How to work smarter, not harder.
Do you wish that you did not wait until the last minute to complete things? Do you feel anxious and overwhelmed knowing there are deadlines? Do you procrastinate? Do you ever feel like there are not enough hours in the day?
Managing time is about simplifying things, working more efficiently and relieving stress.
Here are a few strategies:
- Use a calendar. Make sure you put the deadlines and events in your calendar. Putting reminders in on earlier dates is a good idea to ensure you are working on it, like a tickler.
- Make lists.Make a “today” list of things you need to accomplish for one specific day. Break it down into categories such as calls, errands, desk work, housework, so you can group them together and organize your time more efficiently. A “later” list is helpful for things during the week or for the following day. This list is for things you know you will need to take care of in the near future. This may seem like too many lists, but the idea is to keep things off your mind. At the end of each day, revise your lists, hoping to have completed much of what’s on them.
- Have a start and end time. Guesstimate how long it may take to complete a task. Always build in extra time or wiggle room for things that get in the way. If you think it may take two hours to complete something, plan on two and a half or three (depending on the task). Create your start time and finish time and finish at that time- put it away and be done. Do not get distracted with other things. Value your time and others will too.
- Prioritize your list and be clear about it. There are four quadrants (read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey): urgent important, non urgent important, urgent non important and non urgent non important. When you look to see where you spend the most time, it will give you insight. It is advisable to do the hardest things first. When you complete the hardest thing first, there is freedom and relief.
- Be focused and mindful of what you are doing. Sometimes we multi-task to a flaw. People who are mindful, complete tasks quicker and with greater ease. Stay away from distractions. People often check emails and play games in the middle of working on something. Stay focused!
- Set play time in your schedule. You may feel like you don’t have time for this, so you must generate space to play. Down time is productive for mental health as well.
- Establish smart and efficient systems. Create a system for every task you have to do daily. With systems, there is no guesswork. It is familiar and it becomes routine.
- Do it once. Handle the paper one time. Do not let things linger on. Make the calls that you may be avoiding. Read emails, open your mail and respond, throw out or place in a “later” folder.
- Remove negative self-talk or thoughts that you can’t get it done or don’t have enough time.
- Say no. If you find you have no time because you are too busy with things for other people, like cooking and volunteering, then say no. Helping others is excellent, but not when you feel like you are in a constant whirlwind, being pulled in many directions.
- Have fun! Remember, life is not a to do list. Enjoy it as much as possible and don’t get stressed; stress will only slow you down.
Written By: Nancy Hilsenrath, LCSW CASAC SAP