100 Practical Time Management Tips

This is The Time Diet’s 100th Post! Usually, I try to keep my time management blogs brief. However, this momentous occasion deserves a celebration! Presenting my list of 100 practical time management tips. Read them, skim them, or forward them to a friend. Even if you only pick five and apply them to your work day tomorrow, you’ll notice a gain in your productivity. Enjoy!

100 Time Management Tips

1. Set your own deadlines earlier than the “real” ones

2.  Close your email for an hour

3.  Get up earlier

4. Start a difficult task today

5.  Keep a list for daily tasks and consult it frequently

6. Lower your stress

7.  Write down your goals and post them prominently

8.  Keep a calendar

9. Set a start date for a dreaded task

10. Talk to a trusted friend or co-worker to gain another time management perspective

11. Schedule a Dessert into your day

12. Focus

13. Remove a Time Killer

14. Break up a larger task into smaller chunks

15.  Change your scenery by doing work in a different place

16.  Delegate something you’ve been holding on to unnecessarily

17.  Finish a small Vegetable task you’ve been putting off

18. Start something non-urgent to get ahead

19.  Time how long a dreaded task takes

20.  Talk to someone you admire

21.  Learn how to use new and efficient technology that will make work easier

22. Visualize completion to stay motivated

23. Ditch your excuses

24. “Unplug” for an hour and do your work away from your computer for a change

25. Spend time rather than “filling” it

26. If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now

27. Stop worrying and start doing

28. Ask for help

29. Don’t confuse busy with productive

30. Use social media as a tool not a distraction

31. Define your home workspace

32. Ignore your cell phone once in a while

33. Match your most difficult task with the time of day your energy level is highest

34. Don’t reinvent the wheel, seek resources from others

35. Re-evaluate your tasks. Are your processes working? Or is there a faster way.

36.  Make time to say “thank you” frequently

37. Return that email you’ve been avoiding.

38. Don’t waste your time with things that don’t produce results

39. Don’t go into meetings assuming they will waste your time. Look for the benefits.

40. Give tasks your full effort. Anything less is a waste of your time

41. Anticipate your busy times and prepare for them

42. Keep a Slow Day List

43. Pick your most important Meat, Vegetable, and Dessert for the day and schedule those tasks first.

44. No task will ever be “perfect.” At some point, it just has to be done

45. If a time management application doesn’t work for you, ditch it.

46. Practice good Time Management Karma

47. If you have the money to pay someone else to do a task that will free up your time for more important things, do it.

48. Clear your workspace

49. Take care of small problems before they become big problems

50. Don’t strive to be the last car in the parking lot

51. Stay positive. Attitude truly is everything

52. Fun Desserts only count if you’re not thinking about work

53. Maintaining relationships takes time. Make the time. They are important.

54. Make sure “time-savers” actually save you time.

55. If an idea isn’t coming to you, stop and do something else.

56. If working from home is distracting, go somewhere else!

57. If you don’t want to be available 24/7, don’t answer email at 2am. You train people what to expect from you.

58.  Celebrate your accomplishments

59. Set a designated time for people to “interrupt” you. Then they’ll be less likely to do it while you’re working.

60. Working sloppily and working quickly aren’t the same thing

61. Be proactive, not reactive

62. Become skilled at ending phone calls politely and quickly

63. Measure your productivity in quality not quantity

64. When juggling multiple projects simultaneously, focus on one at a time.

65. Keep a cool head on a hectic day

66. Stop procrastinating

67. Actively search for inspiration

68. Schedule at least a little bit of physical activity every day

69. You may wear many different hats during the day (multiple jobs, family, mentor, etc.) Don’t try to wear two at the same time.

70. Do not say “yes” to obligations you can’t keep

71. Do not say “no” to potentially beneficial obligations just because you’re scared of them.

72. Focus on one thing rather than haphazardly moving from one task to the next

73. Start in the middle if you’re stuck at the beginning

74. Be flexible

75. Don’t avoid setting goals just because you’re afraid they’ll change

76. Never be caught with an idea and no means to write it down

77. Think of your day as being divided into 30-60 minute chunks. That’s less overwhelming than trying to schedule 24 hours at a time.

