Every person gets the same 24 hours each day. But if we’re all working with the same fixed amount of time, why is it that some people seem to have more than enough of it to pursue their professional and personal goals—while others run around feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by an ever-growing (and never-ending) to-do list?
The answer is time management. How you manage your time can mean the difference between feeling like you’re busy every minute of the day (but not actually getting anything done) and accomplishing everything you want in your job and your life—and still feeling like you have time to spare.
But how can you make sure you’re managing your time effectively—and in a way that not only increases productivity, but allows you to devote time and energy to the areas of your work and life that bring you meaning, purpose, and joy? The thought of it all seems overwhelming, but luckily there are a few strategies you can implement into your day-to-day routine to bring more structure to your schedule and to-do list.
What Is Time Management—Really?
The term “time management” is a major productivity buzzword. But before we jump into how to use time management hacks to hit your goals, it’s important to clearly understand how time management should be defined. Time management isn’t just about getting more done—it’s about taking back control of your time so you can focus on what matters most.
So, to define it, time management is being in control of your tasks on a day-to-day basis so you know what you have to do (and, just as importantly, what you don’t have to do), when to do it, and how long it will take. And when you have that sense of control, you have the time to pursue what’s meaningful to you—both inside and outside of work. And in order to get that sense of control? All you need are the right strategies.
Time management hacks are small, sustainable actions to take control of your schedule—and to make sure that your time is spent on the projects that feel the most meaningful, valuable, and rewarding. Let’s take a look at a few time management hacks you can use to start taking back control of your time (and, as a result, your life).
1. Take A Time Inventory
Once you’ve tracked your time for a week, it’s time to map out the data (both Toggl and Harvest offer reporting functions that make it easy to visualize your schedule) and take a good, hard look at where your time is going—because chances are, no matter how busy you are, there are opportunities to take some time back.
The key is to look for any “time sucks;” things that you don’t like doing, things that take up too much of your time, or things that are monopolizing your time and keeping you from your most meaningful work.
Once you’ve identified these black holes, get them off your calendar and reclaim that time for other things. If the time sucks are unnecessary, eliminate them. If you’re stuck spending time on tasks in your business you don’t like, outsource them. If cleaning and chores are keeping you from launching your dream business, hire help around the house or move those actions to hours where you’re not in the headspace to be creative.
Accountability is key. When you use a time inventory system, you won’t be able to waste time without it showing up later when you review how you spent your week.
2. Look For Things To Automate—Both On- And Offline
One of the best time management hacks in your arsenal is, without a doubt, automation. And automation extends beyond the work tasks you do on your computer. Automation is a great way to minimize the amount of time you spend on tedious, time-consuming tasks—and take that time back for more meaningful, purposeful work.
Look for opportunities to automate tasks in your schedule—both on and offline. For example, does battling other Saturday shoppers at the grocery store eat up your weekend? See if your grocery store offers delivery—or use a delivery service like Instacart and have someone do your grocery shopping for you. Do you find yourself answering the same customer emails multiple times a day? Instead of starting from scratch every time one of those emails hits your inbox, create a template.
The point is, the more time-demanding, yet repetitive, tasks you automate, the more time you free up in your schedule—and the more time you have to spend on the tasks that really matter.
3. Carve Out Time For A Productivity-Boosting Morning Routine
The way you start the day is the way you continue the day. So, if you start the day feeling rushed and overwhelmed, you’ll spend the rest of your day feeling rushed and overwhelmed. But the opposite is also true. If you start your morning by being purposeful with your time, you’ll carry that with you throughout the day.
Instead of rolling out of bed and immediately jumping into emails or rushing to get to the office, set your alarm for a little earlier and carve out time for yourself. You can spend your morning routine doing anything you’d like—as long as it’s something that makes you feel calm, energized, and ready to take on the day.
If you’re not sure how to develop a productivity-boosting morning routine, you might want to try the SAVERS routine from Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life (Before 8am). SAVERS stands for silence, affirmations, visualizations, exercise, reading, and scribing (also known as journaling). These six practices will help you set yourself up for a successful day—and because you’re starting your day off with intention, it will be easier to be more intentional with your time as the day goes on.
4. Learn To Say ‘No’ When It Counts
In today’s culture, we praise those who hustle and grind non-stop. . But filling every minute of your schedule isn’t helping you get more done. In fact, busy can come a “hurry sickness” that causes burnout and other productivity problems.
If you want to take back control of your time, you need to get comfortable saying “no.” If you find that saying no feels uncomfortable, it might help to reframe it. Saying no can be uncomfortable at first—but the better you get at saying no to things that aren’t the right fit, the more time you’ll have for the things that feel like a yes.
5. Invest Time With The Right Tools
There are plenty of things you can do to take back control of your time—but there are also plenty of tools out there (many of them free) that can do it for you.
Are you spending too much time watching funny videos on YouTube? (We’ve all been there.) Try Freedom, which blocks access to time-sucking websites. Are you spending a lot of time posting your content on different social media sites? Try a social media management tool to post to multiple social networks at once. Do you have a hard time keeping track of projects and to-dos (and waste a ton of time as a result)? Hop on Trello, create your boards, and manage all of your projects from one easy-to-use platform—even on the go.
The point is, using the right tools is one of the most powerful time management hacks at your disposal so invest some time into setting up your (free) productivity stack.
6. Spend Your Time Wisely
There are only so many hours in the day—and without the right time management strategy, you can end up wasting them.
But with these time management hacks, you can take back control of your schedule and spend your time on purpose—and while you might not have time for everything, you will have time for everything that matters. What will you achieve with these additional hours in your day?
Adapted from Trello