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Time management is a phrase tossed around constantly. It’s as though talking about it, or finding the right trick will help us do more with the same amount of time. Yet, in the ever-busy world we live in, there isn’t more time and the pace will not slow down, no matter what time management tips or tools we come across.
There are plenty of those tips to be found too. Just Google “time management tips”, “time management skills” or “how to organize time” and be prepared to be overwhelmed. It’s interesting that something intended to help you organize your time can send you running and screaming in the other direction. Plus, for many of us, that desire to do “just one more thing” in an attempt to take control of our time often makes us late despite all our best intentions.
It’s no wonder there are apps and software popping up like spring flowers to help people get more done and stay on track. The interesting thing is that everyone – yes, everyone – procrastinates and is prone to lateness. Maybe you know someone who claims to never procrastinate. Guaranteed there is one area in their life where things aren’t getting done – perhaps it’s the laundry, doing their taxes, making a dentist appointment or booking lunch with friends. Generally those who claim to not procrastinate are the worst at finding time for things they enjoy or need to do for themselves. Others will sometimes miss work deadlines or be late for a movie because, as mentioned previously, we all struggle with how to organize time.
The real trick is to learn to manage the time we have better by prioritizing what’s most important and doing that first. Sometimes the priority is a work deadline, other times a kid’s soccer game, making dinner or maybe it’s self-care and taking a nap to put more energy in the tank. There are ways to help manage priorities. No, this isn’t going to create more time and it may not prevent you from being late, but it can help.
The first recommendation isn’t software or an app on your phone. It’s a good old-fashioned paper book. The Productivity Planner helps you identify what is most important for your day and advises using the Pomodoro Technique (setting a timer for 25 minute time blocks) to achieve your tasks. It’s not rocket science, but for some it can be a revelation. Of course those of us who are hard-core procrastinators will find ways around this tool – like simply not setting the timer – but awareness comes first.
Some believe that you need to clear your mind in order to get more done and fight lateness. For those who think of meditation as flaky and new-age, I suggest you consider it as a break in your day to simply empty your brain to make room for more creativity and fresh thinking. There are plenty of apps and software to help. One that I particularly like is called Headspace. Rather than leaving you alone with a timer, Headspace guides you through the meditation process. Studies noted on their site’s blog show how mindful meditation can help improve productivity, lessen procrastination and reduce the frequency of lateness – not to mention improving sleep.
For those are constantly late to work because they just simply can’t wake up, there are apps for your phone that force your brain to wake up so you can’t hit snooze and doze. The I Can’t Wake Up! free alarm app – also available on Google Play – forces you to do a series of tasks in order to turn the alarm off, thereby waking your brain up. Now, if you’re the kind of person that can get up, make coffee, feed the dog and still go back to bed, this isn’t likely to help.
One of the common themes for those who procrastinate and are often late is that they don’t have an accurate gauge of how long things really take. Personally, this is my biggest issue and I don’t mind sharing because I’m always working on trying to improve. I have a few time management strategies that might seem a little unconventional: 1) accept that things take longer 2) be okay when things go off the rails, because they often do (you’ll get sick, the car will have a flat, etc.) 3) be transparent when things go differently than planned (be up front and honest with those who are impacted) and 4) work towards a better understanding of how long things actually take.
When it comes to item number four, there are tools to help with time management at work, or anywhere really, and figuring out how long a task actually takes. Of course, this only works if the task is the same, or similar to, one you’ll do again, but do a search for “time tracking apps” and narrow the options down to one that works for you. Clockwork Tomato also logs your work time, so maybe this is something I need to implement.
Focus is essential to getting things done in a timely fashion, but with smart phones, Facebook and a world filled with shiny objects this can be harder than you might think. For those who work from home or are self-employed and don’t have a boss peering over their shoulder it’s even harder because the motivation must (to bastardize one of the Dalai Lama’s quotes) come from within.
A variety of software tools and apps can help you stay focused on working for blocks of time. Some block out distractions like Freedom, where others use a reward system like the free app Forest which helps you to stay focused because the life of your virtual forest depends upon it.
Timers are a mainstay of those who are always on time. There’s a reason timers are built into appointments on Microsoft Outlook. Set a timer for 5 minutes before you need to stop your task to allow you to wrap up.
Procrastination and lateness are common. They aren’t something to be ashamed of, but they are something to be worked on and improved upon. Look for tools and techniques that fit your life and most importantly, make use of them.