We all have struggled to manage our time better at one point or another. So if you’re currently feeling scattered, know you’re not alone. The good news is, time management techniques can be learned, as long as you understand why you’re doing something and then practice until the good idea becomes habit.
To find out what approaches are worth pursuing, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council to share the time management techniques they use to make the most of their 24 hours. Which do you see yourself using?
1. Compartmentalize projects.
Switching between types of tasks is mentally draining. Instead, bundle related projects together and tackle them all at once. For instance, start your day addressing customer service challenges. Then, move onto marketing campaigns. Afterwards, review new product opportunities. This will make it easier to finalize tasks when you don’t have to mentally toggle back and forth dozens of times each day.
2. Track your time.
Tracking time is like a budget for money. It makes me see what I was doing mindlessly in terms of not using time in the best way, and where I can make immediate improvements. I use a time tracker app, which helps me determine what I do every minute of the workday.
3. Develop a code for when you’re busy.
We have all been in a situation where we want to get back to work but we can’t quite end conversations with our managers. So we internally developed a code that means, “Please don’t get offended, but I really need to tackle this task.” This tactic has changed the way I manage my time because it means I can work on large projects without interruptions.
4. Eat that frog.
The phrase “eat that frog” was made popular by author Brian Tracy. It’s basically a time management technique that says you should tackle the most difficult and most important task on your to-do list first thing in the morning. Crossing off the hardest and highest priority thing before doing anything else has made me more productive throughout the day.
5. Schedule for distractions.
People in general can be distracting. If someone says they want two minutes of your time, it’s almost never two minutes! If I don’t have time to meet with someone for 10-15 minutes right on the spot, I usually have them schedule a time with me. It’s best to manage your day with enough wiggle room so that you can accomplish at least one to two things that you set out to do.
6. Focus on one thing.
My time management changed when I began focusing on “one thing.” At the start of the day, I focus on the most important task at hand. I do not let other issues creep into my schedule until that task is complete. Once it is, I move on to the next most important task, and so forth. This eliminates the desire to multitask and, in turn, spread yourself too thin.
7. Answer email twice a day.
Not everyone is capable of doing this, but I’ve seen it work wonders for those who are a little too frequently on the trigger of their email. It’s pretty simple. You set aside two different times during the day to answer email: once at the start, the second at the end. Anything in between gets avoided unless it’s an emergency—but at that point, someone should be calling you.
8. Delegate more.
I learned from my experience that the entrepreneur’s to-do list will never end. You can prioritize your tasks, focus on more important things or set off the time for something particular, but at the end of the day, things just have to be done. Unless you find a way to clone yourself, you need to develop trust for other people who can perform those tasks better, faster and cheaper than you.
9. Use productivity apps.
With so many awesome productivity apps on the market, it’s completely changed how I manage my time for the better. You no longer have to sit down and plan out your calendar for the week because productivity apps make it easy to set reminders, stay on track and get things done. Plus, with many of them, you can look back and see all that you’ve accomplished, which boosts motivation even more.
10. Cut down on interruptions.
The fewer times you are interrupted, the more productive you will be. Pay attention to those things that disrupt you—maybe you need to put your smartphone away or close out your email while you work on important tasks. Broken flow can really impede progress. By recognizing what breaks your concentration, you can increase your productivity.
11. Use the Pomodoro Technique.
I learned about the Pomodoro Technique a few years back when researching solutions to this exact problem, and I have been extremely impressed with the results. The idea behind it is to allot 25-minute chunks of time in which you only focus on one task. After each time chunk, take a short break before resuming. I’ve gotten more work done in four “Pomodoros” than some full work days!
12. Plan ahead to focus on priorities.
I always end my day by planning the following day, and I always end the week by planning the following week. This allows me to focus on top priorities as soon as I start my day without having to remember what’s important or worrying about anything derailing me.
Photo by @rosalinafonso via Twenty20