Tips on improving ‘Time Management’ skills

by | Nov 3, 2020 | News

There are about 24hrs in a day and within those 24hrs you probably spend about 5-8 hrs sleeping (or more if you are that type of person). Assuming you slept for 8 hrs, you probably only have 16 hrs left.
Then the rest of that is all based upon operating your day doing the necessity and things you want/have to do.
If you think about it, a day can go by really quickly. We have such a limited amount of time and only when we come upon this realisation that our time is really that valuable.

If you know me personally and in my work life, you would know that there are so many things I have to attend to. Working normal hours in my job can usually just accomplish about 5-10% of my current workload even on a very productive day. Along with the many other important stuff I have to deal with outside such as exercising, learning whatever it is I decide to want to learn, etc.

This conundrum has led me to evaluate my life and understand how I could manage it better. The past few weeks (actually, it should be over a month now) I have been implementing ways in which I could manage the limited time I have in a day to be able to operate more efficiently while working effectively. I also wanted to make sure that along with managing this, I implement one of the new knowledge I accumulated regarding the power of rest.

This has two desired effect in which I will discuss later on as this was part of overall strategy to fully manifest a better management of time and operate under my best efforts.

In this post, I will be discussing ways in which I was able to improve my own time management skill. Although, I do admit that a few of these tips I am about to share that I am no master of. In fact, many of them I am still developing however, I do see the benefit already from simply trying to implement them. So do not worry if you think at this moment that it is something that you could never do. It is something that you will just have to work on doing or improving if you do choose these tips.

So here are the 10 time management tips I shall share to you all in which I have personally implemented these past few weeks that have I have improved within this skill area:

  1. Being self-aware

I personally put this as the first tip because before you ever decide to manage your own time, you need to understand your current situation. If you are the type of person that have read many strategy books, you would know that one of the main ingredients to building a successful strategy is being aware and have immense understanding of the current environment. In this case right here, we need you to have this understanding before we can manage your time.

We need to understand how you manage your time at this present moment. In fact, feel free to note down what you did today and how long that took you doing it. Also, try and understand how you approached that task you did – were you working at your best or did you think something was off?
This first tip and the very first step of this list of tips is probably the most important step out of everything in this list. Everything will tie down to step one so do not underestimate it.

  1. Reduce (or eliminate) time wasting behaviours

Here is the first reason why you should have took tip 1 seriously, because now once we have become more self aware of how time is being consumed at the current stage, you will realise that you will have occasions where you are putting in time wasting behaviours.

Although, I do not condone completely eliminating time wasting behaviours (you may do on some) but I do want you to look at your life and evaluate how much you spend on time wasting. One of the clear obvious time wasting behaviours I identified was social media. Although, I was definitely not someone you could have called an addict but I did find that I spend a considerable amount of time on it.

You know those waking hours in the morning where you would just scroll and see what everyone is up to in your Instagram/Facebook feed?

Refer back to tip 1 and understand how long you actually spent doing that. It may feel like it’s not long at that time, but trust me, you would eventually realise that such activity consumes a lot of your time.
You either eliminate it or reduce it.

This is tip alone is would help fix that issue you always have been complaining about not having enough time.
Personally, ever since I came across this, I decided that if I ever want to incorporate some more hours or activities in my life that I consider productive, I would just look at all my current time wasting behaviours and how much time I spend on them, then reduce it just so I can make more time. It works like magic, trust me.

  1. Automate your decision making process

Have you ever wondered why Steve jobs or Mark Zuckerberg always wore the same type of clothing? It’s because they have automated their decision making process to just pick those clothing and move on.
This tip goes hand in hand with tip 2 as one of the ways you could give more time for yourself and reduce time wasting behaviour is to automate your decision making process. Although, personally I wouldn’t always do this to clothing as I do like to style myself most of the time but imagine how much time you could save if you reduce that time thinking about what to wear, what to eat or when to sleep or workout?

Although, I never realised this tip until I read “Peak performance”. I did realise it was something I have always implemented during my travels to give myself more time during the day to explore and do many things hence why, when I travelled, people always wondered how I could do so much within a day.

Ways in which I automated my decisions was to plan my clothes already the night before and lay them out. Plan out already where I eat and how I get there along with waking up and departure times. This means that the next day, I just follow and trust the plan while eliminating the long thinking process on the next day.

Although, I must admit not everything always goes to plan so plan and automate as well how you would react if A happens or if B happens.

The trick here is to find any points in your life you think you could implement an automation process then do it.

Bonus point: you can also use automation to set yourself up to creating a new habit. If you want to exercise after work at 6pm every other day, you can create an automated decision to do that everyday without questioning why. Then once you do that consistently, what happens is that you realise you have created a “cue” or something I would refer to as a trigger point which is one of the three ingredients to developing a habit (more on this in my future post).

  1. Create a schedule

This is literally the tip I am weakest at out of everything I will mention here. I do not like schedules but I realised how important it is if I want to move forward to better time management. The concept of this is so crucial. Think of this tip as the ship towards time management mastery. You need this to operate and direct you towards what you need to do and how you would do X thing. This step is needed to provide a clearer view towards execution.

