Recently I had this never-ending list of things to do and felt like I had so little time to do them all. Every day I’d wake up thinking “Yes! I’m going to manage my time so effectively that everything gets done.” But I usually ended up only finishing part of what I had to do. It was exhausting, the more tasks I ticked off, the more new tasks kept appearing. I needed to learn more time management strategies.
So one day I took a day off to wrap my head around it. I was doing something wrong. So I researched a bit to get answers to questions like Why do I struggle with time management? What is the key to effective time management? etc.
I tried a few things that were proven to improve my time management skills but didn’t work for me. So I improvised the process until I was able to manage my time between studies and side hustle without stressing out. Here are the actual time management strategies that worked for me.
1. Set priorities
Setting priorities is the primary key to effective time management. You need to know what’s important, what comes first, and what can wait. I swear by the use of the famed Eisenhower matrix technique to find out what are your priorities. This is how the Eisenhower time management matrix looks.
Important and urgent: These are the tasks you have to do in the first place, everything else can wait.
Not important and urgent: Start with these once you finish the important and urgent ones. I’ll try to delegate parts of it to people or form a team and work on it so that we can complete it within the deadline
Important and not urgent: I prefer to split these into different chunks spread across several days. Since it is not urgent I can work on it slowly after completing other urgent tasks.
Not important and not urgent: If it is something I enjoy I try to do it when I have leisure time. If it is something I’d rather not do, then I delegate it to someone else who’d probably enjoy it. Or I just drop the project altogether
This technique is why I am still sane, to be honest.
2. Maintain an open task list
I usually use Evernote to make lists and notes. I create one list for a week. And I use that list to keep ticking off things that I have done and to add things that I need to do this week. This way I get a quick view of how much I have finished and how much is still left to do so that I know how I can manage my time accordingly
3. Find your time wasters
Time wasters are usually subtle and you need to do a mindful check to find out. For instance, I had this habit of running tv shows in the background while I work. I thought I was smart in managing my time. But what was happening was, it was slowing my thinking process. I was distracted by the visuals on the display.
Once I found out the visuals were the problem, I switched to listening to podcasts. And I’ve been doing way better than I used to.
So observe what you are doing, time yourself, think about what is making you waste your time, and find out how to manage your time better
4. Learn to say no
This is one of the best things I learned to do in my life. It does feel guilty but being polite is certainly not going to give you time for what you want.
So always remember you have priorities and you have a life like the other person who is asking you to dedicate your time to something that benefits them. Once this thought gets wired in your brain you, my friend, will have a huge chunk of time to do what you want.
Some of the ways you can politely decline things:
“I wish I could, but I have something else going on.”
“I have too much to do for today.” (or the day they are asking for)
“Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m afraid I can’t.”
As I said earlier, if something is urgent and has to be done or there is a task that I’d rather not do, then I’d try to delegate it to other people.
You don’t have to do everything by yourself. You can ask for help or even hire someone to do it. This will not only save you time but also help you with your mental health and prevent burnout
6. Make a rough schedule
Note the use of the word “rough’ here. Because no matter how perfect your time management plan is, there is always a chance of something coming up and ruining the whole schedule. Now when that happens and you have a set time to do things everything goes off the rail and you start stressing out.
So, make a rough schedule. Include time for unexpected detours. Include some time to relax in case you get overwhelmed. Here’s an example of my rough schedule
This way I have a deadline but in case something comes up at let’s say 10 am. I can do that and not feel stressed that I have exceeded my time limit knowing that I can still finish my blog post by noon.
7. Multitask smartly
This is a favourite trick of mine. Like I said already, I love having sounds in the background while I work so I listen to podcasts. This way I get my work done all the while being entertained.
Similarly, I talk to my loved ones on the phone while folding clothes. Because folding clothes is a repetitive process and is a muscle memory to me at this point, I don’t have to think. So at the same time, I get to organise my closet and spend quality time with my loved ones.
Do not combine two thinking processes at the same time. This will exhaust you. As someone who’s got a lot on her plate, I’m really glad to have thought of this time management technique. Trust me it works.
8. Stop being a perfectionist
As a blog writer, I used to be so obsessed with perfection. I used to do grammar-check on my articles across 4 different tools and then do a check by myself before I submitted it anywhere.
I mean, what’s the point? At the end of the day, all I need is a good result, not something pristine. Sure having a perfect result seems tempting, but perfecting it is just 1% of the process and the time spent on doing it is enormous. So stop micromanaging and save more time.
Is time management a skill? It surely is. Time is the scarcest resource any of us has. Learning to manage that is the best thing you can do for yourself. You can use it to do things that you enjoy rather than mundane tasks that need to be get done. Now that you know these techniques to spend your time and live your life as you want
Once you have the correct time management tips you can balance your life using those techniques. This comes from learning how to manage your time well, testing which time management tools work for you, and implementing them to save time. Aside from saving time by learning these strategies, you’ll be saving yourself potential stress and anxiety. Remember, it’s important to take a bit of time for yourself, especially when you’re a full-time student.
I'm a digital marketer and a blogger who helps content creators make better content. I've been observing the trends in the digital marketing niche since 2016. I also write about topics that help you make your life better.