We all need a little improvement in our time management once in a while. The work day gets busy, our to-do list piles up and we lose our focus. But don’t worry — you can get back on track with these seven planning and app tips.
Schedule email time
Nothing sucks up more time than dealing with emails. At some point, we’ve all fallen victim to treating our inbox like a 911 line. Instead, block off a maximum of two or three times per day to check emails. Add those times in your calendar — first thing in the morning, right after lunch and at the end of your day — and then resist the urge to open your inbox in between. You’ll find by condensing this email scanning time, you can focus on other tasks and actually cross things off your to-do list. For a more strategic system, try this simple alternative.
Clear your mind
If you have too many things going on upstairs, you won’t be able to concentrate. Get those things out of your mind by using an app like Any.do to make amazingly simple to-do lists that sync between all your devices. Or put pen to paper like a traditionalist and jot out a mindmap. It doesn’t have to be neat and tidy at first — just get everything written down, then organize your thoughts into easy-to-follow categories afterward.
Plan your lunch
This seems like life 101, but too many people forget to eat during their work day. Add a recurring time in your calendar along with an alert that reminds you to eat so you’ll have a better chance of fueling up and taking a good mental break every day. Never skip the nutrition and you’ll get so much more accomplished in the afternoon.
Doodle your meetings
Planning meetings can take forever, and Doodle fixes that. This scheduling tool is so fast and easy to use. Just set up an event or meeting by adding a location, possible times and sending the Doodle message to your attendees. Those attendees tick off the times that could work for them, then you verify the best time that works for everyone and send out an official invite.
Collaboration and helping out team members is respectable. But when there’s more on your plate than anyone could handle, you need to respect your own time and say “no” when new requests come your way. A compromise is to offer realistic timelines for when you can get to the task, but add a little grace period to afford yourself some breathing room. And if it’s your boss asking, get them to help you reprioritize your top three tasks. Ask them which one they’d like you to push so you can fit in the new request.
Our brains aren’t wired to do multiple things at once — so stick to one. To focus, cut down on the distractions that interfere with your productivity. Close down email browsers or tabs that aren’t being used. (Try these distraction-free Chrome extensions). Schedule your single tasks in a calendar with reasonable timeframes for completion, and don’t deviate from those appointments. And if your office has too much hustle and bustle to focus, take your laptop for a walk and find a quiet coffee shop with Wi-Fi that can offer a new zone for concentration.
Add contingency time
It’s better to schedule extra time in your calendar and never use it then to be left working late into the evening on an unplanned task. You know from experience that contingency time is always valuable, so make a habit of planning that out. If you have an unpredictable job or a hectic week ahead, block off at least an hour a day for the unexpected.
What are the best tactics you use to manage your time effectively? Tell us in the comments section below.
Image by Jean-Louis Zimmermann.