Plan your day out but be flexible too. If you can’t do certain tasks you planned today due to some unexpected contingencies or the task took longer than you expected then just replan and base it upon your priorities.

  1. Important, not important, urgent, not urgent (time management matrix) 

For this tip, I’m going to refer to one of the “7 habits of highly effective people” book by Stephen Covey which is habit 3 “put first things first”. To assist you with tip 4, you need to design your schedule as per tip 5. If you want to get more information regarding this, I do highly recommend reading this book focusing on this habit at least to give you further guidance as I admit it has been a while since re-read the book.

The key here is that it focuses on prioritisation. How much time are you actually spending on what is important? Maybe you are someone that just reacts to what is urgent and thus neglect those important non urgent things that constitutes towards your long term goals. Think about it.

  1. Begin with the end in mind

This also relates to tip 5 and tip 4 too. This is also one of the 7 habits I mentioned above under habit 2 which constitutes towards this idea that you must imagine your life at the very end stage. Think about how you would want to look at your life. How you would want to have lived it or what type of things do you wish you could have done in your life? Maybe not now but you wish in the future. Then once you got your answer, live it and apply it to your schedule. It may not something with high urgency but it is of high importance and thus, you must expend your energy on it or else you never will.

  1. Deep Focus (also called “The Zone”)

The reason why you needed to create a schedule is so you could establish certain points within the day to understand when you could apply deep focus. There are many ways to apply deep focus which I can’t go through deeper in here but I do suggest reading “peak performance” if you are interested. But the idea of deep focus is to get yourself in the position where at those points where you established that you need to be focused on a specific task, you put 100% of your attention to that. This means no replying to messages, checking your phone or multi-tasking. Your mind has to focus only at the task in hand.

Of course, there would be occasions in which thoughts spiral into your mind but just like how it is during meditation (A way to practice deep focus), you have to acknowledge that thought and let it go.

One thing to highlight about deep focus is that our minds can only focus on average for 45 mins-2hrs max. So if we want to be in deep focus zone which I admit is very hard, we must try to implement our schedule bearing this in mind and create 45mins – 2hrs chunks instead of 5hr working periods as after the 2nd hour, our attention span starts to deteriorate.

  1. Multi-tasking is a myth

Nothing further with this could be said. It has been scientifically proven that we are more efficient when we do tasks one at a time rather than doing them all at once in multi task mode. It looses the effect of deep focus which in turn leads to less quality type of work and failing to complete the task at shorter space of time.

  1. Night owl or morning larks

We have seen many stories about these CEOs or successful people waking up at 4am or 5am to workout or do their tasks during the day. Although, there are some logical truths behind it, the true logic on what you think about it is far from what you think.

The truth is different people have different working styles and they also have different productivity periods. The real truth is that it doesn’t matter what time you wake up, what matters is how you use the time and this is exactly why the truth about waking up at 4am is not completely true.

As a person you need to realise when you are most productive, usually there are two types – the morning larks or night owl. Depending on which type are you, whether you are more productive in the morning or at night, play to that strength and create your schedule based on that.

The reason why people who gets up really early do what they do is because they are likely morning larks in which they are more productive in the morning than later on in the day. So they are just shifting the balance and making more time for the tasks that requires most focus by waking up earlier and giving more time for productivity hours.

Similarly, if you are a night owl, you could implement the same technique and shift more time to late hours so you can work at your most productive state at night.

The key here is utilising deep focus to the maximum level by playing to your own personal strengths.

I’m a morning lark in which I play to this strength by waking up early and doing the most productive or high focus tasks early on then I balance my time to give myself the last and arguably one of the top 3 most important tips in this list, Rest.

  1. Rest

In contrast to the grind culture, we have been brainwashed to this idea that to move forward in life, we need to be on our grind 24/7. Those long hours may mean we do more within that day but what we forget to realise and have severely underestimated is the power of rest.

To anyone who has built some muscle before, you know that to allow muscles to grow we need to work hard and rest properly too. That is exactly why rest is important and what we miss out when managing our time. We have to treat our brains and ourselves the same way we would treat muscles. To give it time to grow, we need to incorporate rest.

Rest is so important that I really urge to include periods of rest within your schedule. Preferably after you reached max levels of deep focus. From 7 mins to 25 mins or 1hr, you have given yourself an appropriate amount of rest to give yourself an opportunity to recover and fight harder the next round.

What rest provides expands further than just improving mental health, if you think about it, why do you think the best ideas or those awesome come backs you had in your mind always gets generated whenever you take a shower or strolling in the beach or just taking a walk outside?

Rest gives you opportunity to not only recuperate but brings your mind to a state of wander where your best ideas start to come and bring your mind to a fresh.

So take advantage of rest and really utilise it well, give your mind the time to wander and yourself to relax.

Richard Go is a 25 year old man living in London working for a large technology consulting firm. In his spare time when he is not working as a consultant, he is a traveller, foodie addict and a just another human like you with the power to design the life we all want to live. For more such tips from him, visit his blog here.

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