There are only so many hours in a day, so it’s crucial to spend them on the things that really matter. However, for most of us, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of tasks, especially if they come in one after the other. As a result, some people try burning the midnight oil in an attempt to catch up on unfinished business.
Unfortunately, overworking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. In fact, over a century of research has shown that working longer hours does not lead to better performance. On the contrary,often the longer you spend working on something, the worse your quality of work becomes over time.
Fortunately, it’s more than possible to get things under control with a bit of foresight and proper planning. If you feel like you’re so busy that you’re constantly keeping your head above water, read on to learn how to improve your time management skills and start working smarter, not harder:
1. Decide on Your Most Important Task
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’ve got a dozen things to take care of. To make the most of your time, though, it’s best to focus on at least one major task. Consider that your most important task for the day, and do not move on to any other task until you’re done. If you save it for later, you’ll wind up being too tired to tackle it, and you’ll end up pushing it to the next calendar day.
We recommend getting started on your major task first thing in the morning, as this is when your energy levels are at their highest. You’d be surprised how much you can get done as long as you start early and stay laser focused. You’ll probably finish up with enough time left in the day to squeeze in a few smaller tasks, too.
2. Break Big Projects Down into Smaller Tasks
When you look at a huge project as a whole, you might feel like it’s going to be impossible to ever get it done in time. You might not even know where to start since there are so many factors to consider.
The trick is to not view the project as a single herculean task that has to be finished in one go. Your best bet is to break that project down into smaller, manageable tasks. This will give you a checklist of mini tasks that won’t seem as intimidating. In fact, they’ll seem so easy that you’ll feel like you have no excuse not to tackle them immediately.
If you take it step-by-step, checking off one mini-task at a time, you’ll be making steady incremental progress. Before you know it, you’ll be done with the big project in no time.
3. Focus Your Attention on Only One Task at a Time
Many people believe that multitasking is the key to finishing more work. After all, switching your attention from one task to another seems the epitome of productivity.
However, multiple studies have shown quite the opposite. Multitasking only gives you the illusion that you’re getting more done. In reality, what you’re actually doing is more akin to switch-tasking, where your brain is forced to rapidly switch its attention from one task to another. Each time you change tasks, your brain has to reorient its attention because it can only focus on one thing at a time. Essentially, you may be doing “more,” but you’re doing them all less efficiently.
Thus, it’s best to get into the habit of monotasking instead.To help yourself focus, try to remove as many distractions as you can from your workspace.
4. Automate All of Your Repetitive and Simple Tasks
Sometimes, the best way to get things done is to set certain things on autopilot. With modern software and technology, it’s more than possible to automate even the most mundane of tasks. For example, instead of spending so much time writing the same e-mail response over and over, save a template that you can fill in and send within seconds instead.
You can use the concept of going autopilot beyond the devices and apps you use. This also applies to every decision you have to make, whether it’s what to wear to the office or which tasks to do at what time. The more decisions you have to make, the more your will power depletes, and the less you’ll actually accomplish in the end.
To combat this, start building regular habits and routines. That way, certain actions will become so automatic that you won’t have to make as many decisions, leaving you with more will power and energy to spend on more important tasks.
These are just a few ways you can implement time management strategies into your day-to-day routine. With these tips in mind, you’ll be making impressive progress regularly, all while spending far less time and energy, too.