Besides money, what is the one thing on any given day most people will say they don’t have enough of? Time.
Subtracting the recommended 8 hours of sleep (that most will say they don’t get anyway), 16-hour days just don’t seem to be enough. Between work, school, friends and family, and activities, where does all of our time go?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s most recent American Time Use Survey gives us an idea of how most Americans spend their time.
Stat #1 Employed persons spent an average of 7.6 hours working in 2011.
Okay, there goes almost half of our 16-hour day, assuming we got an adequate night’s sleep.
Stat #2 Household activities —housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management —averaged 2.6 hours (women) and 2.1 hours per day (men).
Now, we’re down to about six hours (rounding up).
Stat #3 On an average day, 95 percent of those aged 15 and over engaged in some sort of leisure activity such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising —men for 5.8 hours and women for 5.2 hours.
Well…there goes our day.
For the majority of Americans, our jobs and/or careers account for a large part of our day. It can already be daunting that we spend most of our lives in the office, but what about when that time spent is actually time wasted? How many of us have been on the job yet failed to see much work done?
The ability to manage your time well is critical not only for a successful professional life, but also for a well-balanced personal life. They say time is money and most of us spend our time working in order to receive a paycheck. Consider the following eight tips for better time management skills, a sure way to reverse the roles and make your time work for you.
The first step on the road to better time management skills is to analyze how you spend your time. How do you currently divide your time? What are some good and bad habits you’ve noticed? Do you face any challenges with sticking to your schedule? Understanding exactly how much time we give to different areas of our lives will show us 1) if we’re making good use of our time and 2) how to maintain in certain areas and how to cut back in others.
Once you see how you’re spending your time, the next step is to identify time stealers. Be honest in your evaluation when deciding what is a good use of your time and what isn’t. Do you really need to spend three hours per day watching TV? Should you focus on that task at work as long as you do? Identifying time stealers is a detrimental task to the step 3.
Now that you know how you spend your time and have identified the areas that take up too much of your day, prioritize. Sometimes, everything can seem important; every task, event or meeting can seem like a “must” on our to-do lists. Really examine the level of importance each task requires and arrange your schedule accordingly. Be sure to consider outside factors when prioritizing, such as family and friends. Maybe you think staying at work a few hours later each week is necessary to finish a project, but how will this affect your commitments outside of work? How does this affect your spouse, children and their engagements? Our time doesn’t just affect our lives, but others’ lives as well.
Many times it seems like we don’t have enough time in our days because we’re trying to do everything at once. Divide your tasks into smaller segments, set short-term goals (with deadlines as needed) and then go to work accomplishing each one. By breaking down your time you’ll quickly see how much more you fit into your seemingly busy days.
Be sure to make a checklist of all your duties, tasks, and commitments. Check off each one after completion. This not only keeps you on track, but will show just how much you’ve been able to get done.
Include a little flexible/free time for yourself. Getting work done and being productive is great, but everyday moments where you have the chance to just be are extremely necessary. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes per day, or one “Me day” out of every week, be sure to make time for yourself to get away from work and commitments and just relax and clear your mind.
Look up best practices for changing or improving your current habits and time management practices. This is a great way to see how others manage their time and possibly learn new tips and tricks that can benefit you.
Most important, evaluate your progress. Look back at your checklists to see how much work you’ve been getting done. Think about how you’ve been feeling mentally, physically and emotionally compared with before you began a new time management process. Ask those closest to you how if you have improved managing your time (especially if this was a major issue in a relationship). Evaluating your methods will show you the strengths and weaknesses in your time management approach.