If you’re the type of person who jumps from task to task you might have poor time management skills. This kind of task-jumping isn’t good for productivity. This isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Some people aren’t natural at balancing their time. Just like some people aren’t natural organizers.
When you’re not natural at something it is possible to learn. None of us knew how to talk. We had to learn. We had to learn how to walk, write, do basic math… You get the idea. The problem is we’re kids when we learn all that and as kids, we retain things faster.
Once we’re adults it takes longer to learn a new skill or pick up a new habit. But not impossible. If you want to learn how to be organized, you can. If you want to learn how to juggle, you train. And if you want to improve poor time management skills, keep reading.
What are some ways you can improve poor time management skills?
Two of my favorite books about time management are Getting Things Done by David Allen and Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. Find them and more recommendations on my Favorites page.
Both offer insightful tips on how to manage your time better. But if you’re not in the mood to pick up those books right now, here are my top 6 tricks to improve time management.
#1 — Write things down
Poor time management starts when you don’t write things down. We like to think we can remember every single thought that crosses our minds on a daily basis. But that’s a lot of thoughts. When you think of something you need to do — be it getting the roof checked out or scheduling a doctor’s appointment — write it down.
Don’t wait until you have paper and pen in front of you. If all you have is your phone, open your notes app and get it out of your head. Obviously, you want to remember where you stored it so you can reference it later.
By writing things down we’re telling our brains this is important. Writing things down has also been proven to increase memory. Rather than try to be superhuman and keep everything in our mind, the simple act of writing it down forces us to slow down. It’s our way of saying to our brain, “Hey, this is something worth remembering.”
#2 — Set goals and make a plan to achieve them
Once you have a list of tasks and projects written down, it’s time to make a plan. You can’t manage your time until you know exactly what it is you’re doing and what you have to do to complete it.
Say for example one of your goals is to start a side-hustle selling handmade jewelry. There’s a lot of steps to take before you can cross that off your list. Start by breaking that big task into smaller ones. Some tasks you might need to include are:
- Make a website
- Make a reserve of jewelry
- Take photos
- Promote jewelry on social media
Decide when you want each of those milestones done and write the deadline down. Create a deadline for the majority of your to-do list, but be realistic. Don’t try and get everything done in a week. Be sure to check out my blog post about creating an effective to-do list template.
#3 — Audit your calendar
When was the last time you sat down and really looked at your calendar? I don’t mean sitting down to add new events, deadlines, and work projects. I’m talking about sitting down and looking at all the commitments you have written down.
Planners and calendars are fantastic tools for keeping track of our lives, but sometimes we abuse their power. Meaning, we need to fill them in, or else we don’t feel like we’re being productive.
I want you to spend 15-30 minutes today or tomorrow looking through your calendar. Is there anything you can remove? Obviously, you can’t remove certain events, but see if there’s anything you can either push back or hold off on.
There’s nothing wrong with having a lot to do, but when our calendars are full, we find it hard to squeeze in another thing. Guess what? We do anyway. Then we wonder why we have no time to spare. So it’s important to sit down and take the time to figure out if there is anything we can alleviate from our shoulders. See if you can move things to a more available month.
#4 — Learn to say no
In the same realm as doing a calendar audit, it’s important you learn to say no. Some people are natural at saying no. They can turn down a project, an opportunity, or a coffee date without missing a beat. For others (myself included) it’s harder. If you’re a people-pleaser or if you’re just a friendly person, saying no can be one of the toughest things to do.
But if we don’t learn to say no, our days and calendars will be overrun by other people’s needs and not our own. If you’re spending all day working to help someone else achieve their goal, you won’t have any energy left for yours.
Mind you, I’m not telling you to say no to everything. Depending on your job, it might be hard to say no. But when it comes to personal time, learn to say no to that impromptu shopping trip with your friend or sister.
If you went out yesterday, stay in today and work on your goals. Saying no every now and then won’t be a big deal. People need time for themselves. And if you’re dealing with FOMO, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you said no so you can work on something that’s important to you.
#5 — Catch some zzz’s
One of the leading causes of poor time management is lack of energy. You can’t hope to be on your A-game if you only slept three hours. Yes, some people can live and work just fine with limited hours of sleep. Still, we can all benefit from 6+ hours of sleep every once in a while.
If you find yourself unable to focus because you have trouble sleeping, try some of these techniques:
- Diffuse lavender 30 minutes before you go to bed
- Dim the lights an hour before you go to bed
- Turn off the TV and any other electronic device 30-45 minutes before bed
- Set a dedicated bedtime and stick to it
- Read or journal before bed
If you’re staring at your phone up until your eyes can’t take it anymore, you’re not doing yourself any favors. We all know it’s not good to be looking at your phone right before bed so learn to stop doing it.
Watch how your focus and time management improve by getting an appropriate amount of sleep each night.
#6 — Become a perpetual student
Just because you’re not in school anymore doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Most of the time management techniques I use came from books I read.
If a goal you have requires you to learn a new skill, go for it. Read some books, watch YouTube channels, or take a class. When we continually apply ourselves to learning new skills, our minds are stimulated. And when our minds are stimulated, we want to do more. That requires using time management.
It’s also important to keep learning new skills because you never know what will spark your passion. There’s also Skillshare which is a great website that offers courses on a variety of topics. From taking better photos with your iPhone to learning how to paint. There’s even classes on how to improve poor time management skills.
Never stop learning.
Having poor time management skills doesn’t mean you’ll never get anything accomplished. It just means you’ll need to work a little harder to ensure you make time for what matters. Start with these simple techniques. Then be sure to check out those books I mentioned earlier.
How would you rate your time management skills? Do you use a planner to keep track of all your appointments or do you wing it? Is there something you always wanted to learn but don’t think you have the time for? Comment below.