Time management is all about working smarter instead of working harder or longer. It’s about creating a better work-life balance. Some companies, and even entire countries, have taken this very seriously and are beginning to introduce four-day workweeks. Iceland, for example, tested a four-day workweek between 2015 and 2019, calling the trial an “overwhelming success.” Importantly, productivity levels at the companies involved in the test stayed the same or improved, showing that productivity is not about how much time you spend working but how you spend that time. Today, 86 percent of Iceland’s workforce is either already working fewer hours (without taking a pay cut) or will be entitled to do so.
Top 10 Time Management Tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder
If, like those lucky Icelanders, you manage your time well, you can enjoy several benefits, such as:
· Eliminate (or reduce) the tendency to procrastinate.
· Feel in control and lower your stress levels. (The Icelandic workers who participated in the trials reported feeling less stressed and at a lower risk of burnout.)
· Meet deadlines.
· Strengthen your reputation as someone who gets the job done on time and to a high standard.
· Have more time for non-work passions.
The bottom line is that time management helps you make the most of your work life and, well, your life. Here are my top ten anti-procrastination and time management tips to improve your workday, which I cover in more detail in my new book ‘Future Skills: The 20 Skills And Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed In A Digital World’:
1. Do the important jobs first. People often like to have the most unpleasant task taken off their list first, only to get it done. Others like to do quick and easy tasks first, just to feel like they’re accomplishing things. But it is much better to prioritize in order of importance, regardless of whether it is difficult or not.
2. Prioritize your time ruthlessly. I like to use the ABC Method to plan my day and prioritize tasks in order of importance. An “A” task is my most important and required item of the day (or, if there are more than one A tasks, I label them A1, A2, etc.). “B” tasks are child tasks that are less important than A tasks: it never jumps to a B task while there are still A tasks on the list. And C tasks are those that are nice to do, but not a big deal if they don’t get done that day. I start every morning with this method (or you could do it at the end of each day, ready for the next day).
3. Set a time limit for each task. Once I’ve made my to-do list for the day, I set time limits for each task on the list. This ensures that I don’t let tasks spill over to fill more time than they really need, and it makes my day manageable because I know what I can realistically accomplish.
4. Find your productive hours. Productive people don’t take up every hour of their day: they know when they work best and make sure they get the important things done during those hours. Follow their lead and block off your most productive hours (whether it’s in the morning, the quiet of the night, or whatever) for the most important tasks. Avoid filling that precious time with less important meetings or work, which are better suited to other times of the day.
5. Don’t multitask. Multitasking is the enemy of productivity because you can end up doing nothing right. Give your full attention to one task at a time and finish it before moving on to the next item.
6. Eliminate distractions. I love working from home, but I recognize that some people find it distracting. It certainly helps to turn off notifications on your phone or turn on your phone’s “do not disturb mode” when you need to and set limits for anyone sharing your space. (For example, by saying, “For the next hour, I really need to put my head down and focus” or “When my office door is closed, that means don’t disturb.”) The same advice also applies when you’re in a closed environment. of office.
7. Learn to say no. Saying no politely but firmly is an art form, and if you can master it, you’ll feel much more in control of your time. Very often, it’s not even about saying no, but about setting expectations about when you can do something, for example, saying something like “I can’t do this until next week.”
8. Weigh the consequences of doing something versus not doing it. If you’re really procrastinating, ask yourself, “What will happen if I don’t get this done?” If the answer is “Uh, not much,” then it’s probably not that important. But if you do know, there can be serious consequences if you put it off, that could give you the extra motivational boost you need.
9. Understand that sometimes, just sometimes, procrastination can be a good thing. The need to procrastinate could be telling you something (for example, that you are tired and need a break). And sometimes the mind just needs a little time to wander, imagine and be creative, and that’s a good thing too.
10. Finally, if you don’t want to accomplish many of the tasks associated with your to-do list, it might be time to change jobs! Seriously, ask yourself if this is really the right job for you because it’s not “normal” for you to dislike your job or feel constantly unmotivated.
Read more about time management and other essential skills in my new book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills & Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed In A Digital World. Written for anyone who wants to ride the wave of digital transformation, rather than be drowned in it, the book explores why these vital future skills are important and how to develop them. To stay on top of the latest business and technology trends, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.