Time Management. It is both the cause of great achievements and the dreaded skill that many of us lack. If you’re not managing your time, it can just slip away before you even realize it.
I go through phases. There are times where I can’t help but be easily distracted into working in an inefficient way, leading me with nothing to show for it but a lost day. Other times, I am full steam ahead, either knocking out tasks one-by-one, or pushing through a larger project with an immense amount of focus.
- Productivity Apps
I’ve tried numerous todo list applications and scheduling assistants over the years, and some have been extremely helpful. Each has its pros and cons, but the reoccurring distinction between which ones failed and which ones lasted longer was the ability to be consistent. Consistency is what will allow anyone to accomplish a goal or dream, no matter how big or small.
As you approach your time management skills, keep in mind that the best systems are those that allow you to apply a little creativity to your system to better fit your method of thinking. Those that are too strict will break instead of bend.
If you know that you really like to cross off items, but don’t like adding them, see if there’s a way to utilize your system with a voice dictation aspect. Or, if you like being able to switch between larger goals and smaller tasks, your system should be able to accommodate that.
- Other People
If you have someone you can be accountable to, time management can become less of a burden than when shouldered alone. Tell those around you what you are trying to accomplish and have them hold you accountable. If they see you doing something that you probably shouldn’t be, have them call you out on it. Even just a simple question “Did you finish what you said you wanted to?” is enough to get your shame senses to spur you into action.
People can also be there to cut you some slack when another system would otherwise push you. Maybe you had a rough day, week, or month, and you just need to procrastinate a little bit. A todo list won’t let you do that, but a real person will. They may know the way you work, and know when to push and when to just give you some time. Finding good people who know the difference is incredibly important.
- Working with Yourself
Using yourself doesn’t sound particularly creative, but hear me out. We usually try to outsmart ourselves and focus on what we need to get done by a certain time. We set arbitrary dates and times when we think we should have different steps done by. Step A has to be done by tomorrow at 3:30PM. Step B an hour later.
But, what happens if tomorrow at 3:00PM you’re just not feeling it? Either you force yourself to do it, hating it along the way and probably doing a poor job, or don’t do it at all and feel guilty for ignoring your ‘responsibility’.
Now in a lot of cases you may actually have a reason for the specific deadline, but in many other cases, it’s completely pulled out of thin air. If that’s the case, I would suggest a different approach. Focus on what you think is the timeframe you need the task done within, and then just work on it a little at a time. Reevaluate your progress from time to time, and if need be, set a deadline. But don’t start off that way, because then all deadlines start to feel arbitrary.
Be careful with being productive, though. Productivity can lure you into a false sense of accomplishment – “I’ve done so much today!”. Being busy isn’t the answer to being productive, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Time management skills are only as good as the goal you’re trying to accomplish.