For many of us, the days never seem to be long enough to get everything checked off our to-do list. The demands of life multiply and it can be impossible to stay ahead of them.
If that sounds familiar, the solution might be a surprisingly simple one. Using a few basic time management tricks can help you de-clutter your schedule and have more time to do the things you want to do.
Batch Related or Repetitive Tasks
One of the easiest ways to declutter your schedule is to look for things that you can batch together to save time. For example, if you normally go to the grocery store on Friday, and then drop off clothes at the dry cleaner on Saturday, why not combine those errands? It’s especially worthwhile if the two destinations are near one another, because you’ll save time and gas.
The same goes for repetitive things such as paying bills. Instead of doing it every day, do it all at once on one day. You’ll build up a head of steam that will allow you to take less time doing it.
At home and at work, many of us are easily distracted by things like email, social media, and so on. It’s easy to lose track of time. One way to improve your focus and get through tasks quickly is to set a timer and close all tabs on your computer except what you need to work. For the half-hour (or however long) before your timer goes off, you must work without checking email or Facebook. When you’re done, you can take a break. You can use a simple online timer like this one to help you focus.
Set Time Limits for Tasks by Boxing Them
There’s an old saying that tells us that a task will take as long as we want it to take. For example, if you know that you have a 5:00 deadline, the chances are good that it’s going to take you until 5:00 to finish the task that’s due, even if in theory it’s possible for you to finish it in just a few hours. Try figuring out how long a particular item will take and then giving yourself ONLY that long to finish it. Using this technique can help you free up hours of time.
Make the Most of Your Intellectual Capacity
When does your brain feel the most fresh and active? If you’re like most people, the time when you have the biggest intellectual capacity is right after you wake up. Try scheduling the tasks that require the most mental effort for the morning. They’ll take longer to do if you wait until later in the day, but when you attack them with a fresh brain you can power through them easily.
Learn to Delegate and Say No
Many people with overloaded schedules have difficulty acknowledging that they need help. Likewise, they are reluctant to say “No” when asked to do something. Perhaps the best way to de-clutter your schedule is to master these two skills.
Look at your to-do list and pick out those things that you, and only you, can do. The chances are good that there are quite a few things on your list that could be delegated. Once you have identified them, you can consider who is best qualified to do a particular task. If you don’t have the power to delegate at work, consider hiring a virtual assistant to take some items off your plate.
Saying “No” represents a real challenge, but it’s important to learn how to do it. Refusing to take on a task when your schedule is already full doesn’t make you selfish – it makes you realistic. If you are in a situation when you feel you can’t say no – such as when your boss orders you to do something – it’s still fine to make it known that you feel overloaded. It’s always best to advocate for yourself when you can.
Finding the time to do everything you need to do isn’t easy, but these simple time management tips can help you make the most of the time you have – and even free up some time for the things you love to do.