How to improve time management
As your career picks up and the everlasting to-do list of life piles up — from going to work to raising children to spending time with your romantic partner — it can feel nearly impossible to get control of your schedule. That’s why so many people say there simply “aren’t enough hours in the day.” They feel like a ship being pulled across the sea by a thousand different priorities, each wave stealing another hour of their precious time.
But what if I told you that’s not actually how time works? And what if I also told you that through different thinking strategies, you could actually master your time management skills and be more productive than you currently are? Today we’re going to look at how to improve your time management, procrastination and scheduling through thinking tactics that will make it feel like you’ve got more time in your day — even though you’ve got the same amount as everyone else.
I should warn you that none of these skills are time “hacks” or simple “tips.” The truth is that those kinds of tools are temporary band-aids that don’t do much to address the root cause of poor time management. Instead, this is a larger, more comprehensive approach to how we think about, act upon and use our time. If you’re ready for that, keep reading.
What are time management skills?
Even if it might feel like there isn’t enough time in the day, the truth is that all of us have the same amount of it. The most successful people in the world have 24 hours in each day, too — and despite what they like to say in interviews and press conferences, none of them omit sleep or relaxation from their schedule entirely. So what keeps you from getting as much done as some of the world’s most productive people?
The truth lies in how you think about time. Most of us think proper scheduling and time management is the result of downloading the right tools, planners and organizers that’ll make our lives easier. That’s not true. And why would it be?
Think about it this way: buying an expensive set of knives, a new gas-lit stove and a fridge full of fresh, high-quality ingredients doesn’t make you a renowned chef. And nobody would expect you to be one, either! The same goes for time management tools. Just because you got a color-coded calendar or set up meeting alerts on your phone, that doesn’t mean anything about your approach to time has changed.
This is where most people get endlessly hung up: they follow “tips” and download “tools” to better manage their time, but those don’t meaningfully improve their schedule in the long run. Then they get frustrated and they give up… and their to-do list items pile up.
Instead, if you focus on how you think about time, you’ll start to develop thinking strategies that naturally improve your awareness and understanding of time. If you keep thinking you’re never going to have enough time in the day to do everything you want to do, then that’s what you’re going to experience. But if you believe that there is always enough time to accomplish your goals, even when you're busy, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
So, we’ve established that thinking about your use of time is more important than any agenda could ever be. But how do we put that thinking into practice?
How to improve time management skills
Once you’ve started thinking differently about time, your relationship to it is going to change. Here are some ways to think about the time you’ve got and effectively improve your time management skills.
- Developing awareness skills: Time awareness is all about knowing how much time you have, and also knowing that time is finite. Most people understand this, but they focus much more on scheduling and planning than simple awareness. Build awareness by:
- Finding your peak performance times: When do you work best? Try breaking down your day, week or month by productivity slots versus task slots. Your most productive slots will be your “peak performance” times, when it makes sense to tackle your biggest, hardest projects. Additionally, changing your thinking to avoid saying “I just don’t work well at this time” can help you slowly change how you see “non-peak” times. The truth is, most of us can be pretty productive if we need to be; it’s our thoughts about productivity that need to change.
- Avoiding the sunken cost principle: “It’s worth continuing because I’ve already sunk so much time into it.” Not true! Projects that aren’t useful to you anymore are worth abandoning. Don’t use up all your time on something that’s not a priority if it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it’s a hard and unrewarding task to complete.
- Thinking about your future time: What are you doing now that’s going to make your schedule easier going forward? What are you doing that’s going to make it harder? Thinking ahead about your time can help you avoid procrastination problems.
- Doing a time-check with yourself: When you finish something, reflect on it. How long did it take you to do the job? How long did you think it was going to take you to do the job? Start realistically assessing how you are at judging time.
These awareness skills are a great start when it comes to properly assessing your relationship with time. And with time (pun intended), you’ll find that your thoughts about time are going to start changing the amount you have in your day. While it’ll still be the same as everyone else around you, the way you think about, use and monitor that time is going to change drastically.
There’s tons more we could discuss about time management, of course. But you’re unique, and your time challenges aren’t the same as anyone else’s. After all, a parent with a high-stress job is going to approach time a lot differently than a college student pursuing their medical degree — both need time management skills, but their skillset is going to be different. That’s why I’d rather you get a more hands-on lesson regarding scheduling and time management than continue to read about it at an impersonal level.
If you’re really ready to change how you see time, schedule a complimentary coaching call with us. Our coaches are fully equipped to set you up with the kinds of time management skills you need to succeed!