Time. It’s a slippery commodity. No matter what you do, the amount of it you have left gradually shrinks – and that’s never more obvious than when you’re on the final countdown to a deadline.
But it’s also true the rest of the time – and if effective time management is about meeting deadlines, then it’s also about keeping your discipline when you’re in control of your own schedule.
Here are just some ways to make the most of the time you have available.
Time management doesn’t mean you have to be working flat out at all times – in fact, many tasks can be carried out more quickly and smoothly with a bit of forward planning.
You can never foresee all of the potential obstacles, but you can take sensible precautions to keep things on track – think of it like a Health and Safety assessment for your day-to-day methods of working.
Learn to recognise this admin as a useful way of spending your time, and try not to slip into the mindset that sees all admin as a waste.
2. Appreciate Time
Take a moment to appreciate how long a minute really is – and to recognise how much (or little) you can achieve in that length of time.
You can achieve more when you’re working flat out, but you’ll eventually burn out, so learn to know the difference between what you can achieve at your top pace, and what’s a sustainable work rate for the long term.
Don’t take on more than you can handle, as this is a surefire way to raise your stress levels, and make sure you take regular breaks, drink plenty of fluids, eat when you’re hungry and sleep, all of which can help to keep your biological batteries charged.
3. Prioritise and Delegate
Identify your most important tasks and do them first – leaving you with time at the end to tick off those less pressing, but still valuable lower entries on your to-do list.
You might not be in a position to delegate, but if you are, hand away some of your tasks – not just the awkward ones, but possibly some of the easy but time-consuming ones too.
There are two main approaches to scheduling: the first is to stick to a set timetable, while the other is an extension of prioritising your tasks.
If you need routine in order to maintain discipline and motivation, then stick to certain working hours – plenty of self-employed people do this, and in many cases it’s the thing that works best for them.
However, if a flexible and adaptable schedule works for you, that’s fine; and prioritising your to-do list in the context of when you want to do it can be a powerful tool if your motivation and self-discipline are strong enough.
Yes, it’s been mentioned already, but sleep and relaxation are important enough to stand alone.
The occasional all-nighter can give your earnings a boost, but you shouldn’t be working around the clock on a regular basis.
Get your bedroom into shape so that, when the working day is over, you’ve got somewhere relaxing to unwind, and you’re in with a better chance of waking up refreshed and raring to go.
And in terms of time itself, you should relish those non-working hours – rather than simply seeing them as lost productivity.
By keeping your physical and mental health in good shape, and keeping your business affairs similarly organised, you should be able to streamline the work you do – and, ultimately, to get more done in less time.