You know how it goes: you can get something done fast, cheaply, and well. But only two of these can be achieved at the same time. This means that something needs to be sacrificed. Yet in today’s job market, the limits of what is humanly possible seem to be moving at a rapid pace. Just like our personal lives, our careers have been sped up by growing demands for instant results, often at whatever cost.
Still, the truth is, as long as our tasks and job descriptions keep evolving, we need to evolve as well. For career-driven individuals, becoming obsolete is out of the question, and highly successful people are increasingly coming up with new, effective ways of getting things done. Time management skills are an essential part of this growth.
Nowadays, there’s a huge range of available time management tools and products you can invest in, as well as online courses, books, podcasts, and articles that deal with the subject. And that’s no surprise. After all, professionals who want to make it to the top need to know how to plan and control the hours spent on accomplishing a goal.
So, whether you’re only entering the job market, or are an established professional wanting to advance, working on your time management skills is crucial. And there are a few areas in which they will have the biggest impact on your career. By being aware of all possible obstacles, as well as studying the ways of overcoming them, you can make your road to success not only faster, but smoother as well.
The Negative Effects of Poor Time Management
Lacking organizational skills can have a strong impact not only on your career but also on your mental and physical health. Regardless of whether your work assignments are time-sensitive or not, you don’t want to give in to the enchanted circle of procrastination and overexertion, as these tend to negatively affect performance and job satisfaction.
i) Stress and Anxiety
Research has shown that deadlines are the biggest cause of work-related stress. Having a tight schedule to stick to can truly cause a great deal of mental strain, and can even have a serious impact on our health. Elevated cortisol levels due to chronic stress have been shown to contribute to conditions such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, weight gain, and even impaired cognitive capacity.
ii) Quality of Work
Those who are constantly in a hurry to get tasks done often have to sacrifice revisions and quality checks. Furthermore, overworking oneself in order to meet a deadline can easily result in lower levels of productivity. As a result, you’ll need even more energy to finish tasks that could have been done far more effectively.
iii) Work-life Balance
One of the most impactful consequences of a lack of organizational skills is a compromised work-life balance. With more time spent at the office and fewer hours dedicated to rest and leisurely social activities, job satisfaction inevitably suffers. Without paying proper attention to core career values, and getting the opportunity to step back and relax, it becomes increasingly easy to suffer from burnout – a condition affecting significant numbers of professionals every year.
iv) Reduced Opportunities
For most employers, the ideal employee will be able to perform tasks in a timely matter, without compromising the quality of the results. So, it comes as no surprise that being unable to deliver in this aspect can lead to a reduced chance to advance, both in terms of position, as well as monetary compensation.
What Is Good Time Management?
Once you know how much you can benefit from keeping track of every hour you spend at work, you can start moving towards being efficient in everything you do. Unfortunately, there’s not a single formula that will work for everyone. Instead, scheduling, tracking, and managing should be regular daily practices, with the goal of finding a method that works best for each individual.
There are, however, a few constituents that make up a great system for maximizing work performance and productivity. What’s best, some of these can be used for more than just assignments and tasks. They can even play an important role in organizing errands, personal events, or other private affairs.
The first step towards having better control over the way in which you utilize your working hours is to become better organized. This goes for both physical and mental space. An office and mind which are smothered in clutter are filled with distractions that break up your pace (thus slowing you down) and open up room for mistakes.
The best way to overcome these obstacles is to remove distractions and clearly define your goals and the actions required to achieve them. Clean up your desk, turn off unnecessary notifications, and keep open only the tabs you need in your browser.
Next, take a piece of paper or open up a blank note on your laptop and write down everything you need to finish until the end of your workday. Finish each day by planning out your assignments for the next day, or even week.
In order to ensure your results are the best they could possibly be, it’s important to give yourself the opportunity to edit and revise. The only way to achieve this is to start on time. Beating procrastination can be difficult, so before you can get started, try to identify your reasons for putting off tasks.
For some, it’s as simple as their brain trying to keep them from facing negative moods. For others, this process will require questioning their core values, aspirations, and the price they’re willing to pay in order to achieve what they want or think they want.
Once you’ve learned how to organize your thoughts and responsibilities, as well as how to get started with your assignments on time, you’ll gain priceless insight into the actual amount of time required to finish a project. This will, in turn, help you take a proactive approach to scheduling.
For freelancers, this will mean the ability to better evaluate the number of hours that will go into a job. Those who work for an employer, on the other hand, will be able to negotiate better timelines with their management, seeing that they’ll be able to set realistic goals and deliver in the agreed time period.
Entrepreneurs who have limited staff will often take on more than they can handle. In short bursts, this can be a budget-friendly solution, but in the long term, it can lead to neglecting priorities or using a highly skilled workforce on low-priority tasks.
To avoid this pitfall, it’s best to determine the importance of each task. If you’re the only one with the expertise and authority to do it, place it high on your to-do list. If, however, the task is not something that requires your specific set of skills, you can delegate to an employee or even outsource to a freelance specialist.
While technology has a number of drawbacks in terms of time management, it can certainly be a huge asset, too. The key lies in knowing how to use it in the best way possible.
Today, there is an abundance of software solutions that can help minimize the hours you’re spending on menial things such as time-tracking or invoicing. Investing in such software can be a great help, especially when said software can take existing data from your calendar and turn it into actionable reports, statistics, or invoices you would otherwise spend hours preparing.
4 Proven Time Management Techniques
The great thing about efficient time management is that there’s a wide variety of already existing methods that you can try and implement into your routine. Better yet, these can be combined into a hybrid routine that will answer all of your demands, helping you take control of how you schedule, utilize and manage your working hours.
In order to find out what works, it’s best to give several methods a go and to decide whether they’re effective for your individual needs.
1) Pomodoro Technique
You’ve probably already heard about this working method that combines 25-minute periods of work with short breaks. What makes it effective for a number of professionals are that it limits the available time we have to spend on projects, creating a positive sense of urgency and cutting down on distractions.
2) The 2-minute Rule
For smaller things that you’re putting off, but that needs to be done, try this rule. The concept is simple: it asks that you dedicate just two minutes in your day to a single job. More often than not, once you actually start, you’ll either find that you have finished the thing you’d been putting off, or that you’ve already started and decided to finish.
3) Time-tracking Apps/Extensions
You can do this either by using a time-tracking app/extension or by just writing down the times when you start and finish work on something. Tracking achieves two important things: it gives you valuable insight into how you’re spending precious minutes and hours, and it discourages procrastination and multitasking (which are problematic for most modern workers).
4) Minimize Making Many Decisions
Sometimes, the things that take up most of our energy are the ones we should be spending the least amount of time on. This is especially true with decisions such as what to wear in the morning, or what to eat for dinner.
You can completely eliminate these time-wasters by minimizing the number of options you can choose from in the first place. Create a routine and try to stick with it – much like former President Barack Obama. You may just find that you have far more willpower to dedicate to what actually matters.
For most employers, great time management skills are high on their list of priorities. This is why, if you want to be successful in your field, you need to prioritize them as well. For a number of people, however, it’s easier said than done, mainly due to the all-or-nothing approach we tend to take with these things.
Nonetheless, when broken up into smaller, manageable bits, organization, focus, and efficiency become easy. They simply become a part of our everyday routines. And their most important effect isn’t a better bottom line or an increase in pay. Instead, it’s the fact that we’re left with more energy and resources to dedicate to the things we truly love about our jobs.