You can’t control everything that happens each day of your life. However, it is possible to manage most of your daily activities effectively. To achieve the same, you must be adept at time management — something many people struggle with. As a result, they don’t enjoy the benefits and freedom attached to proper time management.
If you’ve been struggling to manage your time and plan your day, you’re in the right place as we’ll be exploring just how to do that. This will help you get the best out of your apportioned 24 hours.
5 Benefits of Managing Your Time and Planning for Your Day
Effective time management demands serious effort investment. That means that you’ll be investing some resources to master the skill. As an intelligent investor, you’ll want to understand what you stand to gain after giving your all to learn time management.
1. Increased Productivity and Improved Efficiency
Planning your day enables you to identify the most critical tasks that need to be handled expeditiously. It allows you to know which tasks to tackle and complete first. It helps you become efficient, resulting in increased productivity. It also enables you to become a better team player as everyone appreciates a team member who doesn’t slow the team down.
2. An Easier Work Day
Effectively managing your time gives you the power to control your day. Since you already have a pre-planned cheat sheet, you steer clear of distractions and concentrate on the essentials. This helps you avoid stress and makes it easier to navigate through the challenges of your day.
3. Higher-quality Results
It’s easy to achieve better results when you plan for your day. Using the best time management techniques ensures that you concentrate on the task at hand before jumping to the next. You minimize the chances of confusion by giving your all to a specific piece of work. It also results in a dramatic improvement in the quality of your output.
4. Boosts Your Career Growth
Most managers are keen on how their employees manage their time. When a manager notices that you’re finishing your tasks on time and doing it perfectly, chances are they will want to assign you more responsibilities. After all, you’re focused and responsible — traits that boost your personal branding and set you up for promotion, enabling career growth.
5. Improves Your Work-Life Balance
One of the primary reasons many people fail to strike a healthy work-life balance is poor time management. If you want to better your work-life balance, the key is better time management. It helps you do more within a shorter time. As a result, you’ll have adequate time to concentrate on your other out-of-work interests.
Understanding Time Management Styles
By default, we all possess certain natural time-management techniques. By identifying your inborn time management style, you can focus on the best time management techniques for yourself. It then becomes easier to adjust to your natural rhythm and get the most out of your day. Here’s a brief look at the three most common time management styles:
- Cliff-hanger Time Management Style
If you find yourself motivated to work at the last minute, you fall into this category. Although this time management style can help you survive extreme job-related pressure, the quality of the work done is sometimes below average. Cliff-hanger time managers can effectively manage and plan their workday by:
- Start long-term projects early enough.
- Avoid the last-minute rush by prioritizing tasks.
- Track the time you take to complete every task to better plan for each day.
Impulsive Approach to Time Management
Working without a plan is the primary indicator of an impulsive time management style. If you fall under this category, you probably find it challenging to work with a rigid schedule. However, you easily adjust and work well when faced with unexpected changes. Unfortunately, this management style has one major caveat — you’ll find yourself missing deadlines. If this is you, a few tips to better manage your time and plan your day include:
- Having a routine and sticking to it.
- Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture before making decisions.
- Creating schedules.
- Planning for the long term and frequently reviewing your progress.
- Creating time for spontaneous activities.
Hopper Time Management Style
Hoppers are good at multitasking. As the name suggests, they “hop” from project to project.
As a hopper, you’ll find yourself switching between multiple professional tasks or between professional and non-work-related responsibilities. The only downside is that sooner or later, you’ll find yourself with a full plate, resulting in you failing to finish your assignments. A few time management techniques you can employ as a hopper include:
- Identifying and eliminating distractions during working hours
- Apply the Pomodoro technique to help you focus while still multitasking
- Prioritize fewer tasks before starting on the next
No matter your natural time management style, you must design a strategy to help you effectively manage your time to better plan your day.
How to Effectively Manage Your Time and Plan Your Work Day — The Ultimate Cheatsheet
Irrespective of your time management style, here are practical tips to help you plan your workday and achieve more in your workplace.
Audit How You Spend Your Time
One of the first steps to managing your time and mastering your day is to know exactly what you’re doing with your time. Take time each day to log your daily activities. Conducting such an audit will help you discover:
- Where you waste time and how you can prevent it.
- How much work you can get done in a day.
- The time needed to complete regular tasks.
Auditing how you spend your day is vital if you’re to know the exact steps you must take to harness the gift of time. It’s also essential to helping you understand how best to plan your day. So get a journal — paper or digital — and record everything you do and how long it takes you.
