How to be the king or queen of time management

Modern life is full of pressure, and there are never enough hours in the day. But with our tips, you’ll rule time, rather than letting it rule you.

By Evie Prosser

Show me a person who doesn’t feel as if they’re chronically short of time and I’ll show you, well, most probably a child. Because if there’s one thing that characterises life as a grown-up, it’s the feeling of being permanently on the go, with nary a moment to pause for breath.

That doesn’t make for a happy existence. If you’re constantly fretting about all the things you’ve yet to get done, you’re unlikely ever to feel relaxed, or stop and enjoy a moment of calm.

But life needn’t be like that. We’ve assembled a list of tips to help you manage your time more effectively. Follow them, and you’ll be the master or mistress of your destiny.

1. Plan, then plan again

The US business guru Dan S. Kennedy says that it makes sense to do as much forward planning as possible. He advocates blocking time in your diary so that important tasks don’t get bumped down the priority list by other people’s concerns.  

Meticulous planning certainly helps Just Recruitment Manager Victoria Griffiths to juggle her busy professional and home life with her enthusiasm for equestrian sports. “I always have a plan,” she reports, “and I make sure everyone around me is aware of it. It’s the only way to get everything done.”

2. Prioritise

Everyone knows the merits of making lists. Search any website for time management advice and you’ll see that jotting down your priorities is one of the most popular tips provided.

Indeed, productivity expert David Allen has formulated an entire philosophy on list-making, in the form of his Getting Things Done® methodology. His approach is rather more sophisticated than simply writing out your priorities, but that’s definitely his starting point.

Get down on paper what you need to do, preferably in order of importance. That will make it much easier to complete each task in an orderly manner, without being distracted.

3. Make time to waste time

It may sound ridiculous, but sometimes you need to waste time to get things done. This isn’t about realising the benefits of boredom, as profound as they are. Instead, it’s about deliberately pausing to take breath before rushing headlong into the next task.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was a strong advocate of the value of wasted time, especially when you’re busy. More recently, Marxist scholar Andy Merrifield has written a wonderful book about the merits of not rushing, entitled The Wisdom of Donkeys.

The crucial thing is to give yourself space to reflect, even when you’re snowed under. You’ll find that you work more quickly and efficiently that way, thereby enhancing rather than diminishing productivity.

4. Shake a leg

While wasting time undoubtedly has its place, you need to recognise when to get busy and put in extra hours to ensure everything is done. Consider the example of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who famously slept for just four hours each night in order to keep up with her workload.

Joanna Coles, the British boss of media company Hearst in New York, is another example of someone who knows how to squeeze as much as possible into her busiest times. When a reporter from The Times interviewed her recently, they discovered that she walks on a treadmill while dealing with work emails and phone calls, and watches TV at double speed!

Dan S. Kennedy makes a similar point in an article on time management. He suggests taking a book everywhere you go, so that spare moments can be filled with a worthwhile activity, rather than being frittered away.

5. Keep motivated

You may well be familiar with Parkinson’s Law – the principle that work expands to fill the time available. If you are, you’ll probably see the merit of motivation in helping you make the very best use of your day.

“I thrive on pressure,” says Victoria Griffiths. “Having a clear sense of purpose saves me from getting distracted, and means I work efficiently. I think one of the reasons people feel as if they don’t have enough time is because it’s so easy to waste precious minutes, looking at Facebook, say, or simply being idle. If you can keep yourself busy and motivated, you’ll probably feel like you have more time, not less.”

6. Call in help

“No [person] is an island,” said the poet John Donne, and he must have known a thing or two about being busy. As well as being a literary great, he was an MP, priest, lawyer and Dean of St Paul’s cathedral.

While Donne’s words were not intended as a dictum about time management, he was definitely onto something. If you’re short of time, don’t be afraid to outsource some of the tasks you’re faced with.

“It may not always be possible to do this in a work context,” explains Ms. Griffiths. “But if you’re really busy, even something simple like employing a gardener or cleaner for a couple of hours each week can make a world of difference. It’s not just about freeing your time, but also not feeling guilty about tasks you simply don’t have the capacity to complete.”

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you liked this article you may like to read – Five success boosting habits to adopt today

You may also like to read – Five goals to achieve within your first year at a new job

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