I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “Time is money” before, and it’s true! Time is the most valuable thing we have, and although we shouldn’t take it for granted, we often do.
I am always looking for ways to improve my time management skills because using your time more effectively (especially if you’re super busy) can allow you to have more down time, which also decreases stress.
Just think, if you could get a project that might normally take you 3 hours done in just 1 by managing your time better, you would have an extra 2 hours in your day!
If you’re craving some extra down time and are ready to learn how to better manage your time, you have come to the right place!
11 ways to improve your time management
consider how you use your time now
Before you can assess how to better manage your time, you need to figure out how you’re currently doing. A great way to do this is to keep track of everything you do for a week – and I mean every single thing.
Write down what time you wake up, when you go to bed, how long you’re spending at work or school, how many times you pick up your phone to scroll social media, when you workout, how long you were hanging out with friends and family… everything.
And at the end of the week, you can look back and see if you were truly spending your time doing the things you wanted to be doing. You’ll also be able to see how much time you were spending procrastinating, working, sleeping, eating, exercising, and more!
At the end of the week, when you figure out what you’re spending your time doing, you can make the changes you want to see – whatever those may be.
don’t waste time on things that aren’t necessary
This may seem pretty obvious, but so many of us spend a lot of time doing things that probably aren’t all that necessary.
Scrolling on social media, while it can be enjoyable and a great stress-reliever, can sometimes distract us and cause us to procrastinate working on things that are truly important.
It’s also not uncommon for us to agree to doing things that aren’t really of interest to us, in which we need to learn to say “no” to.
Bottom line is this: if you aren’t enjoying it, or if it’s not absolutely necessary, why are you doing it?
set a timer when working
This technique has been a game-changer for me!! All too often, I procrastinate starting on something because I don’t really have anything motivating me, but when I set a timer for myself, it’s like a race against the clock!
Having a timer also reminds me to take a break after 30-60 minutes so that I don’t get sucked into working for hours on end (I would get hangry, and no one wants to see that).
I’ve experimented with a few different lengths of time, but the one that I found to like the most is 45 minutes. After a 45-minute work period, I’ll take a break for 5-15 more minutes.
Trust me, I know this can be super hard to do, especially if you’re in college and have roommates. But it’s not impossible!
Limit all kinds of distractions – internal and external.
External distractions, as I like to call them, are the people and things going on around you, which are not under your control, but you can usually escape them in one way or another. Whether that’s leaving your dorm room to go work in the library, or leaving your house to go work at a coffee shop… whatever works for you, do it!
Internal distractions, or the things going on that you do have control over, may be the open tabs on your laptop that you’re using to message a friend or the social media apps you have open on your phone. These are completely under your control, and if you are being distracted by them, it’s up to YOU to change that.
If I’m distracting myself by going on my phone, I like to put my phone somewhere out of sight where I can’t easily reach it. If I keep opening unnecessary tabs on my laptop, maybe I’ll turn the internet off and work that way.
Experiment and see what works best for you to control the distractions!
As I mentioned earlier, I like to work for about 45 minutes and then take a 5-15 minute break. These breaks allow me to regroup, fuel up, and just pause before getting back into the swing of things.
However, the efficacy of these breaks is determined by what you do during them!!
When I first started working in time blocks and taking breaks in between blocks, I would often use my phone during breaks. I would scroll through Instagram, text a few people, and just mindlessly stare at the screen. Not any more!
I realized that looking at my phone didn’t make me feel refreshed; it didn’t make my break “worth it.”
Now, instead, I might grab a snack, drink lots of water, use the restroom, do some jumping jacks, walk around, or dance to one of my favorite jams.
Whatever makes you feel rejuvenated on your break, DO THAT! It might not be the same things that make me feel good, but as long as it’s helping you, that’s all that matters. (:
separate “must do” and “can do” tasks
If you’re someone that always has a mile-long to-do list, this tip is for you! Instead of writing out a “to-do” list, separate your tasks into two lists: your “must do’s” and your “can do’s.”
Your must do’s will include things that you absolutely HAVE to do: homework, send emails, shop for groceries, or meet up with someone.
Your can do tasks are things that don’t NEED to get accomplished right away; these may be things like tidying up your place, taking Christmas decorations down, and starting a load of laundry.
After separating your tasks into two lists, try to get the “must do” list done first, and then if you have extra time and are feeling up to it, move on to the “can do” list. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it all done! (:
do the tasks you don’t want to do FIRST
I know, I know, I struggle with this one too. But it can be incredibly helpful and effective in time management.
Too often, we have one task that we are absolutely DREADING doing, even though it’s *probably* not that hard or time-consuming. That’s just the way we work, I guess.
And while it’s totally okay and normal to procrastinate that one task, life becomes a LOT easier once that one job is taken care of. It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders, which can make you feel so much more energized and ready to take on the rest of your tasks.
If you get your least favorite task done first, you won’t have to dread doing it the whole day while you’re working on other things.
So while I know this one is a struggle, always try to do the things you don’t want to do first.
plan your days – but be flexible
A wildly effective time management tactic that’s kept me sane for as long as I can remember is planning what to do with my time.
I don’t plan out every minute of every day, but I try to have somewhat of an outline for each day, especially when I’m busy and have lots of things to do.
My favorite way to do this is to fill out my planner for each week the Sunday before. I grab all my colored pens, my Google calendar, my Passion Planner, and I get to work!
I write down when I have classes, work, and what I need and want to get done that week – and I write the days I need to finish each task by.
Having all of the things going on in my life written down in one space has helped me a lot with visualizing what I can get done in any given day and how far out in advance I should start preparing and planning for things.
If you don’t have a planner by now, I highly recommend you buy one!!
figure out what times you are most productive
Just like everyone might need to work in different lengths of time blocks to be as productive as possible, we all have different times of the day when we produce our best work. Nothing in life is a one-size-fits-all!!
For me, I often feel best when I do my work in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Some of this is due to my schedule and having to work around school, work, and sleep patterns, but I consistently feel like I am able to put my best effort forward during these times. During mid-afternoon and post-dinnertime, I’m usually a little sleepy, and my brain is just not into it.
However, as I said before, everyone is different, so think about when you feel like you can be the most productive: when you have the most mental energy, when you have free time, and when you feel the most confident in the work you are able to create.
break big projects down into smaller parts
Big projects can easily make us feel overwhelmed, so it’s almost always best to break them up into smaller parts.
Maybe you do this by breaking a project up into steps, breaking it up into daily tasks, or something else that makes sense to you!!
I know when I have a big project for school, such as a paper, I tend to break up the assignment outline into pieces and work on them one at a time. For example, let’s say I have a paper where I’m expected to write about three different times of my life; I would work on each one separately, as opposed to trying to jump right in and write about it all at once.
get yourself pumped up
One of the best things you can do to improve your overall productivity and time management skills is to get yourself pumped up!
If you are excited and ready to tackle the tasks in front of you, you will have so much more fun accomplishing them and you’ll be ready to go, which will most likely help you work faster and have a positive attitude while doing it!
I love dancing around to my favorite songs, listening to one of my top podcasts, or giving myself a little pep talk to spark up some inspiration in me and get me ready to have productive day!
I hope these 11 ways to improve your time management tips & tricks help you, especially with classes starting back up after winter break! I’ll be over here cheering you on; you’ve got this!