Time Management Tactics: Do More in Less Time

Time is both a valuable and limited resource. We all have the same 24 hours available to us in a day, so why not make the most of them? Unfortunately, too many of us squander away precious minutes by being inefficient with how we spend our time. The result is the inevitable stress and frustration of not being able to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

Good news! These time management tactics will help you knock out your to-do list in record time and free up more of your day for the things you love (including Gaming).

Prepare

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

As it is with many things in life, this is old adage holds true when trying to tackle your responsibilities.

Before you get to work on the tasks you need to accomplish, it helps to have a plan of attack. Too often, we attempt to just start doing something without any real strategy regarding how to do it. Instead, properly preparing your course of action will eliminate wasted efforts and reduce the amount of time it takes to finish our responsibilities.

This means setting goals and determining your priorities based on them. It also requires you to map out your course of action with a schedule before setting and enforcing deadlines.

Set Goals

Beyond the task itself, ask yourself what it is that you hope to accomplish. Whatever it is you’re aiming for, having concrete goals is an important first step. Don’t be afraid to start big, but then, as psychologist Karl Weick suggests, break your dreams down into small, actionable piece.

Prioritize

Let’s face it, some tasks are more important than others and, chances are, you don’t have time to accomplish everything you’d like to in the time you have available. Take this into account when before trying to take on your list of responsibilities. Also, consider whether or not certain tasks get you any closer to your goals. Based on these factors, order your tasks in terms of their importance and focus your attention first on those high-priority items before moving onto less urgent ones. 

Based on these factors, order your tasks in terms of their importance and focus your attention first on those high-priority items before moving onto less urgent ones. 

Trello is a useful tool in setting the priorities of a list of tasks. Like everything in life (aside from death and taxes), priorities are variable. The flexibility of the software allows you to adjust to changing needs in a matter of seconds. Trello allows you to quickly adjust the order of tasks simply by dragging and dropping items on your list.

Schedule

Without planning out a schedule ahead of time, you’re setting yourself up to blow off important items on your to-do list.

Instead, take some time each week to plan your course of action. This doesn’t have to be down to the minute, but at least set aside certain parts of each day to tackle specific tasks. Sundays, in particular, are a great day to schedule tasks for the upcoming week. Take note of what needs to get done and distribute your responsibilities across the upcoming seven days.

You might spend a little more time on the front end, but your preparation will give you the opportunity to accomplish more in less time.

Set Deadlines

Deadlines can be persistent, stressful, infuriating, and… well, effective. Impending deadlines can provide the motivation needed to get your duties completed on time.

This isn’t to say you should regularly set deadlines that consistently drive up your stress levels. However, setting a reasonable target deadline can help you find the giddyup you need to finish the job and get back to enjoying your life.

Estimate how long a task should take to accomplish and give yourself a buffer before your self-imposed due date. Life is unpredictable and unexpected challenges often come up. Should this happen, you’ll have some wiggle room before the deadline. If not, you’ll have time to complete your task early.

Enforce Deadlines

Deadlines are pointless if they aren’t adhered to. Don’t allow yourself just let breeze past them without finishing your tasks. Ensure that your consistently completing items in a timely manner by actually enforcing the deadlines you set.

Come up with some sort of consequence for a missed deadlines. Better yet, reward yourself for completing things on time. After all, positive reinforcement has consistently been shown to be a more effective behavioral motivator than punishment.

If you find it difficult to consistently meet the timeliness you set, it’s okay to relax your expectations a bit and give yourself more time between deadlines. Just don’t consistently ignore the due dates you set. Doing so creates bad habits that can haunt you in situations where the deadline is critical.

Act

Once you’ve strategically mapped out your approach, it’s time to get to work. However, taking on your tasks with the right methods can help you get them done more efficiently. Grouping similar tasks into specific parts of your day while focusing 

Batching similar tasks into specific parts of your day while focusing your attention on said tasks completely can help you get more done in less time. Creating templated processes for repeated tasks will save you time in the future when it comes time to again take on those responsibilities.

Batch

Batching refers to the process of setting aside specific portions of your day for certain tasks. Often times, people spread themselves randomly between several tasks throughout the day. Rather than bouncing from task to task with no discernible plan in mind, group related duties into one work session, complete them and move on to another batch of tasks.

