7 Time Management Strategies to Increase Productivity
“I just wish there were more hours in the day.” It’s a phrase you’ve probably uttered many times. Maybe you want to get more done during your workday, spend more time with your family, or just have more time to take care of yourself emotionally—or all of the above. Whatever the case, a time management strategy will help you focus on what’s important and allow you to accomplish more throughout the day. When you begin to manage your time the right way, you will take your life to the next level.
At The Life Coach School, we see so many clients struggling to get everything done that they need to do in a day. They think they’re too busy. But, in reality, they just don’t know how they should be organizing their day so that they can increase their productivity. Once we work with them, they understand exactly what to do to accomplish more. They start to see results immediately by implementing our time management strategies. Keep reading to learn what you need to do to get more done in a day so you can start living a truly conscious and deliberate life.
Understand That Busy Is a Thought
So, where do you even begin? First and foremost, you need to recognize that “busy” is simply a thought you’re having. You think that time, other people, and other things have control of your day. But feeling busy and overwhelmed isn’t the reality.
Understand that your thoughts about your time are also going to impact how you show up. If you are constantly telling yourself how busy you are, your productivity is going to suffer. You will also be more stressed than you really need to be.
When you can tell yourself the facts (“I have three kids. I have a husband. I have a job. My son has soccer practice every Saturday morning. I take a yoga class three days a week.”), you’ll recognize these things aren’t “busy” or “overwhelming” until you think they are. Before you take another step forward, ask yourself how you think about your time and schedule. This will make a big difference in your overall productivity. It will change the way you feel and approach your to-do list.
Take a Look at How You’re Spending Your Time
Next, you need to take a look at how you are currently spending your time. If you’re unable to get everything you need to do done, why? You can easily identify this by jotting down everything you do for a week or two. Once you have a good representation of what your days look like, evaluate the areas where you may not be as productive as you should be. If you’re spending three hours a day scrolling through social media, determine what you could get done during that time instead.
Are you spending two hours on a project each week that should only take you 30 minutes? Do you find your workdays leaking into your family time at night without you even recognizing it? Giving yourself a birdseye view of your schedule will help you figure out where you’re really spending your time.
Write Everything Down
When you plan out your week ahead of time, it allows you to be purposeful about your day, so you’re not reacting to things that pop up throughout the week. It gives you the freedom to focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about what’s next. But ultimately, it allows you to get more done so you can enjoy your downtime and live a life of balance.
At the beginning of your week, take an hour to write every single thing down that you need to do during the week ahead. Seriously, everything. If you need to make a phone call to a friend, write it down. If you have to drop off clothes at the dry cleaners, write it down. If you plan to watch a movie with your husband on Friday night, write it down. It may feel silly to jot some of these things down, but it’s all part of your new time management strategy.
It may also feel intimidating to look at this list. There’s usually a lot of things on it. But when you learn how to organize your tasks the right way, you will realize how doable everything is. In fact, you will find that you have so much more time to do the things you actually want to do in addition to the things you have to do.
Set Goals and Focus on the Most Important Things First
Once you’ve established everything you need to get done during the week ahead, it’s time to figure out when you’re going to do everything. Whatever you deem a priority should go first. So, for instance, if you always pick your kids up from school on weekdays from 3-3:30 pm, block that time on your calendar. That means no matter what comes up throughout the week, you know that 3-3:30 pm is safe.
Continue working through your to-do list in that same way, making sure you’ve allotted enough time for each task. We recommend adding recurring tasks at the beginning of the process so you can set those to automatically populate weekly. That includes an hour each week to build your calendar. By the end of this process, every minute of every day should be accounted for. That means you will include sleeping, eating, grocery shopping, etc.
We also recommend you include some overflow time to help you complete unfinished business. You likely only need 30 minutes or an hour at the end of each day for this. This time will also allow you to field any unexpected tasks that arise during the day that you haven’t been able to schedule.
Manage Your Projects Effectively
It’s great to have your calendar planned out each week, but it’s pivotal that you follow through. When you open your calendar on Tuesday morning and see an hour blocked off to write that email to your team or clean the house, you may start to convince yourself that it can wait until the afternoon. That defeats the purpose of your new time management strategy. In order for this strategy to be as effective as possible, you must do exactly what you’re scheduled to do when you’re scheduled to do it.
Think of each appointment the same as you would a meeting with a friend. You wouldn’t stand up your friend or show up late, would you? Show yourself the same respect for each task throughout the day.
That also means you stop writing that email as soon as your hour is complete, even if it’s not finished. As you go, you will learn how to become more efficient with your time and what it takes to get the email written in an hour. You can finish writing the email during your overflow time at the end of the day.
Give Your Tasks the Focus They Deserve
When you’re working on a task, it’s critical that you manage any external distractions. This includes email notifications, text messages, phone calls, unexpected visitors, etc. It’s so easy to divert your attention when your phone dings or buzzes or lights up. You owe it to yourself and the task at hand to be 100% present.
By turning off all external time wasters, you will find yourself much more efficient in whatever it is you’re working on. Your mind won’t wander to see who’s texting you or what they may want or what you might’ve forgotten to do. You can be confident in knowing everything you need to do is being done when it needs to be done and you’re not missing anything.
Reevaluate at the End of the Week
Each Friday, it’s important that you set aside some time to look at your accomplishments for the week. Allow yourself to feel proud of everything you did—you will find it’s much more than you’re used to getting done. Focus on the results you created.
Building a time management strategy that works for you will require constant adjustments. Reviewing your week allows you to jot down things that did and didn’t work so you can make changes as you go. For example, if you only allowed 30 minutes to send your weekly update, but it’s been consistently taking an hour, you may want to revise that time moving forward. To see the biggest impact from your strategy, it’s crucial that it continually evolves.
Don’t Worry If You Don’t Complete Everything.
It is possible, especially as you’re first learning how to become more efficient, that you won’t complete every task on your to-do list. That’s OK. Give yourself grace as you get started. Make sure to complete the tasks with a hard deadline during your overflow time and let the more evergreen open items roll over to the next week.
When you reevaluate at the end of the week, you can identify the three most important projects that you still need to complete. These will be the first items you schedule during the following week’s Monday Hour One. Make these a priority for your next week, but don’t shame yourself for not completing them this week. Remind yourself that you are capable of getting everything on your to-do list done, and move on. Next week is a fresh start.
As you become more comfortable implementing this time management strategy, you will start to notice your productivity soar. You will stop procrastinating. You will finally have time for the things and people that really matter. And you will stop feeling busy and overwhelmed.
When you enroll in Self Coaching Scholars, you will gain immediate access to all our time management tools, including Monday Hour One. Start living a conscious and deliberate life today. Click here to enroll in Self Coaching Scholars.
Brooke Castillo is the CEO and founder of The Life Coach School. Brooke has coached thousands of clients individually and in groups to improve their lives, their weight, their businesses, and their careers. She is a Master Certified Life and Weight Coach who provides an example of what is possible. She also hosts one of the most highly rated podcasts on iTunes: The Life Coach School Podcast.