Working Smart

Time Management Tips


Time management used to be a foreign term to me. I always felt there weren’t enough hours in the day for my never-ending to-do list. Between working a full-time job, being an entrepreneur, making time for my family and friends, and making time for myself, I felt overwhelmed that time was escaping me. I needed to learn how to use my time effectively without feeling like I was overworked. My Nana used to tell me, “Work hard, but not too hard.” It wasn’t until I better organized my time that I understood what she meant.


As a multifaceted individual with a consistently full calendar, I’m finally at a point where I allow my schedule to work for me instead of against me. I had to shift my focus on how I went about each day and understand that being busy is not the same as being effective. The time management skills I have improved over the years taught me how to organize my life and save time on specific tasks. Here are a few things I’ve incorporated to help me work smarter and not harder:


Get Your Rest

The amount of sleep one needs to be well-rested varies from person to person. I need at least 6-7 hours f a good night’s rest in order for me to give my best working performance. Running on 4-5 hours of sleep because I stayed up late working on a project and chugging caffeine throughout the day proved insufficient. I can make it through the day, but my attitude is highly affected. You have to know what works for your body to perform at its best. When you’re restless, it makes it difficult to focus, causes you to be irritable, and ultimately can affect your work performance.


Eliminate Your Distractions

Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Set your status as busy. Give people a heads up that you won’t be available for a certain amount of time. Don’t try to multi-task or work while watching TV. I used to be known for working and getting easily distracted from my phone ringing to my thoughts wandering to something else. At times, the tasks we have at hand are not the most exciting, but we still have a deadline to meet. Eliminating distractions, whatever that may mean for you, will help you to focus on the one task you have in front of you. If you have a habit of picking up your phone and checking social media, try placing your phone across the room to avoid picking it up. If you’re like me and your thoughts tend to disrupt your workflow keep a list by your side. As thoughts arise, scribble them down and return to the task at hand. Once you finish, go back to your list and remember what was on your mind.


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Set a Time Limit:

Support yourself by asking, “How long will it take me to complete this task?” Finishing the task doesn’t have to mean it’s complete 100% when the time is up. It could mean stopping at a certain point for that day. Depending on how big the task is, you may need 15 minutes or an hour. When I wasn’t sure how long a job would take me, I set a timer to show myself how long it took me to finish. This action helped me improve my work performance because I knew how to plan for similar tasks in the future. Besides work, I like to set a time limit to incorporate self-care into my day. My self-care includes 10 minutes of meditating, reading for 30 minutes, and reflecting on my day for 5 minutes. Depending on the flow of the day, I may only have time for one self-care activity, but I consistently implement at least one.


Plan Ahead

Try breaking down your tasks into smaller pieces. The more time you plan to ensure you meet your deadline, the better. If I have a week to complete something, I break down what I can achieve each day and always include finishing the task at least a day early. So if I have 7 days to finish, I try my best to complete the job in 6 days because I like to be done ahead of time when possible. No matter how you decide to break down what you need to do, avoid waiting until the last minute. Granted, many of you may work well under pressure and proudly procrastinate, but if we’re striving to work smarter, giving ourselves as much time as possible to finish would work in our favor.


Prioritize

If you’re like me, you may have a to-do list to remind yourself what you need to complete each day. There’s nothing like looking at that list and seeing what I could check off for the day. Accomplishment at its finest! However, there are many days where some things on my list will have to wait. When that happens, I have to prioritize based on what’s most important. Which deadline is coming up sooner? Is there a meeting that can be pushed to another day? Do I really need to clean out my email today? Honestly, prioritizing tasks may be the most difficult for me at times because everything feels like it’s essential. When that happens, I take a step back, breathe and organize my list. The project I was trying to finish in 6 days can definitely be completed on the due date.


Stay Organized

“Organized” should truly be my middle name. From my calendars and daily planner to reminder alarms and color-coded filing, I have to have a system for how I work, or I just may fall apart. I have a work calendar, my entrepreneur calendar, and my personal calendar, all in different colors. You don’t have to be as meticulous as me, but I encourage you to at least have a to-do list and a calendar to organize your schedule. Whether it’s time blocked for a meeting or knowing when you have your next doctor’s appointment, having it in front of you helps eliminate forgetting. In addition to having an organized calendar, using an alarm to remind you 30 minutes to an hour before your next task will help you stay on time. Then maybe an additional 10 minute reminder just in case you caught up on what you were doing when it went off the first time, lol.



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Take Breaks!

I believe this one may be the most important out of everything I have mentioned so far. I spend a lot of time in front of the computer, and if I don’t pull my eyes away several times in the day, it will drain me. Not only that, but I need to make sure I get up to walk around or stretch for at least one minute throughout the day to relieve myself from sitting in one position for so long. Furthermore, I created a morning dedicated to helping myself mentally prepare for the day before looking at social media or a calendar. I also have an evening routine helping me unwind and prepare for a good night’s rest. Find ways to incorporate mental breaks into your day, even if it’s just to step away and get a breath of fresh air outside. Remember, being busy does not equate to being effective. Be mindful of your mental health. Don’t feel bad and for stepping away from a moment.


It took me a while to fully grasp what time management means to me, so if trying any of these tips is new for you, give yourself time to adjust. Be proud that you’re taking the steps you need to take control of your time. Juggling work, friends, family, and self-care should not feel like a chore. Start by making small changes and see how it develops over time. Now you’re working smart.