78. Tune out your inner-time waster

79. Guard your personal time fiercely

80. Make sure the time you put into a task is worth the benefit you get out of it

81. Read with a pen to stay engaged and maximize swift comprehension

82. Don’t work where you sleep

83. Use cell phone alarms for appointments if you are forgetful

84. If it takes longer to make your to-do list than accomplish something on it, you’re spending too much time organizing

85. Don’t be afraid of failure

86. Don’t just set a paper on your desk. Either act on it, file it, or pitch it.

87. Resist the temptation to carefully script out each minute of your day. That just invites unexpected emergencies.

88. Be well-versed in your priorities

89. Find time to volunteer

90. A calendar and a list are useless if you don’t keep them with you

91. Don’t allow yourself a week for a task that takes one day. (Work expands to fill the time available)

92.  Coffee is great, but it’s a temporary, not permanent, substitute for sleep

93. If a task becomes a waste of your time, stop, even if you’ve already sunk a few hours into it.

94. Smile while you work

95. Set a timer rather than watching the clock

96. You can’t afford to be “too busy” to stop reading and learning

97. Frequently ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right this second moving me closer to a goal?”

98. Don’t begin a long task haphazardly without a plan

99. Spend your time in a manner consistent with your goals, not in a manner you think is consistent with other’s expectations.

100. Remember, you can do more than you think you’re capable of!

Connect with The Time Diet and receive weekly blog and event updates

 

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

Mind The Gap

When we take a look at our workday, it may seem as though our schedules are packed full. However, if we look closely, there are hidden pockets of untapped time that we let go to waste every day.

These unused moments are hiding in the gaps between our scheduled events. For example, if you have a conference call that ends at 11:30 and a lunch meeting that starts at noon. Or a 20-30 minute break between two classes. Our natural inclination is to look at that gap of time and think to ourselves, “That is too short to get anything major accomplished.”

Instead, we fritter away the time trying to tie up a few loose ends here and there. We may check our email, browse the internet, or make a phone call. We may be busy, but we are really just filling the time before our next big obligation begins and not being terribly productive.

How to Make Use of The Gap

1. Start a Big Task

The longer we put off big Meat tasks in our Time Diet, the more we build these tasks up in our head to take a long time. Pretty soon, we find ourselves saying, “I can’t possibly start that now. I’m going to need the whole afternoon!” Don’t think that you have to complete the whole task in one sitting. The next time you have a small chunk of available time, start a piece of a big Meat task! Even if you only have 20 minutes to devote to the cause, getting a jump start makes the task easier to come back to later.

2. Consult Your List

Keeping a written list of your goals for the day makes filling the gaps in your schedule much easier. If you find yourself with some unexpected down time, immediately consult the list. Transition times from one task to the next are when Time Killers are most likely to steal our attention. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to become distracted and get lost scrolling through Facebook or your inbox for 30 minutes without realizing it. Move swiftly to the next task on your list before your Time Killers have the opportunity to distract you.

3. Take a Break

Filling the gaps in your day doesn’t mean you have to work for every spare minute. If you find yourself with an extra 15-30 minutes between tasks, rather than trying to fill that time with busy work, take a purposeful break! Step outside and get some fresh air. Call a friend or family member to brighten your day. Our lives are so hectic and busy, that it’s easy to say we don’t have time for these Desserts in our Time Diet. Making use of the gaps in your day can help you find time you didn’t realize you had.

Connect With The Time Diet and receive weekly blog and event updates

The Smallest Tasks Make a Big Difference

It’s easy to put off small tasks. Sometimes we put them off until “later.” Other times we put them off so long that we just convince ourselves they aren’t important and forget about them all together. However, sometimes it’s the smallest tasks that end up making the biggest difference.

Below is an excerpt from a story in my new book, Life in Cut Time: Time Management for Music Teachers. Even if you’ve never taught music, or taken a music class in your life, you can surely appreciate the value of making time to take care of tiny little tasks that end up making a big difference to others.

Available on Amazon.com

If it Takes Less Than 5 Minutes, Do it Now!

Brandon was the kind of student who made teachers cringe when they saw him on their rosters. This student had been a menace to the school since his early days of kindergarten.

