The modern world lives at high speeds. We get any information in just a few clicks, we switch between tasks, make calls, check emails, and so on. If you work, you need to be hyper-productive. How to manage time to achieve that?
If you want to succeed, you need to work hard, and most people think of hard-working as of staying busy all the time. Is it true? It may be so to an extent, but the thing is to be productive, and being productive isn’t just doing anything to stay busy.
Many of us don’t realize that they spend most of their time doing meaningless stuff. Such an approach is unlikely to lead you to success. The point is not to work harder, but to work smarter — that’s what it means to be productive.
To help you change your life for the better, I wrote this list of useful tips. Of course, it’s not a complete list of dos and don’ts, we all are different. However, I hope that these tips will push you in a right direction and give you some ideas about how to improve your own practices.
1. Find the Real Meaning of Your Goals
The first and most important tip about how to manage time is to understand one’s goals.
Before you start any personal or professional project, you must dig deep down and find the “WHY” behind it all. For example – why do you go to work? Some of the common answers are:
- To make the ends meet
- To win my financial freedom
- To become a rich person
What do these “reasons” symbolize?
To me, they look like the person is after money in order to satisfy his individual needs. However, some uncommon answers will be:
- To improve both my personal and professional skills
- To gather knowledge and skills and use them to create better work for the community
- To gather resources in order to start contributing (nonprofits, etc.)
When I talk about “real meaning”, I’m referring to aspects that make your heart race. For example, my purpose is to focus on improving the basic education of young students from my country. Before I was fighting for something I call “real”, nothing could prompt me to work responsibly and consistently towards my goals.
I found that real purpose is something you carry in your heart. It is your destination, while the strategies and work that you put up each day are the tools or the vehicles that get you there.
Therefore, time management can be simply solved if you find your true “why” behind everything you do. If you procrastinate, ask yourself why you’re doing that job in the first place. If it leads to a higher purpose, then it should be worth your time and attention!
2. Sleep 7 to 8 hours
How to manage time wisely if you are sleepy and tired? Not possible. Or at least much harder.
For most people, especially students, sacrificing their sleep is the first idea that looks like a solution. Indeed, why do we waste so much time just laying in bed with some stupid facial expression, doing completely nothing? The truth is, we need to sleep. If you’re one of the workaholics who sleep 4-5 hours a day, you know it better than anyone. When you don’t sleep enough, your body (and your brain as well) cannot work properly.
You just start thinking slowly, you don’t have enough energy, and your productivity hits the bottom. You certainly don’t want it, so make sure you sleep at least 7 hours a day. And, if you want more reasons to sleep well, I’ll tell you that British and Italian researchers recently analyzed more than 16 studies that covered 1.3 million people from different countries. It turned out that people who sleep six hours or less have 12% more chances to die young.
3. ‘Eat The Frog’ – do most important tasks first
It’s hard to overestimate this rule of time management. When you wake up in the morning, determine a couple of tasks that are crucial. Complete these tasks first, and you’ll be much closer to a successful and motivated to achieve
more things during the day.
After this, you can move on to other things that are not so important and don’t get stressed out about not having enough time. When you’ve done all the essential tasks, there’s nothing wrong with leaving other things for tomorrow.
Decide when you’re going to work on each particular assignment and try your best to stick to it.
As you will notice all my advice is about planning your activity. I think that everyone will be more productive and work more effectively if he or she eliminates the element of stress. Most often, I used to get stressed out when I couldn’t clearly understand what to do first, and how much time I have for each particular task.
My life became much simpler when I realized that I can spend a few minutes writing a list of tasks and deciding when exactly am I going to write some essay, research paper, or any other assignment. It’s much easier to just follow the list without worrying about time.
Learn to Plan.
If you plan, you save resources such as time, money, effort, and energy. One of the best tips on how to manage time by Brian Tracy sounds
“ten minutes in planning saves one hour of action”. It’s quite obvious – after all, our mind is the one true generator of everything.
If you spend time planning your next week, you’ll save so much time throughout that same week because you’ll always know where to go, what to do, and how to do it.
When I start planning, I have a 10-minutes brainstorming session, followed by a 15-minutes “organizing and structuring” session. At the end of the planning session, I simply go through everything I wrote and focus on them for a few minutes just for my subconscious to “get” my intention.
4. Start earlier
Let’s be honest, we all like to procrastinate
. After all, you always manage to complete your tasks eventually, so what is wrong with procrastination?
Well, I’m really good at being lazy, believe me. That’s why I hate working in a rush, realizing that I could already finish my work a few hours ago. The earlier you start working, the easier you get your things done, and the less stressful your day is. The only thing you need is to make a decision and start working.
