If you don’t have time to read this article, maybe you need to read this article. Of course, time management is a myth. No matter what you do, time itself isn’t going to change. If you have too much to do, all you can change is yourself.
The web—the greatest contributor in history to wasted time—is overflowing with links to posts about managing time, many of them of the “ten ways to” and “five techniques for” variety. Of course, if it were that easy, we’d all be spending more time snoozing in the hammock!
Here are a few of the ideas floating around out there. For starters, not everything that you have to do is equally important. So first thing each day, pick out the two or three things that you absolutely have to do. Then focus on getting those things done. In fact, do the most important thing first. Even if you don’t complete it, you’ll be more likely to return to it later once you’ve started.
Given that our minds can’t focus effectively for very long at one time, try this technique: Divide work periods into twenty-five minute intervals , set a timer to twenty-five minutes, and focus on your task until it rings. Then take a five-minute break, with a longer break, maybe fifteen to twenty minutes, every four intervals. Or, if you prefer, work in fifteen minute, half-hour, or hour intervals, and then give yourself some downtime. Taking a break can improve your productivity, and therefore save you time.
Sometimes you have to spend time to save time. That’s the case if you spend a lot of time repeating steps or figuring out over and over again how to do the same task. So you may need to build a system or create a process that will enable you to be more efficient. Notice when you keep repeating tasks and see what you can do to eliminate the repetition.
But it’s not just how to manage what you do that matters; it’s also how to manage what you don’t do. And that means you may benefit by saying “no” more often. There are lots of reasons people have a hard time saying “no,” such as wanting to appear agreeable, fearing conflict or lost opportunities, not wanting to be rude, or genuinely wanting to help.
But saying “yes” to everything guarantees that you won’t have time for the most important things. So practice saying “no,” such as by saying, “I have numerous other priorities right now, so I can’t take this on.”
Or use the technique I once learned. When someone asks of you what you don’t want to do, say “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to practice saying no.” In my experience, the person almost always responds with, “I like that. I’ll have to use it myself.”
In searching for videos with the most time management tips in the least amount of time, I found this one, seven tips in just over a minute. Some of the tips may not seem relevant to time management, but do them, and you’ll find they are.
If all else fails, follow Dilbert’s advice in this twenty-six second video. It really works!
Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com.