4 Time Management Techniques To Adopt in 2024
If there’s one thing about time, it’s that it keeps moving along. Whether you’re in flow with its onward movement is up to you. Staying productive means knowing how to manage your time and sticking to a plan.
It’s where people often struggle, especially in an age where distractions are so prevalent. Think social media, the clothes in the dryer, and the co-worker who wants to chat. No matter where you work, distractions can easily throw you off your game. But so can perfectionism, which takes you out of the flow instead of keeping you in it. Because you’re so worried about being on target, your mind immobilizes you, preventing you from taking action.
Are you looking to improve your time management approach before 2024 begins? Read on. This article discusses four techniques to help you stay focused. You’ll boost your productivity without feeling the classic time crunch.
1. Use Automated Scheduling Tools
Scheduling is a huge part of time management. It might be why humans invented calendars. As a handy tool, calendars help keep track of appointments, to-do list reminders, and important deadlines. On paper, calendars can be an efficient way to centralize everything you’ve got going on. But those paper-based versions can also get a tad messy and become inconvenient to carry around.
Digital versions are undoubtedly better. You can set up notifications, sync your personal and work obligations, and make changes on the fly. Yet, how do you get everyone’s calendars on the same page in a team environment? You can play the email game, sending invite messages back and forth. Or you can try an automated meeting scheduling app like Calendar, which lets teams choose meeting times according to everyone’s availability.
Automated scheduling tools and workflow automation in general can streamline the process, making it more efficient. The software also integrates with popular meeting and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. With the ability to share custom links to your calendar, you don’t even have to initiate the process. Those inside and outside your organization can request meeting times based on your preferences.
2. Establish Time Blocks
Time blocking is a technique used to maintain focus on specific tasks throughout your workday. Some people also refer to this method as time boxing because you establish time limits for each set of tasks. The technique can work if you know how to categorize and prioritize your responsibilities.
It’s also ideal for roles where your responsibilities tend to be task-driven and somewhat repetitive. A role as an insurance claims handler is an example. Say you work for Progressive as an auto injury claims adjuster. A typical day involves reviewing new claims, attorney demands, and incoming correspondence. You also handle phone calls, liability investigations, and status letters.
Getting to new claims and attorney demands are your top priorities. Incoming correspondence and phone calls come second. The remainder of your tasks fall into less urgent categories. With the time-blocking technique, you could devote two hours in the morning to the highest priorities. After the two hours are up, you move on to your medium priorities for another two hours. Toward the end of the day, you tackle your least urgent tasks.
The key to time blocking is to stick to your established routine. Don’t let distractions steer you off track. And adhere to the hard stops you’ve put in place so you can move on to your next block. Time blocking helps you juggle multiple competing priorities, but you have to stay within its boundaries to see results.
3. Embrace the Art of Single-Tasking
In fast-paced environments, multitasking appears to be the norm. It seems like a way to keep your head above water as you swim against the tide. Switching between tasks to accomplish more in less time can be effective. But only if you’re good at it. And research shows a mere 2.5% of the population is.
For the majority, multitasking increases stress levels, compromises executive brain functions, and lowers motivation. Experts also link multitasking to depression and memory loss. It’s kind of scary if you think about it. Something you believe is helping you excel professionally may be compromising your health and work performance.
Breaking the habit can be challenging. You might find yourself multitasking in your personal life as well. Perhaps you scroll through your inbox on your phone while you’re watching TV. Or worse, you text as you’re driving. Taking small steps to switch to single-tasking will help you get into a healthier, more productive groove.
When you focus on one task at a time, it gets your full attention. Plus, you’ll finish it faster than you would if you were working on another assignment simultaneously. The quality of your work will increase, so you won’t have to go back to correct mistakes. You also won’t have to constantly recalibrate your brain to what’s in front of you. Moving sequentially from start to finish makes it easier to remember all the steps.
4. Define Success
Productivity success will look different among roles, companies, and individuals. Comparing yourself to others is natural, but the tendency can derail your goals. Say you’re in your first year as a community outreach manager for T-Mobile. Your peers have been in the same role for at least 10 years. As the new kid on the block, you’ve reached out to them for pointers.
In the process, you’ve noticed they seem to be much more productive than you. As a result, you feel as though your time management skills and performance aren’t up to par. What you need to remember is to give yourself grace as you go. Since you’re learning the ins and outs of a new role, you’ll develop your own efficiencies with practice.
When adopting time management techniques, one you may overlook is defining what productivity means to you. It may mean letting go of unrealistic expectations, such as being “always on” and never taking breaks. Expecting perfection from the get-go is another unrealistic target. You may need to experiment with a few hacks before you find what’s right. Be willing to adjust your definition of effective time management so it doesn’t become a source of stress.
Mastering time management is an ongoing process. Sometimes, you learn what works by finding out what doesn’t. And what doesn’t work well usually involves flying by the seat of your pants. Hoping everything will come out OK in the wash isn’t a solid plan.
While juggling competing priorities at a breathtaking pace is challenging, effectively managing them is possible. Productivity hacks like automated scheduling apps and time-blocking methods are there to help. By planning to embrace them as the new year begins, you can move with time instead of against it.