A simple internet search on ‘time management’ will result in an immense number of suggestions around ‘making a plan’, or creating a ‘to do’ list. But what is a good plan? Is it an immense list of everything you will ever need to do, in microscopic detail? Is it a few notes jotted on a scrap of paper? Many of us will indeed think of some form of ‘to do’ or ‘actions’ list. We might even prioritise it, perhaps as ‘low, medium and high’ priority actions, or schedule them in to our day, with specific times.
Tip No.1: Plan for tomorrow, today
Most people tend to be less productive, or tired, towards the end of their working day. This is a great time to undertake the relatively simple task of planning your next day. Not only does this help you get a running start the next morning, with your day neatly scheduled, but it also helps to ‘download’ all those tasks from your mind’s focus, enabling you to start to unwind and switch off from work, rather than ‘carrying’ all the work for tomorrow through the night and occupying your thoughts. This then can help you rest, relax and recover better, placing you in a better position to be more productive the next day.
Tip No.2: Prioritise honestly!
Consider the tasks and what outcomes you wish to achieve as a result of completing those tasks. What do you want to be different after the task has been achieved? When prioritising, several different factors will come into your decision-making process:
- Whose priority is it? For example, whilst you may think it low, a colleague may need your response, so for them it is high.
- What type of priority is it? Perhaps a certain task would be assigned a low-priority because it is boring or hard work, yet, if the thought of the outstanding task nags at you subconsciously, completing that task may actually be a higher priority, even if only for your mental well-being.
- Time effects may alter a priority. If something is urgent but low priority, you may wish to schedule it before something higher priority but with a softer timescale. The Eisenhower Matrix can be really helpful here (‘What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important’).
Tip No.3: Give tasks realistic timings
We can be incredibly optimistic in our assessment of how long a task will take to do. A useful approach is to consider how long you would anticipate a friend or colleague taking to complete the same task. Perhaps also think about how long you have taken to do comparable tasks. Having a schedule for your work, with approximate timings, can help you work out where you have flexibility and avoids over-loading yourself or under-utilising your available time. It can be better, psychologically, to go back to your action lists and select an additional task to complete, rather than spend time each night ‘carrying-forward’ a whole host of tasks you didn’t get done that day.
Tip No.4: Allow time for reactive work
Do you schedule in time for interruptions? Unless you are psychic you may not be able to schedule in when you will be interrupted. However, you can allow time in your day to enable you to respond promptly to reactive tasks. Of course, another benefit of a planned schedule, is that if the interruption is trivial, then you can legitimately say that you have something else scheduled and won’t be able to do it immediately.
Tip No.5: Know your productive time and use it
Some people are at their most productive at the start of their working day, others take a while to ‘warm up’ or ‘come up to speed’. By knowing when you concentrate best, think most clearly and have the sharpest focus, you can allocate your most valuable work to this time in your day. Use this time for your complex decision-making tasks, your high creativity tasks and your mentally-demanding work.
Tip No.6: Be mindful
Keeping focused on what you are actually doing, rather than thinking about what you have already done, or what you are going to do, can help you complete that task more effectively and more efficiently. Also, be aware of your ‘typical’ days. If you know that you are crammed full of essential yet mainly reactive work on a Friday, then do avoid putting a lot of planned work into your schedule that you are unlikely to complete. Also, if you know that you cannot live your life without time on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, schedule in time to engage (meaningfully?). This can avoid losing time when you feel over-loaded and just want a quick break (which can turn into distracted hours). Setting the timer on your phone works well. By knowing that you will be able to look again in an hour or two, can enable you to refocus on your work more comfortably.
Tip No.7: Be flexible
Although having a plan, even a timely schedule, can help you focus on what needs to be done, it is useful to keep a flexible mindset towards that schedule or plan. Sometimes, things change. Being able to review and revise your tasks and priorities can help you smoothly re-focus your workload and gain the most valuable outcomes for your time and efforts.
Whether you are a hypnotherapist, hypnotist, talking therapist or simply interested in improving the quality of your own life, engaging in time management and planning your working time can actually make you more efficient, giving you greater productivity. This can enhance your self-esteem and self-efficacy and also optimise your access to and enjoyment of your leisure time. Rather than restrict yourself to a schedule or plan, it can be incredibly freeing to know that you are able to focus best on what is most important to you.
We hope that this blog on continued time management has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks