We’ll cut right to the chase – we’re not here to waste your time. This article probably drew you in because you’re interested in investing time in things that matter instead of spending your energy on meaningless tasks, and what could be more liberating than that? Read on to discover 5 time management skills that will change the way you live.

According to the Corporate Finance Institute, by definition, time management means having control over how and when you complete particular activities, while working to complete them in a shorter amount of time. The goal? To decrease stress and boost your success (in regards to career, financial or lifestyle success).

Step 1: Take a good look at what you actually need to do

Step out of your own role and look at your job as an outsider. What tasks do you need to do daily and what are you responsible for, according to your job description? It’s likely you’ve picked up tasks along the way and created habits that aren’t really a part of your job. 

For example, your job most likely doesn’t list answering emails as job duty number one. Communicating with coworkers and customers is essential, but it shouldn’t bog you down or get in the way of what you were hired to do. If you’re experiencing email overload, here are some tips that might help:

  • According to CNBC, American workers spend an average of five hours and 52 minutes each day checking their work and personal emails. This is enough to drive anyone crazy, so spare yourself the temptation and turn off non-essential email notifications now.
  • Set a half hour at the beginning of the day and a half hour at the end of the day to check your email, and limit email time outside of those parameters unless your current task requires correspondence.
  • Set expectations with your boss and coworkers who email most frequently. Have an honest conversation about reasonable limits, like not being required to respond to emails at night when you’re trying to spend time with family.
  • Set an automated away message so people know when they can expect to hear back from you.Other time-wasters that aren’t part of your job description include meetings or professional development unrelated to your work (request to be excused), long chats with co-workers (excuse yourself politely) and noise distractions (invest in some noise-cancelling headphones).

 Step 2: Declutter

Clean up your physical space and your virtual space. A messy desk and a messy screen are making your work twice as difficult. Minimize the things you use daily and streamline whatever processes you can. 

Instead of having a desk calendar, an online calendar and a calendar on your phone, keep your schedule all in one place and sync up any electronic schedules. It’s ok to have personal events and work events on the same calendar, just make sure you have privacy settings on and color-code events and reminders accordingly.

Step 3: Use the tools that are helpful, nix the ones that aren’t

Don’t feel like you need to use every tool available to become an effective person. Not everyone needs to track a daily step count or use a grocery list app. Some things in life are really as simple as walking around when you notice you’ve been sitting for a while and buying the food you like at the store.

Effective time management doesn’t require adding more to our plates; more frequently, it involves using discretion and eliminating the things that either don’t actually save time or aren’t worth the time they save. Efficiency should also incorporate what’s best for your mental health, and most likely that includes cutting out excessive technology.

Step 4: Build a routine to make the hard things easier

We all have parts of our day that we’d rather avoid. Monotonous tasks, chores and boring daily necessities end up being pushed further and further back. Procrastinating these tasks often takes more energy and time than actually doing them.

Phone calls are a great example. Many people experience anxiety when they need to call someone on the phone, whether it be an irksome coworker or an awkward relative. Fretting about the call for hours or days not only makes the task harder, but spoils the time we’ve spent waiting by bringing our mood down or extending our anxiety.

Sometimes, doing the hard or annoying task first is necessary to secure greater availability, to then fulfill other tasks that are more important. One of the best time management tips is to learn how to build less favorable to-do items into a routine. Do the dishes first thing in the morning instead of staring at them all day, or complete your workout as soon as you wake up. Bonus points for getting up at the first alarm. Snoozing doesn’t give you quality sleep, anyway.

Step 5: Set goals

This is at the top of the list of the best of time management tips: set both personal and career goals. Set a few goals in different areas of your life, and make sure they express a solid life balance (hint: add in mental health goals, too). Setting goals will help to prevent wasted time because when you can see the long-term goals, it’ll be easier to see what matters in the short-term.

When you’re making goals, keep in mind the acronym “SMART.” It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Keep these standards in mind when formulating any type of goal. Familiarizing yourself with SMART goals can make achieving objectives easier.

Learning effective time management skills won’t happen overnight, but the time you put into cultivating these habits will save you precious effort in the long run. Time management helps you to focus on what really matters in your life and set aside time to do the things that make you come alive.

Having effective time management skills will allow you a healthy lifestyle balance and sound mental health. If you’re looking for a way to support your employees in finding this balance, check out Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP. Mazzitti & Sullivan offers a wide variety of programs and benefits you can offer your employees to increase effectiveness and job satisfaction. Call 1-800-543-5080 today, for even more information on how you can help employees – and yourself – establish more effective time management habits.

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