No matter how you slice your time, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Like many adults, you spend part of the day at work, struggling to tackle tasks that seem to be never-ending. You wake up hopeful and optimistic that you’ll get all of the day’s work done, and more. Everything will go according to plan (so you think). The goal is to leave work on time, satisfied with everything you’ve accomplished. Then, you go home, relax, and enjoy the rest of your day.
Sounds like the perfect work day, right? Until you wake up 15 minutes late, take way too long to get ready, and leave your house only to get stuck in dreaded traffic. Finally, you arrive at your desk, frustrated and frazzled. You have a million things to do and feel clueless as to where to begin. Without any plan or direction, you frantically start chipping away at your tasks for the day. You say “yes” to everyone who asks for help, skip your lunch break, and still end up leaving work late. You go home for the day, completely drained and unmotivated to take up anything else you had planned.
Face it, life happens. This might sound like a nightmare scenario, but it’s completely realistic, and quite the daily norm for many. Often, it can seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on your plate, and unfortunately, there’s no way to manipulate time.
The good news, however, is that there are ways to restructure your day to reclaim those difficult hours you “lost.” Here’s how:
Find out where you’re wasting time
A lot of us fall victim to time sucks at work without even realizing it. Do you spend time surfing the internet, scrolling through Instagram, texting, or making personal calls? If the answer is “yes” to any of these, you’re wasting time that could be used much more productively.
A key to personal time management is being proactive about getting rid of these distractions. Close out all the tabs on your screen besides the ones you’re working on, turn off messaging notifications, and leave your personal phone calls and social media checks for your lunch break.
Create a daily schedule, and stick with it
Don’t start your day without a clear schedule. Write out an organized to-do list of your goals, with the most important or pressing tasks first. Identify the three or four items that are of top priority and get those done before you move down the rest of your list.
Although this process might seem like it’s wasting precious minutes, you’ll find that the time you spend strategizing a plan is nothing compared to the time you’ll lose jumping between tasks when you lack an agenda.
Set a time limit to each task
This goes hand-in-hand with creating a schedule. Setting a time limit to each task will help prevent you from getting distracted or procrastinating. In a way, it becomes a challenge or a game to get the assignment done within the time frame you created.
Make buffers and breaks a part of your schedule
When you incorporate breaks into your routine at work, you’ll make the day much more enjoyable. Once you finish a task, give yourself a mini break to breathe and recharge before you move onto the next one.
Without a moment to clear your mind, it can be difficult to remain focused and motivated. After all, the human brain is only able to focus for about 90 minutes at a time.
Just say “No”
Even though you don’t want to upset anyone, you can only handle so much. If you’ve already reached your maximum capacity of what you can successfully accomplish, then decline a request until you know you have the spare time to give. If you say “yes” to taking on additional work or providing help every time it is asked of you, the quality of your own work will only suffer.
Stop trying to be perfect
If you’re a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. You’ll keep going back to the same task over and over again in hopes of making it better. But, you’ll only be wasting valuable time if you’re constantly picking your work apart.
Relax, and move on.
Don’t wait around for success
When you learn how to be proactive, create guidelines for yourself, and set boundaries, you can accomplish far more with less effort. Be wise about how you spend your 24 hours a day and focus on activities that align with your personal goals.
Most importantly, when you master personal time management, you’ll be able to control your time instead of allowing it to control you.