Create More Time in Your Day by

by Niclas Marie

A day only has 24 hours, but how can you maximize them to get more things done?

Time management does not come naturally to many people, yet learning how to break down your life into practicable tasks ultimately makes you a more effective and productive member of your team or family, as well as greatly reduces your daily stress levels. Utilizing peak performance times rather than trying to tackle the day's tasks still bleary-eyed from sleep or as you're losing steam towards the end of the day, ensures that you get things done to your best ability. Properly used and generated to-do lists, from systematized lists to daily schedules, make taking advantage of these peak times simple. Yet time management isn't just about the day-to-day, it's also about your long-term goals and rewarding yourself for your accomplishments, whether it's returning a library book on time or landing an account at work.

Utilize Peak Performance Times

In a world of strict work schedules and service providers operating on set business hours, it's easy to overlook your body's natural clock. After all, when you're constantly trying to fit your day into someone else's schedule, whether it's your boss's, kids', family's or clients', intuition takes a back seat; however, most people have specific times when they're most effective. Known as peak performance times, these occur about midway through the morning and into the very early afternoon. During this time, average adults are at their most alert, finding themselves more focused and productive. Plan your day accordingly, waiting until an hour after you get to the office before tackling larger tasks, yet not procrastinating any longer than that. For those who fall outside of this norm, take a more creative approach. For morning people, wake up early and charge ahead quickly. If you're a night owl, tackle easier tasks first thing and slowly build your way towards more complex endeavors as the evening approaches.

List, Organize, and Prioritize Tasks

Time management is synonymous with to-do lists, yet when done improperly, your average list actually does more harm than good. One of the most common pitfalls of this oft-heralded means of organization is making just a list, intermixing lesser important tasks, such as returning an item to the store, with more important goals, such as finishing the presentation due at the end of the day. The end result is an overwhelming document that doesn't truly detail what you need to do that day, or what you need to tackle a week or so in the future. By prioritizing your to-do list you bypass this issue, creating an outline for your day, week and month that helps to keep you on-task and efficient. Organize tasks by priority, which area of your life they effect (work, school, family, friends, etc.) and you'll have an effective roadmap of what you need to accomplish.

Keep a Daily Schedule

Construct a daily schedule based on your list of tasks, starting with high-priority projects. Pinpoint which items are required by the end of the day. Start with the highest priorities and add one to two lesser-important errands to the mix. This keeps you on target for the day as well as helps you get ahead with the minutia of day-to-day life. By approaching your daily schedule this way, you prevent last-minute errands, such as running to the grocery store, from becoming "emergencies" that affect high-priority tasks later. The result is a relativity stress-free approach to your work and home life. Once you have your list together, schedule everything out. Time high-priority tasks for the portions of the day in which you're most effective, and schedule errands for lunch breaks or after work setting aside specific hours for each.

Be Realistic

When you constantly have a list of tasks to complete, it's easy to overschedule yourself each day. However, this tends to set people up for failure. When you're approaching the end of the day and your to-do list is still a mile long, it's easy to get discouraged, throw up your hands and completely go off-plan. Avoid this by being realistic. When you're creating your to-do list and daily schedule, think about what you can actually accomplish in a single day, week or even a month, rather than what you wish that you could. This helps you manage your time more efficiently and limits wearing yourself too thin.

Break Up Large Tasks

Breaking up larger projects into smaller, manageable tasks makes creating realistic to-do lists easier. Rather than saying "I need to finish this briefing by Friday" break-up the project over the course a week, starting on Monday. For example, outline the brief on Monday, gather supporting research and spreadsheets on Tuesday, incorporate these documents into the outline on Wednesday, and polish the document on Thursday. Come Friday morning, you'll find yourself prepared for work and the project will require limited finishing touches. This also works with household tasks. Rather than noting that you need to clean, pick a specific task for each day: vacuum on Monday, clean bathrooms on Tuesday, do laundry on Wednesday, and so on.

Goal Setting

Pinpointing your goals, and making them a reality, is just as important as effectively handling day-to-day tasks. With goal setting, breaking down your objectives over set periods of time guarantees that you actually meet those goals. Create a master document of what you want to accomplish over the course of a month, six months, a year and more. Break each of these down into the tasks necessary to meet these goals. For example, if you want to take extra classes or training, note when you need to sign up, how much money you need to save each week to pay for it, when you need to purchase books, and at which point you need to find additional childcare. Use this when creating your weekly and daily to-do lists, incorporating these tasks into your schedule as necessary.

Reward Yourself

No matter how organized you are, some days are simply overwhelming, and oftentimes the act of accomplishing a task isn't enough to motivate you to work harder or stay on target throughout the day. Set small and large rewards to make pushing through these occasions easier. When you have a busy start to the day, reward a checked-off morning schedule with a coffee break at your favorite place. Reward larger accomplishments or reached goals as well. When you finally finish a long-term project for a client, treat yourself to an item you've been eyeing for a long time, a night out with friends, or a relaxing weekend away.

About the author

is the founder and CEO of TimeCenter Online Scheduling and lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He loves to code beautiful and simple web apps, and occasionally enjoys a game of blitz chess.

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