Time Management Basics - where it all begins

Looking for a quick start on how to master time management?

Here are some quick, no-nonsense basics you should know.

Plan ahead

If there's only one thing you want to learn about time management, it's to plan ahead. Forget everything and focus only on this.

You should know what needs to be achieved within a given time period. 'Time Management' and Goal Setting are corollaries.

Without turning your life into a minute-by-minute pre-planned mechanical existence, it is quite easy (and healthy) to start planning for your future. Start now by consciously outlining your tasks for the next day. It doesn't have to be anything over-the-top, but a simple bulleted list of the things you have to get done the next day. If they are time-sensitive, note down the approximate time it will take you to get the task done, and the time you have to get it done by. An example could be preparing the agenda for a meeting, or a report you have to finalize.

A time for everything

Once you've put down your work-related tasks, add a blank entry to the list. This is your 'time-out'. Make sure you cater for this during the mini-breaks you get throughout the day (and seem to waste by checking your email 20 times). It's up to you how to use it. You may want to go to the gym, take your daughter shopping, or just spend time with your wife and kids. You may even want to work on that new book you've always wanted to write, but never found the time to (how often have we used that excuse before?). Take this time to add other, personal entries - cooking dinner for your wife, working with your son on his homework, reading the latest Dan Brown novel. It doesn't matter how trivial or obvious it is, if you want to do it tomorrow, write it down!


Once you've got your list ready, give each of the tasks a priority. The meeting at noon with the department heads would have a high priority where as clearing out your old clothes would have a low priority. You don't have to complicate the process - a simple high-medium-low priority setting system will do wonders for your time management skills. Of course, as you start looking further in the future, some tasks that may seem unimportant now will become important just because they directly impact the success of future tasks. For example, reviewing sales figures might not be your highest priority right now, but if your evaluation report is due in a few days, it's better to get a head start.

Time Management Basics - where it all begins
Filter your calls and turn your email off. Emails and Phone calls are among the biggest time management wasters. To go further, you can easily find a complete time management lesson plan on the web

Bringing it all together

With practice, you will learn to plan further ahead.
From planning your next day, you can move on to planning for the next few days, then the next week, and hopefully the next month. These are very simple habits that you can easily integrate in your life, and once they're a part of your life you'll wonder what you would've done without them.

However, having a list is not enough. You have to learn how to use it effectively. Start by sticking it to the side of your monitor, or placing it at a prominent place on your desk (if you're embarrassed, put it in your drawer with a reminder on your desk (or monitor) to check your daily list). When starting off, aim to get at least half of the tasks on the list crossed out by the end of the day.
Invariably, you'll find that you're either over-estimating, or under-estimating the amount of work you can accomplish during the day. Adjust the amount of work, or better yet, read the articles and tips listed below to learn how to get more things done in the same day.

Other resources

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