You’ve been studying for your certification test, which is coming up soon. You also just found out that your children’s school is returning to homeschooling due to the pandemic. Your boss just informed you that you need to put together a major presentation for a potential new client. You’re wondering how you will be able to get everything done. Good planning and effective time management skills will help you prioritize tasks and get everything important done on your to-do list.
Time management skills are important because most of us never have enough time to do what we’re supposed to do, let alone the things we want to do. Effective time management is defined as the ability to use one's time effectively or productively, especially at work. People who are good at time management get things done because they know how to prioritize.
The first thing we need to learn is the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Urgent tasks need your immediate attention, like answering the phone. What we need to realize is these tasks may not actually need to be a priority. Important tasks are those which have consequences for you or others if you don’t complete them. The priority matrix, also known as the time management quadrant, below can help you organize your tasks into their appropriate categories.
It is best to use the time management quadrant daily to organize your tasks. Each day, ask yourself which of these tasks need to be completed today? Those tasks fall into the Do First category. It is important to objectively look at all your tasks because they cannot all fall into the high importance, high urgency quadrant.
Tips for effective time management
- Set SMART goals – those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Goals give your life direction.
- Use the Priority Matrix, also known as the time management quadrant, to organize your tasks into important and urgent. Italian economist Vifredo Pareto taught us the 80-20 rule, which states that 80 percent of the reward comes from 20 percent of the effort. Isolate and identify the valuable 20 percent where you should spend your effort. You should use a system to concentrate your energy on those items with the most reward–prioritize by color, letter or number. Flagging items with a deadline will also help you stick to your priorities.
- Set a time limit to complete each task. Be single-mindedly focused to be more efficient. Multi-tasking usually divides our attention and our efficiency. This extra effort can help you recognize potential problems before they arise and then develop a plan to deal with them. For instance, you could ask your spouse to work with the children on their home-schooling assignments or find a tutor or compassionate neighbor with a little extra time.
- Take a break between tasks. If you go directly from one task to the next, it is hard to stay focused and motivated. Allow yourself some downtime–make a cup of tea, go for a short walk or take a power nap to renew your energy and determination.
- Be sure to organize for the long-term. Use your calendar, to-do list or other tools to write down deadlines for projects and steps along the way. This will help you break the project into smaller, more manageable pieces. It can also help you see dates or times where it might be easier to do certain tasks or when you have a large slice of time to complete a more in-depth task.
- If you follow these steps, you will improve your time management skills. Poor time management can lead to poor workflow, wasted time, loss of control, poor work quality and ultimately your reputation. Remember to be flexible–we can’t plan for all the disruptions that will happen every day, but we can have the flexibility to deal with these emergencies.
Some final tips for you to remember
- You should learn to say “no”. Not every project needs to be completed by you.
- Avoid being a perfectionist. Perfectionism sometimes pays unnecessary attention to detail and can be a form of procrastination. Learn to realize when something is good enough.
- Don’t procrastinate. If you are avoiding something because it looks insurmountable, break it into smaller 15-minute tasks. After you get so many of these smaller tasks done, you’ll realize just how far you’ve come and you’ll want to finish the project.
We know it’s difficult prioritizing all your tasks during a regular year but add a pandemic and things become exponentially harder. If you’d like help prioritizing your time or if you have tasks that we can help you complete, we’re here for you. Outlook Business Solutions offers an array of marketing and sales services from strategy planning to copywriting and public relations. We’re here to help you grow your business and inspire your customers.