Would you like to know how to improve your time management quickly? Don’t worry; most people are in the same boat. When trying to improve your time management, it is important to remember that there is no one size fits all solution. Each person presents their own unique challenges and if they really want to overcome their most serious time management challenges, they are likely to need more focused help. While the 7 steps below will not solve all time management problems, they will enable you to make steady and consistent improvements to your time management. I am confident that if you implement these 7 steps consistently, along with a regular time management review, you could easily save 1 month of working time per year.
How to improve your time management quickly
The 7 steps discussed below outline a process which can be used repeatedly to consistently improve your time management, allowing you to focus on your most important tasks and improve the quality of your results.
1. Become aware
If you wish to address a problem, you need to raise your awareness of the problem. Having a general idea of how bad things are is useful but if you want to create real and lasting change, you need to understand exactly where your time is going.
To gain an accurate account of how you are spending your time, you need to log your time. This works best with 15 minute increments e.g. upon completion of each task, record on your time log exactly how that each 15 minutes was spent i.e. if a task took 1 hour to complete, it should fill 4 increments on your time sheet.
2. Analyse your data
Once you have gathered sufficient data, at least 2 days but preferably 1 week; you can start to analyse your data to see patterns. Total the amount of time spent on each type of activity e.g. email, meetings, social media, time wasting activities. Once you have your totals, use an excel formula to calculate the percentage of your working time spent on each activity. Now, for each category of task, ask yourself the following:
- ‘Am I happy with the amount of time that I am spending on this activity?’
- ‘What percentage of time would I like to be spending on each activity?’
3. Identify tasks which are not necessary
When I work individually with clients, I usually go through their time log, one task at a time, and ask them to justify each task i.e. they must explain to me why the task is necessary. You would be amazed at how often I uncover a task which is being performed for no other reason than it has always been done. These tasks should be the first ones on the chopping block. Another great way to identify these tasks is to ask the following question for each task:
- What would happen if this task was not completed?
We have been conditioned to think that everything must be done but when we examine each task individually we often find that failure to complete a task will have little or no consequence. I would argue that these tasks are generally not worth your time.
4. Identify the tasks which can be automated
With the advent of the internet, there are now many ways to automate tasks or at least bulk schedule them in advance. For example, with social media, you can use tools such as hootesuite or buffer to schedule in advance, or if you run a wordpress website, you can use a tool called Tweepi to automatically send your blog posts to Twitter e.g. I send a tweet every hour, every day of the week without ever having to type a tweet; this is a massive time saving. Other ways in which you can use automation to save time include:
- Email autoresponders
- Templates for commonly used documents
- IFTTT recipes.
By having repetitive tasks at least partly managed by automation, the amount of time you can save is phenomenal. When I worked in New Zealand, the company for whom I worked used to produce a brand new document for each proposal. It took a great deal of effort for each proposal. Eventually, they started using a template which already contained the design and at least 50% of the content (a lot of content was repeated). This meant that a new proposal could be produced promptly.
5. Identify the tasks which can be delegated or outsourced
As I work alone, I do not have any colleagues to delegate to. Self-employed people often see delegation as an impossibility, for this reason. However, for the self-employed, delegation goes by another name i.e. outsourcing. There are many great websites on the web for outsourcing tasks which you do not enjoy, are not good at, or simply do not have the time to complete.
The site which I use most frequently is Fiverr. On Fiverr, you will find somebody to do just about any task for $5. There are some stupid gigs (that’s what they call the tasks) but there are many extremely useful gigs too. The person who provides the gig can usually do a much better job than you, as this is their area of expertise. You just pay your $5, give them instructions, and you will receive an email to notify when you need to review the finished gig. I have used Fiverr for such tasks as:
- Logo design
- Book cover design
- Banner creation
Any web based self-employed person should familiarise themselves with this site. Other useful sites for outsourcing include:
6. Make gradual changes
Once you have eliminated, automated and delegated, you now need to focus on changing your working patterns. If you want to improve your time management, you need to take things slowly. Trying to make too many changes at once will result in disaster. Pick 2-3 small changes which will have a positive impact. Implement these changes and once they have been bedded in, make 2-3 more changes. The results will seem slower at first but over a period of time you will improve your time management exponentially, with lasting results.
7. Right task, right time
Once you have made your initial time management changes, it is time to examine your energy levels and how to make the best use of them. It is important to note that your energy levels do not remain consistent throughout the day. You will experience peaks and troughs. One of the quickest ways to improve your time management is to assign your most important tasks to periods of high energy and your least important and easiest tasks to periods of low energy. This simple practice of switching tasks around will improve your time management by allowing you to complete your most important task quicker and more accurately by giving them your maximum energy.
You can learn excellent strategies to make rapid improvements to your time management in Quick Fixes for Your Productivity.
It is one thing to know how to improve your time management but if you really want to improve your time management, you will need to commit yourself to never ending improvement. The 7 steps, outlined above, will help you to make significant improvements to your time management but unless they are implemented regularly and applied with enthusiasm, the rewards will be short-lasting and you will soon slip back into your old ways. An understanding of how to improve your time management is perhaps the most sought after information in the personal development, performance and stress management fields. The steps outlined above will not solve every problem but, if used properly, they will enable you to make giant strides forward. They will also enable you to identify areas which need more focused attention.
Image credit: Aleksandar Momirovic