Time Management: How to Use Your Time More Effectively

If you were to go about your life wasting money, throwing it around left and right, people would think you were crazy. It’s an important resource and we are taught from a young age the benefits of learning how to manage it.

But there is a resource that is a million times more precious than money, and yet it is talked about far less. One that is wasted so liberally, it should make you sick. The resource I’m referring to is time and learning proper time management skills will drastically improve the quality of your life.

What is Time Management

Time management refers to, as you may expect, how we manage our time. The concept involves a careful process of organizing, planning, and dividing our time between the activities in our life.

Seems to be a pretty easy skill to understand, but why is it then that so many have trouble with it? Everyone has the same amount of time during the day, yet some people generate incredible results while others “don’t have enough time.”

A major problem, I believe, comes from the idea that being busy automatically means being productive. The two concepts, while sometimes may be correlated, are not synonymous.

You may be incredibly busy from sun-up till sun-down, and somehow you’re not getting any results. How can this be?

Well, time management is not about filling our time full of activities, but rather optimizing our time to be more productive in the activities we do.

It is possible to work two hours in the morning for five days a week, and somehow produce better results than a person working eight hours a day for five days a week.

This all comes down to focused work versus working just to say you’re busy. That is really what time management is all about. Managing your time in a way that will produce the best results, without wasting time on busy work.

You want to think of the time given to you every day as a bank account. There is a set amount in that account every day, your job is to decide where to allocate the time and how much is to be spent.

To successfully manage our time, there are three areas that need to be addressed. Combining them will provide us with the best framework to effectively and efficiently manage the time we have.

But before we get into these three areas, I think it will be great to outline all the benefits you can expect from properly managing your time, as well as the consequences of failing to do so.

Benefits of Proper Time Management

Learning to manage our time effectively will lead to many great benefits. By strategically planning out how we will allocate to each activity, our productivity will greatly increase. Here is a list of benefits you can expect by improving your time management skills.

  1. Increased productivity: as I have stated previously, by utilizing our time efficiently, productivity will greatly improve. We will put the necessary time into important tasks, and so goals and objectives will be accomplished much sooner.
  2. Less stress and worry: without properly managed time, it can feel overwhelming to try and get everything you need to do done. Proper time management skills allow for less stress and worry because you know what needs to be done and have carved out the time to do so.
  3. More free time: you can multiply your productivity ten times over, and yet still have more free time. How can this be? Well, with proper time management skills, you will realize that the actual time to get tasks accomplished is not as much as you thought. This results in much more free time for yourself.
  4. Higher quality work: this comes with being more productive. As we begin to use time more effectively and efficiently, the quality of work will become higher.
  5. Improved focus: as we manage our time wisely, less overall time will be spent on work, though the focus will be much greater. When you know exactly how much time will be spent on a task during the day, one hundred percent focus can be given.

As you can see, the benefits from learning how to properly manage our time are incredible. No matter whether you are a student, an athlete, or another professional, any one of these five would drastically improve your life.

If showing the benefits is not enough to signify the importance of time management, maybe showing you what could happen if this skill is not properly learned.

Negative Effects of Not Developing Time Management Skills

  1. Low work quality: when we do not manage our time well, the quality of work suffers severely. Often the work becomes rushed and is not high quality.
  2. High levels of stress: if time is managed improperly, then the amount of work to do can be quite overwhelming. This leads to high stress levels because we just can’t imagine how we could get everything done.
  3. Less focus: one of the interesting aspects of time management is that it helps compartmentalize tasks. Knowing that there is time set aside for each activity allows us to relax and focus on the one at hand. However, when no such slots are laid out, the work consumes our mind and focus becomes impossible.
  4. No free time: funny thing about not managing our time wisely is that it seems like there’s less of it. There is the same amount of time in the day, but not knowing how to allocate time results in feeling as if you have no time to spare.  

How to Improve Time Management Skills

There are three areas that must be addressed when looking to improve time management. The Harvard Business Review discusses how and why these are important. If you would like, the full article can be read here.

One of the problems people face when trying to manage their time more effectively is that there are plenty of tools available, but little emphasis on the underlying skills needed. That is why I found the article produced by the Harvard Business Review to be so interesting.

I am always looking for that deeper layer as to why we act the way we do. It is usually the deep digging that leads to improvements in all areas of life.

The three areas that comprise time management that will be focused on for the remainder of this article are: awareness, arrangement, and adaptation.

"One of the problems people face when trying to manage their time more effectively is that there are plenty of tools available, but little emphasis on the underlying skills needed."

Awareness

Awareness deals with understanding our time is limited and treating it like a resource. Earlier I mentioned how time can be looked at like money. We get to decide how much we will allocate each day to certain tasks and activities.

That is exactly what it means to be aware of time. Understanding that time is a precious and limited resource, one that must be carefully distributed in order to lead a happy and productive life.

I would say that many people who struggle with their productivity or seem to always be busy do not look at time like this. Rather, they see it as an uncontrollable resource. While time is not something we can control, how we use it is.

Our goal with awareness is to recognize time as a resource, and one that can be used to our advantage to produce effective and efficient results. Effectiveness means doing a job well, and efficiency means doing the job quickly.

This should be the aim of all work, outside of relaxation. The quicker we accomplish a task, the more we can do. However, effectiveness should always precede efficiency. Meaning quality of work must be prioritized over speed.

