Even the most diligent planners sometimes find themselves facing a deadline, and appointment or a meeting for which they are not prepared. People lead busy work lives these days, projects come and go very quickly and it’s imperative to stay on top of things for the best possible results. When people are not able to stay on top of things, they oftentimes feel as if the entire world has come to rest upon them and, when that happens, there are no good outcomes.
Prioritizing and, Sometimes, Bowing Out
The Mayo Clinic gives quite a bit of advice on time management. Time management, when done effectively and thoughtfully, can help to reduce stress significantly. What makes it work is avoiding a common trap, which is scheduling everything as if it were of the same importance. This is seldom productive and only serves to increase the amount of stress that people feel in the workplace.
In order to manage time, one must first realize the importance of time as resource. Squandering time is not effective and, if tasks are not prioritized in some logical fashion, squandering time is the inevitable outcome. It means, in the end, that important tasks are treated the same as unimportant tasks and, because of that, there is no real benefit to even trying to manage time.
See It Like Money
The popular adage “time is money” is particularly relevant here. If one thought of their time as money, it would be much easier for most people to effectively budget time relative to the importance of the task at hand. For instance, one wouldn’t spend $500 on tires for a bicycle that they rode occasionally, but spending that much on high-quality tires required for safe winter driving is certainly sensible. Time has to be managed in the same way with the same mindset that not all tasks are of equal importance.
Start by Evaluating
The aforementioned information mentions the importance of looking at how you’re spending your time now and deciding whether or not you could use it more intelligently. One way to do this is to use a time tracking tool but to use it in a somewhat retroactive fashion.
After you complete a task, go back and block off the time that you spent on that task. Keep doing this throughout the course of a day, a week or however long you need to create a meaningful set of data to work with. You’ll likely see that you’re spending too much of your time on projects that don’t really merit the time investment and can start cutting back from there.
As you start making this assessment, consider whether there are ways that you could reduce time and get the same amount of work done. This may mean eliminating any distractions and there is a good way you can use time management software to do that, as well.
Note Your Distractions
Did you spend 30 minutes on Facebook checking status updates? Make a note of it and block off the time. Did you spend 15 minutes talking to a coworker who always comes in after they grab a cup of coffee? Make a lot of it and block of the time. After a week, you should start to see some repeated sources of distraction that you’re dealing with and many be able to eliminate them from your day altogether. It may require some self-discipline, but stress is well known to be a killer and anything you can do to cut down on it is certainly of great benefit to your mental and physical health.
Don’t Drive Yourself Into the Ground
One of the mistakes that people make when they start trying new time management techniques is scheduling every single part of their day, down to the minutes. Remember that you’re a human being, not a machine. There will be those days when going steady from the moment you get to work to the moment you’re done is unavoidable, but try not to make a habit of it. This can increase stress and, even though you may feel that every day is being spent as productively as possible, you will wear out eventually and your productivity will decline.
Schedule breaks. Schedule them at regular intervals so that you maximize the time that you spend working and so that you can plan out when you need to stand up from your desk and get away for a while. This ensures that you can keep on going for the long haul and that you don’t burn yourself out. Burnout is a big problem in eh work place and, in many regards, it can be traced back to poor time management. Frustration, a lack of relief and too much focus on one task can make anyone feel like they just can’t take any more and make them want to quit altogether.
Learn When to Say When
There will be times when people want you to take your time to take care of tasks that are not essential to anyone. You have to learn to turn people down in these situations. If you do not, it will be impossible for you to manage your item effectively and, inevitably, you’ll get more stressed as you try to keep up with tasks that really don’t matter.
When something isn’t important, make a note of it and deprioritize it to a later date, a later time or just take away from the total amount of time that you spend on the task. For example, if there’s an employee appreciation event that you’re asked to help with, only commit as much as you realistically can. This ensures that you’re not taking time away from vital tasks and, of course, that means that you won’t be stressed at the last minute when you fall behind on something important.
If you can reduce your overall stress issues, you can perform better and more profitably. Time management is a big part of reducing stress via the intelligent allocation of a vital resource.