Managing your time well is the smoothest path to reaching your professional and personal goals. The numbers of people who fail to achieve their long-term professional and personal goals are incalculable. A personal problem with planning and managing responsibilities is typically at least a large contributor to those outcomes.
By contrast, people who’ve succeeded know how to stay on track. They make plans and follow through. Leadership success fully depends on paying attention to the ways you’re spending the precious time you have, and ensuring you’re managing your time well. So, your leadership training should feature time management development.
What is Time Management?
Time management is any formal or informal system you use for controlling the amount of time you spend on the various professional and personal activities you choose to do. Successful time management enables people to get more done in shorter timeframes. As a result, they have more free time, their stress levels are reduced, focus is stronger, and they’re much more likely to achieve their goals. The best tip, overall, is to use one of the many good time management systems or create your own — just do have a time management system.
Consequences of Bad Time Management
Poor time management can be caused by an attention problem, procrastination, self-control problems, depression, boredom, or job dissatisfaction. Much analysis has been done over recent years, to identify ways to create more stimulating work environments and employment models, to increase efficiency productivity. It’s an important idea. After all, the consequences of poor time management are serious:
- Chaotic Workflows — Insufficient plans, or failure to stick to plans reduces productivity.
- Poor Quality — Time management problems lead to rushing, which leads to quality deficiencies.
- Time Waste — Becoming distracted or sidetracked from daily plans leads to costly wasted time.
- High Stress — Working with uncertainty about what to do and when causes anxiety and increases stress.
- Damaged Reputation — Employers and clients learn not to rely on you and go find a dependable person.
Benefits of Good Time Management
Many people think good time management is an intuitive skill that you either have or you don’t. There are sometimes deeper reasons for poor time management than just not knowing how to organise or follow a schedule or a plan. So, if you find yourself perpetually tardy and struggling to manage your time, look for the necessary leadership training to help you get on track. By developing your time management skills, you’ll have:
- More Time — Getting more done faster leaves more free personal time to enjoy.
- Increased Opportunities — Prioritising and managing time well is a highly prized skill in all organisations.
- Lower Stress — Seeing tasks being accomplished and checked off your To Do List helps relieve stress.
- Achieved Goals — Goals and objectives in shorter amounts of time and with better quality outcomes.
- Leadership Success — Success as a leader is only made possible through good time management.
Tips for Successful Time Management
There are lots of great tips for time management. Here’s one of the more comprehensive lists available. Just look for the tips you need, and note the rest to add to your general management training knowledge. Dive deeper on some of these tips, if necessary, by doing a few Google searches to gather more detailed advice on the points that apply to your needs.
1. Set Specific Goals.
To achieve your goals, you need to decide what they are. Then, you can more easily filter out all the distractions, quit spending time on low-value pursuits and time-wasters that eat up your time, and apply a more centred perspective to deciding what’s worth adding to your schedule.
2. Organise Your Schedule.
Use your calendar for recording appointments, tracking deadlines, blocking time for various work, and other scheduled tasks and external activities. Decide on the best dates to schedule various types of activities. Add a running To Do List, to carry forward from day to day, and eliminate those tasks in order of priority.
3. Plan Your Week in Advance.
Having a plan laid out at the start of the week allows you greater flexibility to manage your days. It gives you a generally set framework of priorities, making it easier to visualise and utilise your total bandwidth.
4. Plan Your Day in Advance.
At the start of your day, list everything you want to accomplish TODAY. Pull items from your calendar and your To Do List, to populate your TODAY list, or just highlight items on the running To Do List.
5. Give Up on the Multitasking Myth.
Harvard Business Review offers insights dispelling the virtues of multitasking as a management methodology. Don’t get swept up in the typical sense of over-confidence in an ability to do many tasks simultaneously and deliver quality.
6. Declutter Your Environment.
A tidy workspace can’t solve all problems, but it can make it easier to find your stuff. That’s a timesaver. It’s okay to do it gradually, a drawer here, a closet there. Or, just take the plunge and shape things up.
7. Give Up on Dreams of Perfection.
Know when the project is completed. Nudge toward perfection only to the extent that makes sense in terms of the amount of time you’re spending. At some point, the law of diminishing returns takes hold, which means you’re crossing the threshold of giving more than the total value you’re getting back.
