Ever notice that some people seem to be able to get everything finished on schedule, even as more tasks keep getting added to their plate? I used to look at those people with a mix of admiration and a bit of jealousy, until I became one myself.
I’ll let you in on a secret: we aren’t manufacturing more hours in the day, although sometimes I wish I could! Instead, I’ve made time management a diligent, daily practice. It’s a practice that’s served me well, not only helping me be more successful day-to-day, but also helping me focus on professional development.
Investing in professional development can help you become a better leader, be more successful in your current job, and propel you to new career heights. But these conferences, courses and degrees all take time. It’s one of the most common reasons people don’t achieve their professional development goals: they “don’t have the time.”
I believe that most of us do have the time, we just need to get better with managing it. Here’s where to start:
Be purposeful about your day. At the start of each day, I look at my schedule. During meetings and calls, I won’t get other tasks done. That means I need to be purposeful throughout the day. Inevitably, things will pop up that could potentially derail this momentum. By having a purpose and focus for different parts of the day, I’m able to better prioritize my workload.For example, I have tasks that are “A” and “B” priorities. The “A” tasks need to get done today. The “B” tasks are ones I can push until tomorrow or later in the week. However, if I do that, they become “A” tasks for the new day, so they don’t fall through the cracks.
It takes some time to adjust to these types of “urgent” asks. The more frequently you take a step back and assess everything from a big picture standpoint, the better you can understand what really needs to be done now, and what can wait a bit.
Create segments to reach goals. I like to attack my days and weeks by grouping them into segments. For example, if I have a goal of getting $10 sold in a day, I’ll break it up. First, $2, then $6. It’s easier to complete little tasks en route to the larger goal. I arrange my weeks like this, too. On Sunday night, I look at Monday and Tuesday, and plan out my days accordingly. On Wednesday, I adjust for the rest of the week. This strategy helps me account for any hot items that come up. I can build them into my schedule and still be effective with the rest of my time.On the weekends, I coach a youth travel hockey team—eighth place in Nationals last year! I’ve coached for eight years, including all six of my years with Lucas Group, and I’ve been able to keep it up because I’ve planned ahead. If I need to take a Friday off, I determine how to be more efficient on Monday and Tuesday—without working more hours—to get everything done.
Avoid multitasking. There’s no such thing as an effective multitasker. I’ve tried it—I’m a huge fan of podcasts and I’ve put episodes on while doing busy work, and I simply can’t accomplish both at once. I either tune out the podcast entirely or get lost in what I’m hearing and have to pause my work. The only time I’ll multitask is when the phone is ringing during a call—which lasts all of 15 seconds. I’ve got an email ready and pull up additional information I need, but that’s the extent of it. Once the other person answers, I give them my full focus.We’re more effective when we only pay attention to one thing at a time. Switching between tasks requires brainpower, and the mental blocks created when shifting between tasks can cost up to 40% of someone’s productive time. You’ll have better time management handling one task instead of bouncing between them.
Another way to avoid multitasking: silence and turn over your phone. I’ve started doing this over the past couple of months and I’ve seen remarkable improvement in my time management. That text thread or Instagram post will still be there when you’re done with work.
Never be late to meetings or calls. How many times have you heard someone say, “Sorry I’m late, I’ve been jumping from call to call all day?” Maybe you’ve even spoken those words yourself. It’s an all-too-common trap to fall into, but letting one meeting run into another can be a huge drain on productivity. I like to be upfront when I have a hard stop. When that time comes, even if the call is still going on, I wrap it up. We can always connect another day or share more over email, but being respectful of both my and other people’s time is important to me.I’m able to accomplish more during the day because I don’t let meetings slip into my working time. By setting that rule, I’ve learned to focus my energy in the appropriate places, resulting in more effective work.
Do you have a favorite tip for better managing your time? Drop it in the comments below.