Advise on how to change a bad habit
Poor time management is a bad habit and yes you can learn to organize and control your time better, work more efficiently and thus become more effective. In the end it all boils down to good self-management. The starting point is knowing yourself, your pitfalls and priorities. Subsequently you should focus on the basics of good time management: getting organized, making realistic plans and executing them efficiently. Remember, no matter how brilliant your ideas, or however hard you work, it’s vital to learn how to use time effectively to increase your chances of success.
Check out these time management tips, select the best for you and implement them in your daily practice
- Start with working out what you want to achieve in your personal life, career and work/life balance. This is the guiding principle for how you spend and manage your time.
- With the big picture in mind work out medium-term and short-term goals. Knowing your goals will help you plan better and focus on the things that will help you succeed.
- Cut big goals or tasks into small chunks. Order the chunks by importance.
- Set priorities and be ruthless in doing so. Make sure that what you think is important is really important. Check this with your key stakeholder(s).
- Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important (use for example the Eisenhower matrix).
- Make a to-do list (electronic or paper). Put the most important item first and work down from there.
- Take your to-do list with you at all times. If you always carry your phone keep it on your phone and use down time (e.g., waiting for meetings to begin) to update your to do list.
- Plan your to do’s in your time schedule and allocate enough time to get them done. It will give you a realistic perspective on how busy you really are and help you do what needs to be done.
- Concentrate on doing the “not urgent but important” activities. That way you lower the chances of activities ever becoming “urgent and important”.
- Do the hardest, least fun thing first. Just get it over with!
- If a task takes less than five minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer, put it on the list.
- Schedule uninterrupted time each day when you can concentrate on important tasks.
- Before you check your email, voicemail or get involved in daily hassles, devote a solid hour to your most important project.
- Tasks tend to take longer than you usually think or hope. Block time to give yourself a buffer.
- Set specific time limits for routine tasks. Work tends to fill whatever amount of time you happen to have.
- Eliminate the time wasters (e.g., personal phone calls, checking twitter, Facebook, Instagram).
- Value your time. People who wander into your workspace to chat do not respect you or your schedule. Set boundaries.
- Say no more often. Trying to please everyone by doing what they ask is a recipe for failure.
- Deal with emails at set times each day.
- If possible handle emails once. Read them and deal with them. If an email requires longer action set it aside, put it on your to do list and plan when to deal with it in your time schedule.
- Alternate the tedious tasks with interesting ones, to stop yourself losing concentration.
- Organize and declutter your workspace. A chaotic desk can give the sense of being out of control.
- Do the most difficult tasks when your concentration is at its best.
- Reward yourself for completing tasks on time.
- Create the business environment that works for you. Adjust the lighting, turn off your email notification, close the door. Set the stage and get to work.
- Take regular breaks and at least a 30 minutes lunch break away from your desk. It will help you to be more effective.
- Concentrate not on how busy you are, but on results.
- At the end of your day, review what you’ve done and make a new to do list for the next day in order of importance.
A final remark on time management
Changing a bad habit isn’t always as easy as it seems. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t master it right away. Often the habit stems from a behavioral pattern or way of thinking that was beneficial to you for a long period of time (e.g. pleasing others, avoiding conflict). It requires time to reflect, identifying and addressing the root cause, exploring alternatives and finally a conscious decision to change.