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8 Time Management Skills to Master Today

by Staff Writers | The Web Writer Spotlight: Mar 7, 2014

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How much is your time worth? For those of us who work for an hourly pay we may have an idea how much our time is worth. However, for the rest of us we may not be so sure. One thing we can all be sure of, however, is that time is precious. It is the one thing that you only have a limitted amount of, and it is contantly ticking away. How you use the precious time you have determines how far ahead you get in business and in life.

As writers and online entrepreneurs we want to positively influence and help others. But, the only way we can do this is by making time our friend and not our enemy. Every second is important. If you want to know how important one second is, ask the person who escaped an accident by a whisker. You need to make time count to succeed in life. Here're eight areas to master time management if you want to make the most of your time.

 

  1. Goal setting.

Goals give you a vision and destination to work towards. They help you have a clear sense of direction on where you want to go and how best to use your time and resources to get there. Being able to create clear, ultra-specific and achievable goals is an important skill that will not only set you up for success, but also put you on track to achieving your truest dreams.

A way to create viable goals is to use the S.M.A.R.T. system: Set Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals. Don’t concentrate only on your big picture goals. It’s also important to set smaller, measurable goals that build up to your bigger overall goals. Smaller goals help you savor small victories, which in turn feed your hunger for achieving your bigger goals.  

 

  1. Organizing skills.

Disorganization is a productivity and creativity killer. It prevents you from completing tasks in an effective and timely manner. Picture a situation where you spend fifteen minutes sorting through a pile of files in your home office looking for an important client document lost in the mess. Soon after you find the missing document, you spend another ten minutes going through your inbox to find the e-mail with contact details of the client. Before you know it, you’ve lost half an hour looking for things you can’t find. You end up stressed and agitated and you haven’t even started the real work!

Get organized. Keep your office neat and tidy with everything in its proper place. If you get ideas running through your head all day (like most creative people do), write them down. Carry a notepad and jot down important information as soon as they come to you. Breakdown large chunks of work into smaller, manageable tasks and allocate sufficient time to complete each one of them. Keep a To-do list if necessary so you don’t forget those all-important projects or meetings. Usually, a simple daily, weekly or monthly planner will do. Just make sure you keep all your eggs in their own basket.

 

  1. Prioritizing skills.

Prioritizing is key to good time management. As a principle, prioritizing means doing 'first things first;' as a process, it means evaluating a group of items and ranking them in their order of importance or urgency. Prioritizing ensures the most critical things are addressed immediately in case time or budgets run out, and also brings order to chaos. It will propel you to the successful completion of a matter or tasks, while also reducing your stress levels.

Although it can be difficult to know which tasks to tackle first, especially when all tasks at hand seem urgent, with SMART goals already set it becomes fairly easy to know what you need to do first. Ask yourself three basic questions to know what tasks to tackle first: Why am I doing this task or activity? How does this task help me achieve my goals? To what extent does this task I’m doing help me achieve my goals? Address the most important tasks first, while keeping the main thing the main thing.

 

  1. Delegating skills.

No matter how hardworking you are there is only a limited amount of work you can do on your own per day. We only have so many hours in a day to put in the work. However, by enlisting the help and talents of others you free yourself to do the high-value tasks and increase how much work you get done in a day. This improves your productivity dramatically.

Abandon all pride and demonstrate tact in assigning authority and responsibility to others. Identify the task you want tackled and select the right individual or team to perform the task, such as members of your staff or a writing partner. Use the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. system to delegate tasks that are: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time bound, Ethical, and Recorded.

 

  1. Focusing skills.

Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, delivered a speech back in 1998 where he cautioned his listeners about wasting energy on activities that seem urgent but aren't important. He suggested you focus your time on activities that are deeply important, even if they don't seem critical. Things usually come into harmonious alignment when you tackle one thing at a time to the best of your ability.

In 2006 when Pausch was only 45 years old, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and everybody knew he had less time to live than anyone wished. Paul delivered his famous "Last Lecture" (now a best-selling book) where he spoke about how to make dreams come true. In the "Last Lecture” he reiterates his earlier call on keeping focus to boost productivity and achieve your dreams. Whenever you feel under "urgent" pressure to do something unimportant, focus instead on what really matters.

 

  1. Distraction-stopping skills.

One way to enhance focus is to minimize distractions. Whether it is social media, e-mail alerts or text messages during work, distractions are a big hindrance to good use of time. Distractions break your concentration, lower your productivity and often prevent you from completing important tasks as quickly as you could. Distractions can also cause stress and you should minimize or stop them completely.

Identify what is distracting you and then decide how best to remove that distraction. If your cell phone keeps ringing while you are trying to work, switch it off at once until you are done working. If your work environment is too noisy, move to a quieter place so you can concentrate on your work. Just figure out how to reduce the distractions and do it. This will ensure you take back control of your time and give your productivity a much needed boost.

 

  1. Procrastination-beating skills.

Professor Clarry Lay, a psychologist and prominent writer on procrastination, says procrastination occurs when there is “a temporal gap between intended behavior and enacted behavior.” In other words, procrastination occurs when you let a significant amount of time pass between when you intend to do something and when you actually do it. It may be that you find a task overwhelming or unpleasant, but procrastination steals your time. Don’t let procrastination steal your time and lower your productivity.

Beat procrastination and recover your time by just starting the task you are procrastinating. You can tell yourself you will only write the introduction of that article you've been meaning to write. Once you start to write, your creative juices will start flowing and you'll find you can’t stop until the work is done, or at least a large chunk of it is done. Remind yourself the best time to do something is NOW and reward yourself for doing work now. The trick is to figure out a way to get yourself to start and then watch the magic happen.

 

  1. Saying “No.”

One skill that sets high achievers apart from low achievers is the gentle art of saying “no.” High achievers have mastered the art of saying “no” to things that are not a priority; low achievers have not. If you want to make the best use of your time, learn to respectfully but firmly say “no” to everything that doesn’t support your values or help you advance your goals.

Know your priorities and stay focused on achieving them. You only have 24 hours in a day to do the things that matter. If you are not bold and more assertive, other peoples’ priorities are likely to precede your own and you may be swamped with tasks that add no value to your own life. Just say “no” amicably whenever there is not enough compelling reason to say “yes.”

See also: One Little Word that Will Move You Forward in Business.

Image: DannyFord/flickr

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