There's an old saying that time is a commodity, too, and that goes double when it comes to time management.
Proper time management is an important commodity for the modern-day career professional. Today's working man and woman are too often squeezed time-wise, as the digital workplace forces significant demands on professionals.
What career specialist hasn't taken a conference call on vacation, or texted during a child's recital or baseball game? Crunched for time, the modern worker needs all the help he or she can get to manage their time efficiently and effectively.
Hey, you only get 24 hours in a day. So, try these tactical, tested tips to improve your time management skills, and see if they don't make a big difference in your career - and your life.
1. Take Inventory of Your "Time" Experience
Start improving your time management skills by taking inventory of the time spent on various tasks during the day. How much time do you spend sending and returning emails? If it's 45 minutes, jot it down, and do the same thing for other tasks, like your daily commute, workplace meetings, meals, errands, and time spent with friends and family. Use a handy time management app like Rescue Time, which records the time you spend on various tasks and events during the week, and sends you a report detailing what's taking up too much of your time.
2. Set Your Schedule Ahead of Time
Good planning is 90% of time management. Get that process started with a daily schedule that starts breaking down your tasks from the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed. Set time limit to each task and stick to the script. Use a good task management app like Wunderlist to set a daily "to do" list schedule - you'll wind up enjoying the satisfaction of crossing completed tasks off your list.
3. Pay Attention to Your Deadlines
Knowing what's expected of you - and when - is a critical component of good time management. Use a daily calendar (Google Calendar works just fine and it's basically everywhere these days) and list your deadlines. You'd be surprised at how often deadlines are missed by not writing those deadlines down.
4. It's Perfectly OK to Say "No"
Sure, you want to accommodate everyone in your life, from your boss to your best friend. But since time really is a precious commodity, it needs to be treated like one. If someone tries to steal a slice of that precious time with a time-crunching request, say "no", or at the very least, just say "I'll get back to you when I have the time."
5. Take Advantage of Schedule Alerts
Digital calendars, like Google Calendar, have an extremely useful feature that can improve your time management skills - a reminder alert. Simply by scheduling an alert 15 or 30 minutes ahead of that meeting, conference call, or even that drink with your best buddy after work. You'll find that not only are you never late for an appointment, but you won't be the late for the next one, either - as long as you're disciplined about setting your alerts.
6. Take Advantage of the "Night Before"
To properly prepare for tomorrow's activities, start planning today. This is best done at night, after dinner and when the house is quiet. All it takes 15 minutes of thinking ahead toward tomorrow, prioritizing tasks and deciding if any of those tasks can be delayed or deferred, so you can focus on the bigger jobs at hand.
7. Clear Your Head
Of all the tasks on your to "do list", making time for exercise and wellness should be at the top of the list. A 30-minute walk, an hour at the gym, 50 swings at the driving range, or a 45-minute yoga class can do wonders for the body and soul, especially if they're done first thing in the morning. The rest of your day will go better when you feel better.
8. Delegate, if You Can
If you're swamped with household chores and workplace deadlines, figure out a way to delegate some of those chores and tasks, to family members and to co-workers. That's admittedly easier said than done, but the time saved by shifting obligations to a trusted family member and co-worker can save the time. Later, when you have more free time, offer to return the favor.
9. Don't "Bump" Your Tasks Up Against One Another
If you're scheduling your tasks with no time for a deep breath between one another, you're doing time management wrong. Make sure to leave what time management experts call "buffer time" between tasks and obligations. You'll feel less rushed and you'll learn to prioritize the things you need to do and level off on the things you really don't have to do - for today, at least.
10. Ask Your Employer if You Can Telecommute
Data shows the average commute time is about a half-hour and millions of Americans have commuting times much longer than that. How great would it be to have an extra hour - or more - in your day? That's what telecommuting can give you, even if you only do it twice a week. Millennial executives are already saying that telecommuting is the future of work, so why not get on board and take full advantage?
11. Lay Off the Bars and Clubs After Work
Yes, there's nothing wrong with blowing off some steam after a hard day of labor. Just don't make a regular habit of it. Data shows that people are much more productive not only the nights they opt not to party-hearty, but for the hangover-free next day, too.
12. Take "Me Time" Breaks
Studies show that people who take 10 to 15 minutes out an hour for a break (for coffee, to talk to a friend, or just go for a walk) actually get more done than people who try to blow through their schedule break-free. The latter group often burns out by the end of the day and actually winds up getting less done.
13. Don't Waste Time on Social Media
Yes, we get it. There are cats doing odd things on Facebook (FB) and no end of clever hot takes on Twitter (TWTR) - and you want to see them. It's no problem checking in for five minutes during break time, but if you're on social media for more than a half-hour per day, you're just wasting valuable time.