By becoming more aware, we can ensure that both of these are adhered to. The following points illustrate how anyone can build better awareness skills when dealing with time.

"Our goal with awareness is to recognize time as a resource, and one that can be used to our advantage to produce effective and efficient results. Effectiveness means doing a job well, and efficiency means doing the job quickly."

How to Build Time Awareness Skills:

  1. Locate your optimal work time. We all have times of day that are more productive than others. For me, I am the most focused and ready to work in the morning. I then fade off during the middle of the day but will find a resurgence of motivation to work midafternoon until around six. What about you? Think about the times during the day when you have the most motivation and energy. These are going to be your peak times of productivity.
  2. Examine your current time allocation. Where is the majority of your time being spent? Are you spending too much time on an activity that is not that important? Look at the outcomes expected from tasks, and then decide on their importance. This will provide you with a better understanding of which activities will deserve the most time.
  3. Create a time “bank account”. I have talked a lot about treating time like money. Having this mindset is very helpful moving forward with trying to manage your time better. When we look at our regular bank accounts, we see a set amount of money. Then, we must decide what to spend the money on and how much to use. Though most of these are decided for us through bills and mortgages. With time, there is a set number of hours in our bank account each day. Thinking like this will help a lot in the next section.
  4. Begin tracking your activities. A lot of times we complain about not having enough time, yet we couldn’t tell you exactly how much time is spent on certain activities. If you are serious about improving your time management, then paying attention to time is a must. Start to keep track of the amount of time spent on each task during your normal day. This will provide you with an understanding of how much time is actually spent on productive work.

Arrangement

After we’ve become aware of the importance of viewing time as a resource, the next step is to focus on how it should be managed.

This is generally where most of the attention is when it comes to time management. However, people usually try to just throw around neat gadgets and tools to help us stay on track. I prefer to view the arrangement stage as a way to structure our entire lives, not just to complete a certain task.

It’s all about controlling how we live, and the best way to do that is by controlling our time. Really think about this step as the allocation phase of the money metaphor. We will decide how much time to give to each activity and task during the day.

By developing a well thought out plan, our days will run more efficiently and productively, allowing for more free time and less chaos.

How to Build Time Arrangement Skills:

  1. List & organize activities. Now that we know how time is used is so important, activities and obligations must be examined and then organized in terms of importance. Take a look at all that you want to get done during the day and decide which are the ones that are most dire to finish and the ones that require the most time.
  2. Use an activity tracker. Whether it is a calendar app or a simple to do list, make sure your activities are now listed out from most important to least important. After you accomplish an objective, mark it off your list. This will ensure focus and provide motivation with each goal for the day achieved.
  3. Use the time of the day wisely. Remember how we talked about finding your optimal productive time during the day? Well, once that is found, use it to your advantage. Stick the most difficult tasks, and the ones you do not want to do in that time frame.
  4. Be activity focused, not time focused. You may be wondering how all this could lead to more free time, well here is one of the reasons. We are often led to believe that the more time we spend working, the harder or better we are. Well, when it comes to completing tasks and goals, this simply is not true. I often find myself saying that I must spend two hours writing. But then, I feel burnt out and am not producing quality work. However, when I give myself a target of completing a certain section or topic, I feel much more motivated and focused. So, have the mindset of completing tasks rather than spending a certain amount of time on them.

It’s all about controlling how we live, and the best way to do that is by controlling our time. Really think about this step as the allocation phase of the money metaphor. We will decide how much time to give to each activity and task during the day.

Adapt

At this point, you should have decided upon what activities and tasks are a top priority, allocated the time you wish to spend on each, and scheduled them adequately throughout the day.

Now we get to the part that no one likes, adapting. We have just settled upon a schedule that will work, the last thing we want to do is change anything.

It’s not that we must be planning to make adjustments, but just willing to and understanding that other factors can come into play. So how do we do this? Well, by adhering to these tips you should be in the right frame of mind.

How to Be More Adaptable

  1. Keep priorities in mind. Since we have already outlined our most important tasks, this should be easy. Always keep in mind what has the highest priority, that way, if any changes need to be made you can be sure the main tasks get done.
  2. Plan out make up time. Once you begin to master your daily time allocation, free time will open up. Try to set aside a small amount of time during the day to make up any work or activities that were not finished. This way, being adaptable will not be a problem for you.
  3. View change as opportunity. A lot of the time, making changes to our schedule throws us for a loop. But it is not the actual change that does this, but our perception of it. While it is easy to get caught up in a routine set forth for yourself, be willing to look at any adjustments as an opportunity. To both grow mentally, but also an opportunity in life, whether it be professionally or personally. We never know what situation will be the one that offers us what we want.

Final Thoughts

Time is our most precious resource. However, it is often neglected, disregarded as a controllable entity. We go through life allowing time to command us, rather than taking back the power.

With the proper time management skills, you can drastically improve productivity, increase focus, and gain more free time. Your work will also be of higher quality, due to the attentive nature of time management.

Once we become aware of time as a resource, learn to arrange it in a manner that best suits us, and then prepare ourselves to be adaptable, time transforms into our ally.

What do you think, is time your friend or enemy? Do you currently have a system in place to properly manage the amount of time given to you each day? Please leave a comment below.

I hope this article was helpful and informative. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions regarding time management or any performance psychology topic.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best of success in all you do.

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