Procrastination can be diminished if you understand this simple principle: every human being seeks to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. When you have to do something, it’s one of the two triggers that intervenes and says either “Let’s do this now” or “Let’s do this later”.
When you procrastinate, it means that you are unconsciously avoiding the incoming pain. For example, if you have an important academic assignment that needs to be delivered next week, you may procrastinate until the deadline day is very close.
Most students panic (I used to do that too) and seek help to do the work for them. However, before that happens, the procrastinator will feel great amounts of stress. In the end, he’ll have to sacrifice his money because he wasn’t able to leverage his time!
How to manage time well and avoid such stress in the future? Diminish procrastination by understanding the principle of pain and pleasure, and also by finishing your most important tasks as early as possible!
5. Work Smart (Not Hard)
Working hard is necessary if you want to succeed in any area of your life. However, hard work takes a lot of time unless that work is also smart.
Smart work is often impossible without effective planning. If you work two hours, make sure that your strategy helps you achieve the results you’d normally get in five hours.
Smart work is about figuring out the simplest, quickest, and most effective solutions to your problems and needs. If you work smart, you’ll be saving a lot of time and energy along the way and you’ll eventually learn to delegate, outsource, and make others do the work for you!
If you need to complete many tasks within a limited time frame, you need to work smarter. This principle really helps, and I know what I’m talking about. Just like many others, I used to work like a robot, without planning my day properly.
Eventually, I realized that my productivity didn’t increase as I tried to complete more tasks every day. Instead, I just felt squeezed and tired. My productivity suffered from such an approach, and I decided to completely change it.
The secret of success is managing your time. You need to work faster, you need to simplify your tasks, and to relieve stress. It turns out that everyone is able to clear away enough space in their life to work, meet with friends, and chill. You may think that 24 hours are not enough, but Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Jefferson had the same number of hours in a day. All you need to do to is rearrange your activities and plan your tasks properly.
6. Fight Distractions and to Say “NO”
If you want to be a true professional, you’ll have to learn to say “NO”. That goes even if you don’t have high professional aspirations, as it will change everything.
Most people expect things from you. Every single close friend of yours has a different perception and different expectations. When some ask you for help, they will immediately expect your assistance no matter what.
Well, if you want to manage your time, as I said, you have to manage your priorities. When someone comes to you with a request that you truly don’t feel like doing because you have other priorities, simply say NO.
No apologizing, no justifications, just simply “NO, I cannot do that, I am sorry, I have other priorities right now”. Of course, some people will feel hurt, but that is absolutely necessary both for you and for them. The moment you establish your boundaries and standards and start respecting your time, people around you will eventually respect you even more next time.
Sometimes you have to say no. There are thousands of things that you can do. Life is full of opportunities, but sometimes you need to choose things that are really important. Set your priorities and say no to everything that doesn’t fit them. Choose only activities that you have time for and that you actually care about.
7. Balance yourself
To improve your time management, you need to understand what “balance” is. The law of polarity, one of the laws that govern everything we do, suggests that there are two extreme poles in everything.
Yin and yang, plus and minus, black and white, day and night, hate and love, fear and courage, personal and professional…you get the point.
The entire idea of balance is to aim for the middle. The first step starts when you create balance between your personal and professional life.
Then, you can balance your feelings. When you feel angry, simply acknowledge the opposite pole (calmness/peacefulness) and shift your perception towards it.
Try to avoid living extremes, and your entire life will work smoothly. Crises will arise, but they will always be temporary. The more you learn to balance your life the more you’ll live happily and satisfied with everything you do. When you’re fulfilled, the quality of your work increases and your results will slowly improve.
Exercise helps to keep your body and mind in balance. Even if you don’t like working out, your body needs it. You don’t need to become a professional athlete (in this case, you won’t have time for your work).
Just choose at least three days a week to exercise, and you’ll see how this habit changes your life. Your brain will concentrate better, you will feel more energy, and maybe, you’ll notice that your work faster.
Exercising is not really your thing? Check out our tips on how to become a person who works out
8. Focus on your task
Turn off your phone, close all unnecessary windows in your browser and get rid of all other distractions. If you really want to be productive, you need to focus on a current task and forget about everything else.
You may want to find a quiet place where nothing will distract you from work. However, some people like to listen to music when working. The thing is, you need to create comfortable conditions for yourself.
Everyone tells us to focus, but nobody teaches us how. Our parents, teachers, and whatever instructors we had in our lives have all suggested the fact that concentration is key.
is the art of concentration. When you meditate, you simply focus your entire attention towards something and you keep it there until you enter a state of trance.
