English: Gentaur schedule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
February is Time Management Month. This is the month to put all those New Year’s resolutions that you made in January start to fall apart. Don’t let it happen! Instead plan wisely and soon you will see how easy it is to stick to your goals.
According to a survey done by Greenfield Online, “If given an extra two hours each day, US repondents would spent that time at home with family.”
What would you do with two extra hours per day? Good management of your time can help free up extra hours. Here are ten tips to help you best manage your time.
1) Always Look Ahead
It is human nature to want to live in the past: to savour accomplishments or to wallow in defeats. However, you will not effectively move forward if you are constantly looking backwards.
There is a law of diminishing returns at work here. Take encouragement or learn a lesson from your past experience and use it to move on to new challenges and opportunities.
2) Consolidate Similar Tasks
Much time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save timeby grouping similar tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time. Organize your errands into a single run. Reply to e-mail once during the day. This is a more efficient use of your time.
3) Count on Interruptions
No matter how well you organize your schedule, there will be times when interruptions get in the way. Here are a couple of things you can do to minimize the effect of interruptions:
- Buffer your schedule. If you know a project will take 2 hours, add another 30 minutes to buffer for time lost to interruptions.
- Identify periods of interruptions. If get more interruptions Monday mornings than Wednesday afternoons, plan high-concentration activities for Wednesday afternoon.
4) De-clutter you schedule
If you find you are racing from one place to another, with little time to breathe, your schedule is too full. It’s time to prune.
If you’re involved in too many activities, eliminate those that are not important. Organize and schedule your errands. Consolidate them into a single run. This will free up time in your day.
5) Plan your phone calls
Time spent on a phone call can easily get out of hand if you don’t have a plan in place. Make notes of what you want to say before you make your call. List all the information you need to obtain. It will keep you on track in your conversation and eliminate follow-up calls for missed information.
6) Set routine and stick to it
Crises will arise and interruptions will occur, but it will be a lot easier to get things back on track if you have a routine in place.
7) Set Time Limits on Tasks
There are certain types of tasks, reading e-mail for example, that can occupy all your time if you allow it. Most tasks fall victim to Parkinson’s Law, expanding to fit available time. Get into the habit of scheduling fixed time slots for your tasks. Once you reach the end of the time limit, stop what you’re doing and head to the next task or appointment.
Once you’ve spent some time with this system, you can refine the way it works. You will know which tasks will fit in the half-hour before meeting starts and which tasks are better suited to a full afternoon.
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have the time to do that,” I’m too busy right now,” or “I’m too tired to get that done,” you may need to simplify your life. Don’t let the stresses of life control you. You need to take control of your life.
9) Take a break
It may seem counter-intuitive to getting things done, but it is important to feel energetic. If you’re not eating properly, or your muscles are tight from too much time in one position, or your stress level is rising, your productivity will decrease. Take a break.
Take a few minutes for lunch—away from your desk. Take a 10 minute nap or a short walk to relieve stress. When you return to your work, you’ll have energy to tackle the job.
10) Write things down
Unless you have very little to do or the tasks you have are highly repetitive, you cannot depend on your brain to recall everything that needs doing. The things that are most immediate are going to push away things in the background —often the most important. By writing things down you free up you brain to analyse the information and make productive decisions.
I’ve been using an iPhone for some time now and it’s become an indispensable part of my productivity toolbox. Here are ten free productivity apps for the iPhone.
- Evernote – Number one on the, without any question is Evernote. EN on the iPhone lets you capture any moment or idea as it happens, wherever you may find yourself. Evernote takes notes in whatever format is best for you — text, photos, audio — and syncs automatically with your Mac, PC and Web. No matter where you are your notes are accessible. If you pay for the premium service ($45 per year) you can sync your files too.
- Dragon Dictation — With Dragon Dictation 2.0, you can dictate status updates directly to your Social Networking applications (Facebook and Twitter), send text or email your friends, send notes and reminders to yourself … all using your voice. The new Dragon Dictation 2.0 also features multilingual capabilities, giving you the option to switch between a variety of languages.
- iQue – iQue is the Forgetful Person’s FREE “Instant Recall Machine,” and it’s for forgetful people. Passwords, account numbers, personal info you wouldn’t want in a unprotected note? iQue uses associative memory, mimicking the way a normal brain remembers to help your brain work properly. It’s a way of tagging things you NEED to remember, so you can be more productive —even when you can’t remember what you were going to do next.