Everyone loves a healthy, home-cooked meal, but spending an hour or two of each day in the kitchen is far less appealing. Instead, two to three times a week, cook a few large batches of food and have them on hand for upcoming meals.

Similarly, it’s easy to get bombarded by the numerous forms of communication available to us. Instead of responding to emails, text messages, and Tweets as they arrive in your inbox, plan regular intervals of your day dedicated to replies. This allows you to seem responsive (and avoids messages from piling up) without having to interrupt the progress you’re making on an assignment.

Unitask

Humans are terrible at multitasking. Yes, this includes you. In fact, people that claim to be good at multitasking tend to be worse at it. So when you start a project, make sure it has your full, undivided attention.

With endless technology to distract us at all times, it is harder than it has ever been to focus on a single task. But resist the temptation! Close that Twitch.tv window and set your cell phone aside. It’s time to get stuff done!

Unitasking allows you to put your full attention into the task at hand, limiting distractions. Not only is this going to get the job done faster, but you’ll see huge improvements in the quality of your work as well.

Repetition

The first time you finish a task will often be the slowest. You’re grinding through and having to consciously think about every step. Through repetition, however, you should get quicker and quicker each time you finish that same task.

Be mindful of your process as you’re completing a project you know you’ll need to do again. Create a process you can replicate time and time again. Use past projects as templates so much of the work is done before you even start. Discover new keyboard shortcuts to boost your speed. No matter how you do it, take advantage of the time-saving effects of repetition and you’ll be blowing through frequent tasks in a flash.

If nothing else, repeated stimuli are perceived as being less enduring than new ones. This may be beneficial when taking on more menial responsibilities that we’re often forced to undertake.

Eliminate

Occasionally, accomplishing more with your times means doing less. Many of us have several superfluous tasks we could do without. Reducing the number of items on your to-do list allows you to spend the required amount of time on the remaining tasks that provide more value to your life.

There are methods for completing tasks without the burden of having to do the work yourself. Automating and outsourcing get things done without you having to lift a finger. At times, however, declining more responsibilities may be the only way to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Automate

Automation is a powerful tool in eliminating tasks, but still getting them accomplished. Creating situations where items get completed without requiring effort is the ideal time management solution. Automate as many responsibilities as possible to focus your attention on the tasks that require it.

When it comes time to pay your bills, you’re simply wasting time if you pay dues manually. These days, most vendors offer auto pay to reduce the challenge of juggling a wide variety of payment dates. Similarly, many investment services come equipped with auto deposit options to ensure a specified amount or percentage of your money is invested automatically.

Useful tools, such as If This Then That, allow you to automate menial tasks by setting triggers that automatically result in your desired outcome. Did someone Tweet your most recent post? IFTTT can shoot them a quick “thank you” message without you having to lift a finger.

Be careful with over-automation (especially in communication), however. You don’t want to be perceived as an emotionless cybernetic organism. Conversations need to sound human, so communications-related tasks are not good candidates for automation.

Outsource

The desire to do everything yourself is certainly admirable and understandable. This tendency, however, can get quickly become overwhelming as tasks continue to pile up. Instead, find ways to leverage the abilities of others to help you get more accomplished.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you better identify items that should be outsourced. There are likely plenty of things to be done that others can flat-out do better and faster than you can. It’s for these tasks that outsourcing becomes a great solution. If you struggle with certain responsibilities, there’s no shame in asking for help. Doing so will often get a better result and free up your time for tasks that you excel at.

Inexpensive outsourcing solutions like Fiverr* can put you in contact with people to help you get something done without wasting half a day on an inferior product.

Decline

Eventually, you’re going to reach your limit. No matter how hard you try, there are certain things that you simply cannot get done. Accept this and pre-empt the disappointment of not accomplishing a goal by turning it down from the start.

No can be a powerful word, but if you learn to harness it, you’ll enjoy a life with far less stress. With fewer items on your plate, you’ll be able to focus your attention on what is important to you and you’ll get things done much faster.

TL;DR

  • Prepare yourself properly before setting out to accomplish tasks. This means prioritizing and scheduling responsibilities. Set and enforce deadlines to hold yourself accountable.
  • Act efficiently by batching tasks and unitasking. Develop repeatable processes when possible.
  • Eliminate all superfluous tasks. Automate when appropriate and outsource when you’ve reached the limits of your skill set or available time. Eventually, you may need to decline to take on new responsibilities. 

How do you manage your time to work more efficiently? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Live Better.

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