Have you felt completely exhausted at the end of a day, but when you look back on it, you never got anything done? Yeah, me too..
And then you promise yourself you’re going to get that same stuff done either tomorrow or next week, but it gets put off again, and again? But Keeping up that vicious cycle of never getting anything done takes a toll on you. It’s not good for you, it’s not healthy – nor is it productive. In fact, it just creates stress. And who needs that.
So, If you’ve ever heard the phrase “time is money,” then you have some idea of the concept of time management. But by effectively utilizing your time will keep you from getting burned out and you’ll just feel better.
So today, I want to show you how to start managing your time like a pro, both at home and at the office. I’ll give you the tools and techniques that will allow you to conquer each day, while getting more done, in less time.
And if you have a really cool boss, she’ll recognize your newly-found efficiency and then you’ll only have to work half-days or maybe she’ll just give you more work, but at least you’ll be able to handle it.
So, before you can start managing your time, you first need to know how you’re spending your time, which means you have to start tracking or auditing your time.
And this is the part nobody likes because it takes effort, and this is where most people quit and continue practicing the art of doing less, in more time, instead of getting more done in less time, but just like getting your financials in order, you need to know your where you’re at before you can improve it.
So, I’m going to show you how to review your daily schedule so you can see where your time is going. much of it is probably wasted on distractions and interruptions — and this is really the key to managing your time — so you feel like you got something done today. Which is really a great feeling.
To get started, there’s two ways to track your time, manually or with technology. But I would recommend grabbing an app like Clockify, Desktime, or RescueTime. And I have no affiliation to any of those so it doesn’t matter to me what you use.
But with these apps, you can track individual tasks like meetings, email, breaks, phone calls, interruptions, YouTube surfing, or whatever you want.
But like I said, the hard part is documenting your time, but I urge you to commit to doing it for at least a week, and then do it again for another week, and do it until it becomes habit.
And document everything, even if you spend half your day watching cat videos. Document it.
You might be surprised – and not in a good way – about how much time you’re losing every day to distractions and interruptions.
The other way to track your time is manually, like with Excel. And here’s what a simple time management spreadsheet looks like. In fact, you can even download this one if you want and change it around to match your schedule. I’ll put a link to it in the description below.
But right now, your daily schedule probably looks like this:
7 AM – Wake up
Work from 9 to 5.
Go home, feed the cat, eat, sleep and repeat.
And if that describes you, you’re not alone, but with a little bit of effort and commitment, you can create a daily schedule that allows you to make the most of your day so you end it on a positive note with a feeling of accomplishment instead of frustration.
So after you track your time for a week or two, you should start to see patterns of where you’re spending your time on productive things vs unproductive ones.
And it’s completely okay to have unproductive tasks. You’re not a machine, so you’re not going to operate all day long at 100% efficiency. Doing stuff like email, answering calls, or general house cleaning tasks are part of the day, but you don’t want to make them the main thing, or put off the main thing so you can clean out your desk or watch another cat video.
Steven Covey is known for saying, The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
In a nutshell, that’s all you really need to know to progress through life and get things done.
But On any given day, you should only have 3 main things that need to get done, and you’ll 3 or 4 little things. Any more than that, and you’ll succumb to overwhelm and get nothing done.
But here’s the key to getting it all done in one day – work on your biggest tasks first and commit to getting those done before you work on anything else. Don’t do the easy stuff in the morning and save the bigger stuff for the afternoon – that doesn’t work, and since you’re here watching this video, right now, I’m guessing that you might have already been down that path, so you know it doesn’t work.
But what you want to do is assign your tasks to time slots and this allows you to stay focused and is key to eliminating those sneaky social media distractions.
The next thing you want to create is a block schedule so you’re simultaneously batching similar tasks together. So instead of checking your email and calendar 30 times a day, you group it all together and maybe you only check your email once every two hours – but that might vary depending on the type of work you do.
For me, I close my email when I’m working on things, or if it’s open, notifications are always off. So you’ll never hear my Outlook email ding with a new message, nor my phone. I check email when I want to.
But overall, batching your tasks to a specific time or day of the week will practically add hours back into your day but just make sure your timeline is realistic. If you think it will take 45 minutes to finish something, give yourself an hour to have some buffer. But don’t go crazy, or you’ll fall prey to Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands to fill the time allotted to complete it.”
In other words, if you give yourself an hour to complete a 10-minute job, you’ll likely spend the entire hour doing it.
And if you have a long-term project, like many people do, you want to Commit a certain amount of time each day to specific tasks and review your work at the end of each week to make sure you’re on track and your timeline is reasonable.
And the last thing you need to do is prioritize everything. And all your tasks should fall into one of four categories:
Immediate action: which is important stuff you’ll usually commit to doing first thing in the morning.
Then you have Delayed action: which is stuff that doesn’t have a deadline with no sense of urgency, this is stuff you work on after you complete the stuff from immediate action.
And my personal favorite action is Delegation: Better to hand it off to someone else, but everyone’s not all in a position to do that, but if you can, delegate.
And the last action is deletion. And if you’re like me, you probably have many tasks that just don’t need to be done at all, but they’re taking up space inside your head and making it feel as though you don’t have any time — so take those off your list and just doing that alone — you’ll feel a huge amount of relief.
And that’s really all there is to time management. Just find out where you’re spending your time, start batching tasks, cutting out distractions, work on the biggest and most important stuff first, delay everything else, delegate it, or delete.
But you have to do a time audit first, or none of this other stuff will help you one bit.
Now you might be saying, Don, getting organized is way too much work. There’s no way I can do it. I just don’t have the time to get organized. If that describes you, I’ll share this with you. If the task fairy came along and wiped out everything on your list so you had a clean slate with nothing to do – within two weeks, without a doubt, you’d fill up your schedule again to where it’s unmanageable.
You have a certain number of un-resolved tasks that you’re comfortable with – we all do, but for most people that number is too high and it stresses us out. I used to keep a hundred un-read emails in my inbox and it drove me crazy and I didn’t start responding to them until it was over a hundred. I’ve now reduced that number to less than thirty with an aim for 10 and now email is not nearly as stressful as it used to be.
But that’s just one thing I did to manage my time. But don’t try to fix everything at once or you’ll fail. You don’t eat a whale in one bite, you do it one bite at a time.
So, I’ll leave you with one last strategy to getting things done – At the end of each day, write down three things, no more, no less, that you’ll commit to work on at the beginning of the next day and really commit to getting those things done before you do anything else.
If you just do that and nothing else, I guarantee you’ll start to see some results in your day and your stress levels will drop. You’ll feel better about your work and even a sense of fulfillment. ahhh
And if you’re interviewing for jobs, and they ask how you manage your time, you’ll be able to give them an impressive answer.
You can download my handy-dandy time tracking spreadsheet for yourself, just change it around a bit.