Schedule Time for Planning
The first rule of time management is to always block out time for planning your day, week, or month.
Your plan must include a detailed to-do list that features your tasks and the time frame to complete them in. Make sure to either arrange them in order of priority or use labels to determine urgent tasks.
Depending on your preferred method, you can either set aside time the night before or early in the morning to write down your action plan for the day. Scheduling your day this way enables you to know what to do and when to do it. This way, you reduce any instances of wasted time.
The most significant benefit you get from planning your day this way is enhanced productivity.
To effectively manage your time, it’s vital to set priorities. With a million-and-one things to do, prioritizing can be pretty tricky. The best way to go about it is to focus on important activities, not urgent tasks. This is because:
- Important activities support your ultimate goal.
- Urgent activities usually require immediate attention but may not always support your goals.
To better understand which responsibilities to prioritize and how best to plan your day, group your tasks according to the Eisenhower Matrix:
- Important and urgent tasks — start with these.
- Important but not urgent — set a specific timeline to finish them.
- Urgent but unimportant — If possible, it’s best to delegate these.
- Unimportant and not urgent — You can work on these later.
Planning your day according to priority tasks is essential in not just boosting your productivity but also helps eliminate stress. That’s because you eliminate high-stress tasks first, freeing up your time and mind to focus on less demanding tasks.
Identify and Combat Your Distractors
There are always so many things vying for our attention, time, and energy. While some are legitimate, others are distractors. Distractors are any activity that is not important, thereby robbing you of precious time and detracting from your productivity.
To better help you know how to identify and avoid distractors, here are four of the most common ones:
- Non-essentials: These are activities that don’t add value to your life or work yet demand your attention. Ignoring them won’t have an eternal impact, and so you should if you have no time for them.
- Perfectionism: We yearn to be perfect. However, overdoing it could mean postponing other tasks as you strive to deliver flawless work.
- Overworking: Yes, you want to be more productive. However, you mustn’t overwork yourself. Overworking is a distractor as it pulls you away from other activities you could otherwise be doing.
It can be very easy to get distracted by what may seem to be legitimate activities. That’s why you must know how to determine what’s essential and what is not. It’s also another reason to create a schedule and stick to it.
Choose a Productivity Technique to Direct Your Daily Planning
Many productivity techniques have been designed to help people have productive days. To plan a productive day, you must understand which technique works best for you. A few examples of productivity techniques you can use include:
Eat the Frog
This is a productivity technique that involves working on the most undesirable tasks first. A task can be undesirable due to it being complex, large, or downright boring. Eliminating such tasks boosts morale and relieves the stress associated with the task. It also reduces the chances of procrastination. So, as you plan your day, you may want to eat your frog first.
Time blocking is a productivity technique that involves splitting your day into blocks of time with a task assigned to each block. The point is to focus solely on the task assigned to each block of time without allowing anything else to distract you. Slot your most important tasks into the blocks of time you find yourself most productive.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique encourages breaking your day up into 25-minute blocks of time (called pomodoros) separated by 5-minute breaks. You use each 25-minute chunk to sprint through a task and then take a 5-minute break. Planning your day using this technique requires estimating how many pomodoros you need to complete a task and assign them to said task. You may have to experiment with these and other productivity techniques to find out which works best for you.
For each of these techniques, you can use a time tracking app to ensure that you stick to your pre-planned routine and schedule.
Break the Monotony
Monotony kills morale. That’s why you must include monotony breakers in your schedule. To break the monotony of your schedule, you can take a walk during your break or switch your position regularly. You can also consider slotting in time for a fun activity in your schedule. For example, if you find pleasure in imparting knowledge, you can leverage podcast hosting software to start and grow a podcast. You can schedule this as part of your fun time.
Sure, you’re planning for a productive day, but fun time is also essential to boosting your productivity as it can inspire creativity. Whatever you do, the idea is to break the monotony. That burst of freshness is necessary to recharge your energy and vigor, increasing productivity.
Manage Your Time, Plan Your Day, Control Your Life
No matter your responsibilities at work, you must never compromise on the quality of life you live in. You must be in full control if you’re to live a stress-free and highly productive life.
To do that, you must know how to manage your time and plan your workday. If you do this, deadlines won’t catch you by surprise, and no task will be overwhelming. You’ll not only enjoy more productivity but a better work-life balance too.
So go ahead and use this cheat sheet to help you manage your time and plan your day.
Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reached over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed there as an executive for three years. He’s now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.
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An Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Manage Your Time and Plan Your Workday