8. Don’t Fixate on Small Details.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture of your mission. Don’t spin your wheels, mired in irrelevant details from any sources. Cut through the minutia and peripheral noise, and keep your eye on the prize.
9. Limit Time for Various Tasks.
Decide how much time you need to spend on various tasks. Setting some time limits can increase your efficiency, and it can help you plan for potential problems and plan a strategy for solving those.
10. Don’t Wait to Feel Inspired Before Acting.
Keep perspective. You don’t need to feel like doing every task you need to do, in order to do it. Recognise your uninspired attitude toward an undesirable task, and just reject its power to prevent you from moving forward. To borrow a phrase, “Just do it!”
11. Figure Out When You’re Best at Doing Your Hardest Tasks.
Current wisdom says do your most challenging tasks in the morning, when you’re most rested and ready for challenges of the day. This arrangement is likely to work best for you too. But, if you find you’re better off starting with getting lots of smaller tasks out of the way and fielding incoming issues, then ramp up for the big challenges through the morning and maybe do those right after lunch.
12. Eliminate Distractions.
Turn off devices, if necessary, limit email correspondence, if you find it’s cutting too much into your productivity. Eliminate other distractions. Think about what conditions seem to help you stay on track, and try to set those up to help you manage your daily routine. See Entrepreneur magazine’s great list of suggestions for eliminating distractions at work.
13. Give up Bad Habits.
Bad habits waste time. Being stuck on playing games, popping between social sites, too much bar time, all take time you could use to do what you really love, pursue your dreams. Turn off alerts for social posts during work hours, limit the drinking time, and focus on getting what you want.
14. Do Daily Health & Fitness Activities.
Exercising every day leads to a better balanced life. Cut out toxic activities, foods and drinks, and you’ll multiply your stamina and focus, which enables better management of everything, including your time.
15. Decide What You Want to Accomplish, Before Meeting.
Determine what you need to accomplish in a meeting before it starts. You’ll save yourself and everyone in attendance from wasting valuable time, by being able to zero in on your goals for the meeting.
16. Get a Good Mentor for Guidance.
Rely on someone who has done and seen it all. Having someone to ask for advice and perspective can make it easier to keep yourself on track, keep your priorities in order, and manage your time wisely.
17. Take Mini Breaks Between Some Tasks.
The human brain has the capacity to focus efficiently for around an hour and a half without compromised quality of concentration. So, break for a few minutes every 90 minutes or so, to maximise your total productivity over the course of the day.
18. Make Good Use of Wait Time.
We all get stuck on hold, waiting in lines at airports, sitting in waiting rooms, hovering to talk to a decision-maker, and so on. You may have wished you could have all that time back. You can! Use it to return phone calls, answer emails with your phone, stretch, do isometric exercises, meditate, read reports or articles on your phone, catch up on news, listen to podcasts, etc.
19. Organise Your Email Files.
Waste less time in email by archiving, creating action labels, applying filters to auto-assign labels to incoming emails based on keywords or sender names.
20. Expand Your Mind.
Spend some time doing things outside your comfort zone. This is an essential practice embraced by most great leaders. It stimulates creativity, builds confidence, and expands perspective, all conducive to more creative time management and life skills.
21. Get Good Sleep.
Get sufficient sleep. Correct issues in your sleep environment to create a space that is conducive to sleeping well. Working without sufficient amounts and quality of sleep naturally negatively impacts productivity and quality over time and leads to burn out.
22. Schedule Down Time.
Remove yourself from fast-paced engagement, and use quiet time to support your creative processes. Find a serene place to close your eyes and meditate, or just to sit and reflect and generate insights.
23. Know When to Say No.
Time is a limited commodity. Don’t spend any of it on activities that don’t make sense for your mission. Learn to say, “I’ll check my calendar and let you know.” That will give you time to decide what to fit in.
24. Don’t be Oppressed by Your Phone.
If you are in a position to let your phone ring and go to voicemail, then do so when necessary. Don’t feel compelled to take every call and answer every email instantly. Turn off ringers and email alerts, if necessary.
25. Enjoy Your Life.
Forget obsessing about what’s not getting done each day. Just, stick with it, work at a steady pace, and insist on balance between work and personal time. Remember the sage old advice, “It’s about the journey…”
26. Delegate and Outsource.
Train others as necessary, and assign tasks that don’t require your personal involvement to get done well. Lightening your workload by delegating frees you to focus on more appropriate uses of your time.