I tried everything with this student. I met with his parents and his classroom teacher. I had behavior plans and incentive charts. Nothing worked and my time and energy were quickly draining. At the end of the first semester, after I started to receive complaints from other parents that Brandon was inhibiting their child’s ability to participate, I had to have a heart-to-heart with Brandon’s mom about dropping her son from band.

After a lengthy conversation, we agreed to give him one last chance. This was against my better judgment, but I just couldn’t say no to this parent who was obviously also at her wits’ end.

A few weeks into the new semester, Brandon actually had a semi-good day. He came into class without causing a disruption, got out his trumpet, played along the whole time, and even volunteered to answer a question. I was shocked! I praised him over and over for his improved behavior, but he seemed unfazed.

As I wrapped up my work at the end of the day, I wondered if the day’s experience had been a fluke. I considered calling Brandon’s mom to tell her about the positive change I witnessed, but when I saw the lengthy to-do list on my desk, I realized I didn’t have time for another half-hour talk with her. I left school without giving it another thought.

When I got home that night, after stepping away from the situation for a bit, I realized I was being ridiculous. I had all of my band parents’ emails in my address book. It would take less than a minute to drop Brandon’s mom a quick email telling her about his progress. I signed into my account from home and pecked out a few sentences.

Dear Sheila,

I wanted to let you know that I saw a complete 180-degree shift in Brandon’s behavior in band today. I knew there was a motivated student in there somewhere and he definitely let that side of him show today. Thank you for working with him. If this behavior continues, I am confident he will find great success with band in the future.

There. Done. Less than 100 words and 1 minute of my time.

When I got to school the next morning, I was greeted with a tearful voicemail from Brandon’s mom.

Mrs. Schwartz, you have no idea how much your email made an impact on my son and our family. I am so afraid to read letters from the school because they are always bad. I have never had a teacher take the time to tell me that my son actually did something good or would ever be successful in anything. When I shared your email with Brandon, he flashed a smile from ear to ear. Thank you. As a mother, that is the best thing I can ever hope for.

She also left the same message for my principal who promptly called me into her office and thanked me for making such a positive impact at the school.

That day marked the end of my problems with Brandon. From that point on, he was the model band student. I could not have been happier. Sure, he still had his moments of inattention or defiance, but nothing more than I would expect from any 10-year-old.

That short email – the one that took less than 1 minute of my time and I almost decided I was “too busy” to send – ended up providing one of the best teaching moments of the year.

 Connect with The Time Diet and receive weekly blog and event updates

 

Photo Credit: Zirconicusso

3 Tips to Work Productively From Home

Working from home initially sounds like a great plan. It provides for a flexible schedule, you save on gas money, and have more space to spread out. However, working from home can quickly turn into a time management disaster without strict discipline and planning. I’ve found  three tips that have saved my productivity from a rapid downward spiral.

This summer, I’m working from home. I have multiple book projects to put together, papers to write, and workshops to design. The prospect of having all summer to do this sounded great, until I remembered how incredibly distracting and difficult it can be to work at home. Everyone from college students to business professionals can surely relate. Here are three tips to keep your time management under control.

1) Don’t forget to have a weekend

When you work from home, there is no physical separation from your workspace and your “play” space. If you don’t give yourself defined work hours, you’ll end up melding your work time into your personal life and become frustrated and burned out. Don’t forget to give yourself a “Saturday” (even if you decide to take it mid-week.)

 2) Ignore your phone sometimes

Just because your cell phone rings, that doesn’t mean you have to answer it if you’re in the middle of something. When you’re at home, and have no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to let little things distract you. While working at home, you must guard against Time Killers more than ever. If you catch yourself allowing something to distract you without your permission, stop. Ask yourself, “Would I be doing this right now if I were in an office?” Just because you have the ability to chat on your cell phone, surf the web, text a friend, or even wash the dishes in the sink, doesn’t mean you should. Save those things for non-work time.

 3) Leave the house

Ultimately, we go stir crazy if we try to spend all day in the house. We can’t take for granted that time spent with our colleagues provides much-needed enjoyment and social interaction. When we work from home, we have to replicate that by getting out of the house once in a while. Go work in a library, coffee shop, park, etc…Anywhere to be around other people and get out of your home office. Seek out others in your profession to brainstorm and collaborate. It will make you more productive and save your sanity.

Connect with The Time Diet and receive weekly blog and event updates

Photo Credit: Ambro