Ever feel overwhelmed by your work? Do deadlines and commitments intimidate you? Relax! Here are a few simple time management tips that will help you meet deadlines and manage projects more effectively.
Break big projects down into smaller ones. Every project consists of a series of mini-projects. Let’s refer to them as units. Set your goals in terms of the number of units you’d like to finish within a specified amount of time. If you’re a writer, as I am, those units could be chapters, pages, word count or whatever you have chosen to define a mini-project, i.e., a portion of the project that can be accomplished within the specified time frame.
Breaking a project down into chunks helps keep you on track and on deadline. As each unit is finished, one gets a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you’re in control of the process.
Plan your daily activities the day before. I find it useful to literally pencil my daily chores onto my calendar. The night before, I’ll pencil in how I intend to spend the following day, in general terms. For me, mornings are the best time to handle email, phone calls, paperwork and administrative chores. I tend to be most productive in the afternoon, so that’s when I write or do research.
By keeping track of what you do on your calendar and when and how long you do it, you’ll discover your peak productivity times. You may also see that you are, in fact, procrastinating. Remember, if you just get the thing done, you won’t have to worry about it again. That thought alone makes it worth doing.
Say “no” to multitasking. Do one thing at a time. Studies show that multitasking tends to lead to lower productivity, more mistakes, and less efficiency than simply doing one thing at a time. Fully focusing on your work will improve your concentration. Thus, your creativity will flourish and enhance the quality of your work.
Prioritize tasks. Not everything has the same importance. Before you start work on a project, make sure you’ve figured out as much as you can about what you need to do accomplish the work, then make a list prioritizing all of it. Some things must be done before others. Other things aren’t all that important. Take the time up front to figure as much as possible out.
Be flexible. Your schedule may need to be adjusted now and then, depending on what’s happening in your life.
Allow time in your schedule for breaks and unexpected delays. As Woody Allen once put it, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” The best laid plans can go kaput for reasons completely out of your control. If you factor in extra time, it could be helpful.
Do the hardest tasks first. One of the biggest causes of procrastination is the fear of taking on a tough or unfamiliar task. For that reason, you should dive right in and do the tough tasks first.
If there’s a tough task at the beginning of the project, don’t wait. Just do it as soon as possible. Once it’s out of the way, it’s all downhill from there, relatively speaking. Think how much easier the rest of it will seem by comparison. And how much better you’ll feel for having accomplished what previously intimidated you.
PS: As it happens, I’m writing this on our wedding anniversary! And look what I got as a present! 🙂
Is it bigger on the inside?
All I could think about when I saw this was Mary Poppins flying off with her umbrella! 🙂
I’ve been finding getting the most important thing done first often works for me. And trying to stay on schedule (which almost never happens, sigh).
I hear that, Anne! 🙂 Think of these tips as suggestions. Sometimes, we just have to cut ourselves some slack. 🙂