I’m all for flexibility and spontaneity, but when it comes to day-to-day time management, I believe in having a timetable. Plans don’t have to be set in concrete, but having a basic template for each day should lead to better time management.
Here are my suggestions for how to reduce stress by being more efficient:
- Anchor your wake-up time. Waking up at basically the same time every day is good for you. Trying to go to bed at the same time every night is much harder to do and doesn’t seem to have the same benefits as anchoring the wake-up time. Even if you’re not going to work that day, waking up and enjoying a cup of tea in bed or reading the paper from cover to cover is a luxury you can only enjoy if you’re awake.
- Exercise at the same time most days. Trying to decide each day when you’ll go for a walk or get to the gym is way too difficult. Exercising on an ad hoc basis usually means that you won’t exercise. Knowing that you go for a walk every morning at 6am means that you no longer think about it, you just do it.
- Break the day down into chunks. Thinking that you have 8 or 10 hours to get everything done seems like a long time. But we all know how quickly time flies. Greater efficiency comes from thinking about your day being a series of periods – like when you were at school. eg before recess, before lunch, before afternoon tea, and before dinner. That way, you have four separate time periods to organise.
- When are you most efficient? Do you work better in the mornings or after lunch? Know your peak performance times and schedule in the work that requires the greatest focus during these times.
- Schedule regular breaks. If you know when you will be stopping for lunch or a cup of tea, then you can often increase your focus on the task at hand. Whereas if you simply stop working to grab a coffee, you’ll most probably be procrastinating.
- Make short to-do lists. Long lists are overwhelming. Not having a list can decrease productivity. A short list of tasks that can be ticked off creates a sense of achievement.
- Plan relaxation. What is your guilty pleasure? Reading? Watching TV? Surfing the net? We all need something to look forward to and if we know that we will be able to relax after dinner, we can be more efficient leading up to that time.
- Set times to check messages. We need to have our phones on silent and try not to be so reactive.
- Challenge perfectionism. Never pride yourself on being a perfectionist. It’s usually a sign of a fear of failure and it can lead to procrastination.
- Transfer unfinished tasks onto tomorrow’s list. When the clock says it’s time to stop, stop. It’s not procrastination if you make something that you didn’t get done today tomorrow’s priority.