27. Remember the 80-20 Principle.
The famed Pareto Principle, a.k.a. the “80-20 Rule” asserts that 80 percent of the results of your efforts comes from just 20 percent of your actions. Applying this principle, at least in some ratio, if not necessarily 80/20, you can probably eliminate a number of tasks from your list and be as, or more productive.
28. Maintain Your Calendar Online.
Having your calendar online affords you the unmatched flexibility to access it from any networked device, update it, share it, etc. This lets you avoid the time-consuming inconvenience of having to postpone scheduling until you can access your calendar later, then more spend time to follow-up with people to pin down dates and times.
29. Do Some Telecommuting.
We all feel the crush of time being lost during long commutes in traffic. If possible, consider telecommuting once or twice a week, to gain back many hours per year to add to your productivity.
30. Consume Inspiring Materials.
When you need a lift, listen to an inspiring seminar recording on YouTube. It can help you get pumped up for the next round of demands on your time and focus, during a fatiguing series of challenges.
31. Handle Like Tasks Together.
Schedule a block of time to handle emails, phone calls, approving batchable documents, reviewing reports, and other tasks that are similar. Task types require special ways of thinking. Reduce the collective time and energy it takes for your brain to keep readjusting .
32. Think Quality Over Quantity.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. Determine what really needs to be done, and concentrate only on the things that need your personal attention. Then, you can better focus on creative solutions and quality.
33. Develop Self-Control.
Work on your willpower. Feeling your sense of greater power over your own will can significantly improve your time management, overall professional performance, health and wellbeing, stress level, quality of life, and happiness. For example, turn off your phone, if you can’t stop checking social pages.
34. Save Copies of Your To Do Lists.
At the end of the week, revisit your spent To Do Lists, to appreciate your accomplishments, and take a little self-motivation from all you did to advance your mission. Congratulate yourself. Celebrate a little.
35: Practice Until You Build Good Habits.
Start using the time management tips above that pertain to your own leadership development needs. Keep practicing these, until you habituate them. Form a routine, a time management system, that you like and can maintain.
A Word About Procrastination
Even the best leaders put things off sometimes, but chronic procrastination is a deeper problem that is likely to reflect self-control issues. Some procrastinators argue that they perform best when under pressure, but research indicates that that is typically false. Decisional procrastinators have difficulty making decisions. Perfectionists may delay facing the inevitable lack of perfection in their finished work. Thrill-seekers may squeeze themselves into a tight timeline, to experience an adrenaline rush. Classic avoiders may put off work, in fear of failure or fear of inability to sustain success that they might achieve.
Understanding why people procrastinate, have self-control issues, or motivation issues is the first step to improving your time management if you are struggling with leadership decision-making, or any of these issues leading to procrastination.
How to Develop Better Habits
Repetitive behavioural patterns cut their routes into the brain’s neural pathways. Fortunately, through repeating different behaviours, new habits can be formed. With commitment, even long-time habits can be replaced by better ones.
Improving time management skills is an ideal goal for undertaking with this rehabituation approach in mind. Decide on some simple but major changes you want to make in your way of managing your time, and commit to repeating your new time management behaviour until doing it the new way comes naturally to you. One-on-one leadership coaching may be your best available approach to habituating better time management habits.
Ultimately, time management comes down to being clear on what you really want to accomplish. Really wanting it is the natural generator of motivation. From there, it’s about weighing your priorities, to ensure that the way you spend your time is going to get you to your goal. That means eliminating non-priorities that are sucking time from your limited supply of it. Ask yourself which items on your To Do list can make a meaningful difference for you, which can’t be delegated, which can wait, and which should really be discarded.
Be careful about what you commit to, and prioritise honouring the commitments you do make. Keeping your promises protects your relationships and your reputation, both of which are indispensable for a successful career and a rewarding life that you can thoroughly enjoy.
Practice finding what’s positive in every negative circumstance. Train yourself to look past obstacles to find solutions. Above all, stay focused on your goals. Keep thinking about them and talking about them. Visualise yourself accomplishing what you’ve set out to achieve. These are the ways of a driven individual. They’re conducive to a mindset that cuts through irrelevancies and stays fixed on what’s important, and sees the way to get it done, and does it.