- YouNote – Another simple note-taking application. You can take the note in a number of formats (Drawing, Audio, Text, Photo,…) You can add criteria (tags, a color, the geolocation,…) which simplifies the filing and finding of the notes. There is also a paid version of YouNote which adds a number of useful features.
- VoiceNotes -is a voice recording application for iPhone that allows you to make short recordings and play them back later. VoiceNotes is perfect for making quick reminders of things that are inconvenient to write down in text.
- BugMe! Lite – Make quick handwritten ink notes and reminders on the fly… set quick alarms, save notes to your Home Screen and share your “sticky” notes by email or Twitter…
- Money & Bills – is the iPhone client for Pageonce. Pageonce merges information from various sources into one page. It lets you access personal information—for example, the status of your utility bills, recent online purchases, and credit-card transactions. PageOnce uses bank-level security to keep accounts from being hacked.
- LockBox – lets you store and protect sensitive data such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, passwords, private notes, etc. The data is encrypted and protected by a secret code.
- Dragon Dictation – Dragon Dictation for the iPhone is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to quickly speak and instantly see your text or email messages. When you are on-the-go, turn talk into type —from short text messages to longer email messages, and anything in between.
- Instapaper – Instapaper lets you create offline versions of your favorite Web articles you can read when you’re not connect to a signal of some type. To save a list of pages to read, you need to visit Instapaper.com beforehand using mobile Safari, choose your content, and then launch the Instapaper app to read it offline.
Time management is fundamentally about focus. The Pareto Principle states, 80% of effort not managed or focused generates 20% of the desired output. On the other hand, 80% of desired output can be generated by 20% of effective effort. You see how much is lost or gained with well-managed time.
Time management involves scheduling appointments, goal settings, planning, to do lists and prioritizing; core skills that need to be understood to develop efficient personal productivity. These basic skills should be personalized to fit your work style. However, there is more to time management than these basics: decision making, emotional intelligence and critical thinking are also important to personal development.
Time management involves everything you do. No matter how big or small, everything counts. It’s not just to get your tasks completed on schedule. Time management should lead to a balanced life.
Time management is about getting results, not about being busy.
Time management should improve six aspects of life: physical, intellectual, social, career, emotional and spiritual.
- The physical aspect involves having a healthy body, less stress and fatigue.
- The intellectual aspect involves learning and other mental growth activities.
- The social aspect involves developing personal or intimate relations and being an active contributor to society.
- The career aspect involves school and work.
- The emotional aspect involves appropriate feelings and desires and manifesting them.
- The spiritual aspect involves a personal quest for meaning.
Having a to do list for each of these key areas is not practical, but knowing which areas of your life are not getting enough attention is part of time management. Each aspect is part the whole. If you ignore one then you are ignoring an important part of yourself.
Personal time management is not a daunting task. It is a reasonable approach in solving problems. These steps should be a regular part of your life:
- Set goals and review them regularly. Write them down and keep the list where you can check it easily
- Determine what tasks are necessary by asking yourself if they are helping you achieve your goals or maintain your balanced lifestyle.
- Use your peak time to best advantage. Know your natural energy cycle. Complete difficult tasks you have the most energy.
- Learn to say ‘No’.
- Reward yourself for completions.
- Get cooperation from people who benefit from your time management efforts.
- Don’t procrastinate. Attend to necessary things immediately.
- Have a positive attitude and set yourself up for success.
- Set realistic goals and break them down into manageable steps
- Track your activities. This will help you get things in their proper perspective.
Once you integrate time management practices into your life, you increase options that provide a spectrum of solutions to personal growth. It creates more doors that opportunity can knock on.
Is your email killing your productivity? Then it’s time for some basic e-mail management. With a few simple steps, you can maintain control over your in-box:
- Use the software: Set up your e-mail client to manage as much of the incoming mail as possible. Create filters to route unnecessary messages past your in-box and into a folder. Make sure your spam settings and databases are active and up to date. The more you automate your e-mail, the less time you spend reading and deleting.
- Turn off your new mail notification: You don’t have to read every piece of e-mail the moment it arrives. Pop-ups, beeps and “you’ve got mail” notifications can be too distracting to ignore. Turn them off!
- Don’t read and respond to each incoming message: Dealing with each e-mail as it arrives can create constant interruption to your work-flow. Set aside time each day where you deal with your e-mail. Have a process —such as this one— for clearing your in-box.
- Manage e-mail during times of lower energy: Don’t deal with e-mail during your most creative or productive times of the day. Processing e-mail doesn’t require much energy. Don’t waste your creative periods on something as routine as e-mail.