It works exactly the same way when you work, when you talk to your spouse, or when you perform random tasks such as eating or watching a movie.
Here’s how you can manage time and learn to focus:
Every time you talk to your spouse, give him/her your full attention. Simply try to stay focused and understand the real message behind everything he/she says.
Every time you work, try to clear your mind and make some mental space. Then simply imagine the task in front of your face as the only thing that exists, and that you have to get it done. There is nothing else besides it, so you’d better embrace it and get involved in it.
Focusing is a skill that requires constant practice!
9. Turn your important tasks into habits
Studying is your main task. If your work involves a lot of writing, you need to make writing your daily habit. When writing is a part of your regular routine, you don’t think of how to manage your time to complete the necessary tasks, in fact, you don’t even notice how everything gets done. You just need to form a new habit, and this takes time. At first, you will need to stick to a strict schedule, writing a certain number of words every day.
10. Leave some free time
When you work non-stop, your productivity slightly falls. It’s hard to stay focused all the time, so you need to take a breath sometimes. After you complete a certain task, take a break and go for a walk. You may also try meditation or just switch to another kind of activity. Stretch your muscles, do your dishes, or do anything that will help your brain take a break from your main task.
Make use of your weekends. Perhaps, you’ve seen a meme where a man says “It’s Friday! F#ck this s%@t!” and throws his papers around. Then Monday comes, and he starts silently picking up his papers from the floor.
Such a scenario is familiar to every one of us, however, it may be not the best way to manage your time. You can spend a couple hours working on weekends, and your Mondays won’t be so overwhelming. Moreover, you’ll still have enough time to chill and have fun.
11. Group similar tasks together
Try to sort your tasks to make the whole working process easier. Let’s say you need to write two essays, three reviews, and prepare a presentation. It will be easier for you to do similar tasks consecutively instead of approaching them in a random order.
Different types of tasks require you to think differently, and it will be easier for your brain to continue to work in a certain way than to switch between completely different assignments. Don’t neglect the prompts and ready-made examples of your assignments from the network.
12. Jot down tasks you’re going to work on
Before you start working, take a blank sheet of paper and write down tasks that you’re going to complete today. For example, write “Literature assignment, questions 1 to 10,” and put this sheet in front of you. You’ll keep your eye on it and won’t forget what exactly you should do now. It’s easy to get distracted and forget about what your goals are. Such an approach will help you stay focused on things that really matter.
13. Work when you’re most productive
Most people are productive at morning and during a day. However, there are people who cannot work properly at morning, being most productive at night. No matter what schedule fits you best, I suggest sticking to it and working when your brain is most active. Make sure you work on the most important assignments during the most productive hours.
14. Be realistic about your abilities
Another important thing about planning is to be realistic. Don’t set goals that you cannot accomplish. The thing is, if you complete only three of seven tasks from your to-do list, you will only lose motivation. Keep in mind that some unforeseen distractions may steal some time from you, so don’t plan too many tasks for a day.
15. Review new information
If you want to be successful and productive, you need to have a good memory. There is a simple way to train your long-term memory. Once you’ve finished your work, spend some time reviewing new information that you learned during this day. Make your notes, if necessary.
16. Don’t let unimportant things to stop you
Sometimes we spend much more time than we need because we pay too much attention to unnecessary details. If you’re a perfectionist
, it may seem familiar to you. However, if you really want to be effective, you need to think of how to do more instead of examining what has been already done. You can polish your work forever, and there will always be something to improve. Just complete all the tasks, and then move on to revising what you’ve done.
Finally, the last piece of advice is about enjoying your work. It’s good to care about getting things done, but this goal shouldn’t make you exhausted and stressed out. When you enjoy what you do, any task turns out to be not a big deal.
Before thinking about how to manage time well, track your motivation. Motivate yourself and think of what this work can actually give you. Do you want to get a good education? Do you want to get a nice job? Do you want your research to be published in a journal? If so, remind yourself these things. Remember your goals and don’t forget that every task is just another step towards them.
Takeaways on How to Manage Time Well
Finding real reasons to pursue your goals is probably the most difficult part of all. It takes some courage to spend time with yourself, to disconnect from the opinions of others, and to allow silence to surround your mind. Then think how to manage time, YOUR TIME.
It is hard to judge yourself for your mistakes, and it’s hard to admit when you’ve gone terribly wrong. It’s hard to balance things, as well as focus effectively at all times. Procrastination is a killer of dreams, while distractions are the delayers.
If you focus on the aspects presented today, you will slowly gain momentum and everything will start running smoothly in your life.
The secret to success? Applied knowledge.