If you apply these concepts and strategies, they will help you reduce stress, be more productive, achieve your goals faster, improve your relationships and the overall quality of your life.
However, before we get to all the benefits, let’s make one thing clear: Time management will not help you gain more time. Time is finite for all of us. It will also not help you learn how to manage time better, because time is not an object or a resource. It is not something you can control.
Instead, the purpose of time management is to help you manage your actions better, so you may accomplish more important tasks in the finite time you have.
The concepts and strategies in a time management essay will always revolve around organizing ourselves and our priorities. However, instead of filling this article with boring concepts and the history of time management, let’s go through some practical strategies I tried myself, with more or less success.
My Story with Time Management
The first I Google Searched how to manage time better was in my first year of college. I got involved with a dispatch project, which aimed to connect people with whatever professional they needed with a simple phone call. Basically, whenever you had a problem which needed expert assistance, you could call this phone line and get redirected to a professional in that field. You might already have this service in your country, but it would have been a first in Romania.
To get things rolling, I would hold dozens of interviews a day, make just as many calls and collect numbers in my spare time. Combine this with my martial arts training / teaching, and my time was as full as can be.
I started missing appointments, being late for interviews, tired for training, and everything seemed to slowly go downhill. Not long after, I started getting terrible headaches which forced me to take even more time off.
So, I used this period to study how to manage time better. Needless to say, this isn’t the only article on this topic online. The web is full of them, ranging from strategies, weird tips, and the occasional mystical solution. However, by far the most prevalent idea going around was the following: Make a list for the following day and stick to it.
So, I did.
My To Do List
I skipped the whole “following day” part and made a to do list in Microsoft Word then and there. For the next 30 minutes, I would make my calls. The next 30 minutes were reserved for a shower. I would gather numbers from online advertisements sites until 4 PM, then rush to my boss’ office/home apartment to hold the interviews. After those, I would get home, eat, do some pushup, gather more numbers, then sleep.
I was supper pumped up, and for a few hours, everything worked swell. However, I got to the office tired and starving. I’ve refused to eat since it was not in the plan, but now I could barely hold eye contact with the “to be hired” professionals.
On my way home, I stopped by a food joint and grabbed a shawarma. My hunger was quenched, but I was tired as hell. I got home, turned on the computer and spent the rest of the evening binge watching romantic comedies.
- Pushups and numbers: Long Forgotten;
- Sleep: My habit at the time was to browse the internet when tired, not sleep;
- List: Indefinitely postponed.
To Do List Tips I’ve Learned after Countless more Experiments
It took me a whole 2 weeks to give to do lists another try. I once again searched how to manage time better and made some adjustments. I changed the order I did things in, including food and rest time, but once again, I failed.
After countless more such failures, here’s what I learned: Do so lists work wonders, but don’t get stuck on the details.
First of all, every article or clip I could find encouraged me to make my list on a piece of paper, like the act of writing it by hand would increase my chances of sticking with it. Personally, I found little difference between Microsoft Word and Paper.
I also didn’t see much of an effect with sticking the list on my walls or on the computer screen. After at most a couple of days, I would become familiarized with them, at which point, I would ignore them.
Second of all, planning every 30 minutes of the day never worked in managing my time. I felt too constrained and got frustrated when I missed a deadline, which caused me to miss more deadlines or throw away the list completely.
What worked instead was making to do lists without a timer. If I made a list of all the things I wanted to do for that day in order of importance, it would remind my brain of what I wanted to accomplish and why. This would usually help get me focused on the tasks at hand and break through procrastination.
Third of all, although writing lists down on paper or in a Word document worked best, making them in my head proved far more convenient, so I was more likely to do it. I would make my list while still lying in bed in the morning, when taking a shower, when walking to work, or whenever I had time.
Although writing things down had a more powerful effect, when making to do lists in my head, I would tend to persist at it, because it was easier. No 2 lists were ever quite the same, so I could adapt to unpredictable events easier as well.
Finally, I learned the Pareto principle is indispensable when answering how to manage time better. For those who haven’t yet heard of it, when applied to time management, this principle states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. So, if you can find what those actions / tasks are and do them over and over again, your results will skyrocket.
However, by far the most important thing I’ve learned is this:
A List’s Effect and Purpose
When you write a list, your brain records and organizes the information as you’re writing it. It is basically a way of letting your brain know what you want to do. The mind picks up on this message, and puts you in gear to do it.
Although a list’s purpose is to help you organize your time, as a very powerful side effect, it also focuses your mind and gives you the initial impulse you’ll often need when trying to start something.
In the next article, I will give you the history of time management, as well as a few more concrete ideas you can apply to better organize your time, handle the mess in your schedules, and get things done.
In the meantime, grab a piece of paper, a word document, or your phone, and make a plan for the rest of the day. Really think things through, remember why you want to do each item on the list, and when you start feeling the urge to get started, pick the most important thing and do it!
If you have problems putting this strategy into action like I did, or are still confused on how to manage time better for yourself, let me know in comment section below. Detail your situation, and I’ll be sure to help you.