WHAT ARE SOME GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS?
Sometimes it can be easy to believe that some people were just born being good at time management. And others, well, not so much.
But the truth is that time management is a SKILL, made up of various abilities that you can learn and train.
Let’s look at 10 essential time management skills
Planning is the first skill you will need to master if you want to get better at time management. It helps you to understand how much time you can spend on one task. You will also see how certain tasks might be dependent on each other. And where you might have to wait for other people to give their input.
While you plan, you will notice that there are always more tasks than time. So you need to decide, which tasks are more important than others. The skill of prioritizing is more important than you might think. Because you cannot simply do the things you like best first. Prioritizing includes looking at the bigger picture and understanding which tasks will lead you faster to reaching your goals.
3. GOAL SETTING
To be able to prioritize, you need to set some goals first. And yes, there is such a thing as setting bad goals. Being able to set reasonable and attainable goals is an important time management skill. Filtering through the S.M.A.R.T. Goals step by step will help you set the right goals.
4. DECISION MAKING
Another skill you will need for successful time management is decision making. Actually, being decisive and knowing how to make good decisions that will help you in every area of your life and not delaying making these decisions is vital to your success in managing your time efficiently.
This skill seems to get rarer and rarer, as our brains learn to deal with millions of notifications and various distractions. But jumping from task to task will make you way less productive. And your time management less effective. Learn to focus on what you are busy with right now, where you are at this very moment, and learn the skill of avoiding distractions. Muting notifications is a great start. Learning to be present in every task completion assists with getting it done much faster.
Self-awareness is another one of these skills that will help you in every area of your life. When it comes to time management, you need it to manage yourself. You can only manage what you know. This includes knowing your own tendencies, like procrastination. And noticing when you do it. Regular self-reflection and keeping a journal can help understand your own tendencies and assist in making choices that reflect self-discipline. A calendar reveals your time habits and this is also a great tool to measure your tendencies.
I first considered calling this skill “discipline”. But then I decided to use “Self-motivation”. It expresses a very similar thing, but in a more positive way. Discipline is often linked to a negative action and I am a firm believer of motivation and encouragement go a long way! Self-motivation is important to make you stick to your plan. You need to be able to motivate yourself again and again. Being an Entrepreneur, the road often becomes very lonely, so you need to make friends with yourself. And motivate yourself to do things you decided on doing, even when you don’t feel like it. To reward yourself for sticking to your plan is a great way to keep self-motivation on automate.
Also known as “surrendering”… Knowing when to let go of a task and let someone else do it is another super important skill. Sometimes we are so caught up in our own little world that it can seem like we are the only ones who know how to do our tasks right. Perfectionism is the culprit here! But chances are that some people can do some of our assignments better than we could. It is worth trying to trust others to help us move forward and ever upward!
9. DEALING WITH STRESS
To be effective at time management you need to be able to deal with stress. And no, by that I don’t mean that you have to be able to work 16 hours a day. This is rather about your ability to let bad feelings go and refocus on your tasks. It is also the ability to know when to take a step back and rest. Boundaries are also necessary to understand what will add to our stress load and what can bring relief. Your values help with implementing healthy boundaries and your vision should steer you in this direction, always!
You can have the best plan laid out, knowing what to do every hour of the day. But then – disaster happens – you cannot find the documents you need to finish the task. If this sounds familiar, then your next step is to work on the skill of organization. For your plans to work, you need to have an overview of them. You need to be able to find your important and not so important files. And honestly, once you got everything organized, you’ll feel like a boss because you got everything under control! Organized chaos is sometimes the approach of many Entrepreneurs, but if you intend to scale your Small Business, someone after you will have to understand your thought behind organizing certain documents. Keep it simple and you can teach it to anyone!
HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS?
Now you might be thinking “Okay, great, now I know which skills I should have to scale my Small Business. But how can I actually improve my time management skills?”
I know it’s not as easy as reading some advice and you’re all productive and ready to go. Getting better at time management and related skills takes some time and dedication.
But you can definitely work on it.
2 EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
Time management activities are various exercises that will help you understand yourself and your time spending tendencies better.
This will help you to work on the skills you need to be mindful and efficient with your time.
Here are a couple of examples of time management activities you can do.
1. RECORD YOUR HOURS
Pick a day when you are not too busy or need to be working. Maybe a Saturday or Sunday. Once you wake up, set an alarm for every hour of the day. When the alarm goes off, write down how you feel at that moment. Focused? Tired? Hungry? Inspired? Motivated? Sluggish?
Do this throughout the day. And if you feel super motivated, repeat this exercise on another day.
Then have a good look at your results. Can you see a pattern? Do you feel on fire during the mornings, but sleepy and unmotivated after lunch? Or does your peak time only start in the afternoon and the mornings are your worst part of the day?
This will also assist you to understand your natural tendencies. It trains self-awareness and helps you with planning your days so that difficult tasks can happen during your peak times. And for those low times, you can plan anything mindless and mundane.
2. RECORD YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
For a week, make it your evening habit to write down what you have accomplished during the day. Write down at least five accomplishments.
