Whether your work-at-home adventure continues or you’re transitioning back to the office, one thing is for certain – it’s time to get a better handle on your time. Mastering time management can take a bit of finesse and skill, but doing so can help lower your stress while increasing your ability to be successful. It’s the key to finding the right work-life balance and to wrangling your to-do list into submission.
Make a List
There’s nothing that can derail your day faster than the deadline you forgot you had. It’s up to you whether that list is something you put on white board in full view of your desk, on digital notepads, or on a pad of paper kept within arm’s reach. Just write it down. Getting it out on paper (virtual or literal) helps you get a full sense of what must be done. From that point, you can figure out how you’re going to check those items off as complete.
Sure, it can feel like everything on your list is an urgent fire that you need to put out. The reality is some of those tasks aren’t even smoking embers, and some of those tasks don’t need to be your sparks to deal with. There are four general categories when it comes to our to-do lists:
- Important and urgent
- Important and not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Not urgent or important
Understanding what tasks fall into each of these categories is the key to getting a grip on your time. Important but urgent tasks should get your attention. Urgent but not important tasks can be delegated, shared, or completed next. Important but not urgent can be addressed when you have time. (Just make sure you schedule time so they don’t eventually become urgent as well!) Those not urgent or important tasks are the things you fill your schedule with when you’ve got time to kill.
Know Your Goals and Your Purpose
It’s easy to fill up a to-do list with tasks. That doesn’t mean those tasks are important, urgent, or even belong on your list. Let’s walk through this with an example. You own a boutique public relations agency specializing in the tech industry. Your clients are primarily start-ups to mid-sized private firms. You’ve got the opportunity to speak at a local small business event. It’s going to take a lot of time to prepare for this speech, as well as the other activities connected to the event itself. The attendees are small local consumer-focused businesses, and from the looks of the demographic, there is a heavy concentration in consumer goods and services. Is this the right use of your time? Maybe not.
If the event doesn’t help you further your goals and objectives, then it may be worth passing on this one. If speaking at an event of fellow entrepreneurs helps you broaden your network, if it bolsters your relationships with partners and potential future connections, if it gives you more professional credibility as an expert in your field and you have the time in your schedule to accommodate it, then maybe it is worth doing. The point is, you’ve got to ask the hard questions before taking it on. Ultimately, even great things aren’t important things if they aren’t going to produce the results we want and need. It’s okay to turn down opportunities that don’t move the ball down the field for you.
Take a Break
Overwhelmed, burnt-out folk are not productive folk. It may feel like you just can’t afford to spare the time a break will require, but the truth is, you can’t afford to NOT take a little down time. That may mean taking 10 minutes to stretch and grab a new cup of coffee. It also, however, means actually taking a lunch break that moves you from your desk to a non-work space where you can sit and enjoy your meal. It means setting boundaries between work time and home time – take your weekends and enjoy them. Take your vacations. Giving yourself that space to relax and enjoy life outside of the hustle of the job can make you more effective when you’re back to the grind. Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see the productivity boost for yourself.