Are you feeling frustrated and unproductive? Like you’re constantly busy but the things that really matter aren’t getting done?
Check out these six time management tips that will help you increase productivity, lower stress, and get you closer to your goals!
1 Unplug from email
There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more. —Neil Gaiman
Are emails pulling you away from your actual work? Finding your creative flow—especially when writing—is tough enough as it is. It doesn’t help to have the constant distraction of emails dinging into your inbox.
The solution? Instead of responding to each email as it comes in, have set times of day where you’ll work through all your messages. Schedule several hours of uninterrupted work so you can focus and get in the zone, then take thirty to sixty minutes to catch up on emails.
While you’re in work-mode, be sure to close your email tab on your browser and turn off notifications to your phone, so it’s out of sight, out of mind.
And don’t worry, unless you’re corresponding with galactic invaders, waiting a few hours to respond to your emails will not cause the world to end.
2 Don’t just list your to-dos—schedule them
Can’t find the time to get all your to-do’s done? There are plenty of awesome apps to help you organize your to-do lists, but have you tried scheduling tasks directly on your calendar?
Using your calendar of choice, create appointments for all your big to-dos. You’ll have a visual reminder (and notifications) of exactly what you should be working on and when.
Remember to schedule tasks at your peak performance time. When and where are you at your most creative? Do you write best sitting in bed at midnight? Or at 7 a.m. in your favorite cafe? Avoid scheduling your creative work for times when you’re going to be tired or distracted.
Be realistic and give yourself enough time for each task. This can reduce guilt if you’ve felt like you should be getting more done, but can now see there aren’t enough hours in the day. And this can also reveal a problem if you’ve been wasting a lot of time on distractions or busy work.
3 Plan your week in advance
Planning your week (or month) in advance will help you save time and maximize your productivity. Know when your deadlines, important meetings, and obligations are happening and work backwards from there.
Giving a presentation on Thursday morning? Block off your Wednesday night for prep time or rest.
Want to spend less time in the morning prepping your lunch? Schedule meal prep for Sunday night so you can batch your lunches.
Feeling burnt out and need to introvert? Schedule alone time for Tuesday. Know you’ll need human contact? Plan game night for Friday.
Scheduling things like gym time and laundry will keep your life running smoothly. And remember to always allow enough time for a good night’s rest—your work will take twice as long if you’re exhausted from too little sleep or working long hours without a break.
4 Banish time wasters
Spending way too much time browsing Facebook? Watching cat videos? Keeping up-to-the-second on developing news?
If your willpower is failing, you may need to give yourself some extra help to unplug from your time-wasters.
Remove time-wasting sites from your browser’s bookmark bar so you’re less tempted to visit them. Minimize distractions by turning off your phone notifications during work hours (or if that’s too advanced, just turn your phone on silent and toss it in a drawer).
In need of desperate measures? Download an app that will block you from visiting Facebook and other sites.
Of course, it’s worth differentiating between the true time-sucks and activities that aren’t work-related but are beneficial. Grabbing lunch with a friend is a great social thing to do. Just make sure you have a set start and end time, so you don’t chat for two hours and lose half the afternoon.
5 Break free of perfectionism
Sure, who doesn’t want their work to be perfect? But striving for perfection is a sure way to kill your productivity and creativity.
The pressure you feel to produce perfect work can lead to procrastination, anxiety, “playing it safe,” and a lot of wasted time making marginal improvements to work.
When you reset your expectations away from perfection, you’ll find it’s easier to experiment and take risks, to get projects finished and move on to bigger and better things.
Improving your writing takes a lot of practice. You’re not going to write a “perfect” novel or blog post or ad campaign the first time around. Don’t let the expectation of perfection paralyze you from growing your skills!
6 Prioritize your personal goals
Are you using your time to get closer to your goals, or are you putting everyone and everything else first?
Maybe you want to build your audience, write your memoir, get your MFA, or change careers. Make yourself and your future a priority by scheduling time every week, or every day, to work toward your goals.
Large projects can feel overwhelming, so break things down into manageable pieces. If you want to finish your first draft in six months, how many pages will you need to complete per week? How many hours per day will you need to write?
Life may be busy, but don’t let anything get between you and achieving your dreams!