We’ve all looked at our to-do lists and sighed in frustration at how many task remained unfinished. It may even feel stressful at times. We have so much to do, and the days appear to be becoming shorter. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. The good news is that there are numerous approaches you may use to reclaim control of your time.
Are you not getting enough work done? It’s not because you haven’t mastered time management. In reality, the concept of time management as a whole is a lie.
Why? Because it is impossible to “manage” time. No matter who you are or what you do, you have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else.
Nonetheless, some people are far more productive than others, despite having far more to do than they should be able to “fit” into the same 24-hour period. Not to mention finding time to eat, sleep, walk the dog, and so on.
Focus on Task, not Time
The biggest reason you could not be getting enough done is not lack of time. It’s your task list. If you’re continuously overwhelmed by the items on it, it’s typically because they haven’t been broken down into tiny enough jobs. That is, rather than controlling your time, you should manage your tasks.
For example, if you have “submit 3 mockups to client” on your to-do list and it’s simply sitting there scaring you, it’s definitely far too wide of a job for your brain to process and start with.
Break down the large, intimidating task into smaller mini-tasks. Make your to-do list as detailed as you need to make it less scary. This procedure is a task in itself, and it may take several hours, so it’s best to schedule it for a Friday afternoon or over the weekend. Believe me, it will take far longer than you think.
Things are generally overwhelming because they haven’t been broken down into little enough bite-sized bits. However, it is up to you to decide what is acceptable for you and what might be broken down further. In our previous example, “submit three mockups to client” may be divided into smaller phases, such as “finish initial wireframe sketch.” This may be a good to-do item for you, or it may not be and still require further breakdown.
Getting several things done at once is usually faster than doing one thing at a time. If you can batch anything and get it out of the way in one group, do it.
For example, if you have three layouts to complete, instead of completing each one completely before beginning the next, see if there isn’t a comparable work for all three that you could handle first, similar to an assembly line at a factory, then go on to the next similar task, and so on.
Take each item on your to-do list and figure out how to divide it into smaller stages. Break it down again — and again – until it’s manageable. Even if step one is as simple as “sit down and switch on the computer.” It may be terrible, but anything that gets you started is worthwhile.
This isn’t precisely time management, but it’s as near as we can come. Rather than attempting, set a timer to ring at regular intervals, notifying you when it’s time to move on. Stick to your to-do list and, whatever you do, don’t go over your time limit. Don’t take 35 minutes if it’s only 20 minutes. If you are not serious about saving time, you will never be.
For whatever reason, items that you’ve put down on your to-do list don’t always get done. This can be stressful at times since the item is still on the list, glaring us down every time we look at it. This can make going through your task a task of its own.
If something has been on your to-do list for more than a month, either assign it to someone else, complete it right now, or accept that it will never be completed and move on. Uncrossed things on our to-do lists add stress the longer we look at them. So get them checked off or discarded as soon as possible.
Last but not least, keep in mind that “perfection” is an unattainable objective. Someone who utilizes a basic pen and paper can be a thousand times more productive than someone who has the most up-to-date applications and devices.
Productivity comes from doing things rather than preparing or planning to do them.