This is not about forcing you to finish a big project every day. Quite the opposite, an accomplishment can be something small like “did the weekly shopping today” or “managed to file all the letters received last week”.
If you want, you can also write down one thing you did, that felt like a waste of time. Browsing through archived documents, for example.
Similar to the first time management activity, this one helps you see your own tendencies, but more task-focused.
Looking at all the things you did get done will motivate you. And it will give you a good feeling for how long certain things take.
WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES?
Another good way to improve your time management skills is to utilize effective time management techniques. Now, before we dive into specific examples, let’s quickly look at what makes a time management strategy effective for you?
All famous time management techniques out there are effective for someone. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be famous, right? But once you start testing out various ideas, you will find that some work better for you than others. This is a personal preference only you can implement.
Don’t ignore this great strategy. Instead, see if you can notice a pattern. Do you need techniques that give you a strict pattern you should follow? Do you need techniques that give you a “logical way” of planning out your tasks? Do you need more freedom in making choices with some help or support when you need it?
Find techniques that make you personally more productive.
An effective time management technique is one that works for YOU!
WHAT ARE SOME STRATEGIES FOR TIME MANAGEMENT?
THE EISENHOWER MATRIX
Prioritizing can be quite some work. And sometimes, you might simply not know which criteria to use. In those moments, templates like the Eisenhower Matrix can help a lot.
It makes you evaluate tasks by both their urgency and their importance. And depending on where the tasks fall in the matrix, you know what to do with them.
Have a look at the Eisenhower Matrix below and try it right now with your task list:
THE ACTION PRIORITY MATRIX
Another way to improve your prioritization skills is the Action Priority Matrix.
It works similarly to the Eisenhower Matrix, but it groups tasks by estimated effort and impact.
Have a look at it here:
Parkinson’s Law states that every task will expand to fill the time allotted to it. In other words: If you plan on finding a birthday present for your friend by the end of the week, it will take all week. On the other hand, if you decide to find a present this afternoon, because you won’t have time otherwise, it will only take one afternoon.
Keep this principle in mind while planning your tasks and make sure that you don’t artificially bloat your schedule.
Time blocking is very similar.
If you have recurring types of tasks in your schedule, it is a good idea to simply block time in your calendar for those.
This example is in ClickUp, which is my favorite project management tool to run my business!
An example could be to block one hour every morning for your morning routine and then two hours for working with clients. This way you don’t need to constantly check how many minutes you have left for a certain task. Instead, you can work on topics and check off as many tasks regarding that topic as you can.
To be able to efficiently plan, you need to find out how long certain tasks take you. And while your gut feeling is a great advisor for many things, it can be surprisingly off when it comes to time. Tasks you love will feel like short things, while a 10-minute task you dread can feel like hours.
To help with that, you can track your time.
Simply write down:
- What you do,
- When you start and
- when you finish it
THE PARETO PRINCIPLE
The Pareto Principle, or “80/20”, states that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of efforts. And somehow, this turns out to be strangely very true for almost anything you can analyze by numbers like that.
Knowing this, you can plan your task list by first focussing on the tasks that you know bring results directly. And you know those tasks that take you forever, but in the end, they don’t amount to much? Put those all the way down on the priorities list. Or get rid of them altogether.
Now that you have planned and prioritized your task list, it’s time to start executing.
If you have trouble focusing and getting things done, the Pomodoro technique can do wonders for your productivity.
You break your schedule down into the following categories:
- 25-minute intervals of focused work,
- interrupted by short 3-5 minute breaks
- To keep you on track, you set a timer to remind you when each interval starts and ends
- repeat this cycle four times
- then take a longer break
If executing is your weakness, you can read more about the Pomodoro method here
WHAT ARE SOME TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS?
The last of my tips to improve your time management skills is to find out which time management tools will work for you. I know that Entrepreneurs cannot seem to agree on what is the best time management app. In my opinion, this is, again, because different people need different things from a tool. Sure, do your research.
But then, simply try some apps out and see how it works for you!
I personally have worked with various time management tools so far, and I see advantages and disadvantages in each of them.
To give you a starting point, I’ll list some apps here.
TIME TRACKING TOOLS
There is definitely no shortage of time tracking tools out there. Some of them will simply track your time. Others even block any time wasters you use, like social media pages. And then there are some that you can use even for professional needs, like tracking client work. Some examples of time-tracking tools are:
For a more detailed analysis, check out this post by Zapier on the best time-tracking tools of 2018.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS
If you are only managing yourself, you might start planning your projects with your digital calendar. But as your projects become more and more complex, you might want to look into a project management tool to keep track of all your tasks. These are some examples of tools that can do that for you:
WHICH TIME MANAGEMENT SKILL ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I hope this input was helpful to you.
Now I would like to hear from you!
Which time management skill of yours could use some work?
Have you tried any of the techniques above?
Let me know in the comments and remember to share this article!
If you need further advice on how to manage your skills or how to take the next step or need a helping hand to show you how to achieve your end goals, do reach out to me for ways on improving your Financial and Time Management skills.
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Hope to see you soon!