If you are overwhelmed with work but short on time, basic time management strategies may not be enough. Use a timer to regain control, keep yourself on track, and break up the monotony of boring tasks or chores.
Photo by jakeliefer.
Maximize the Time You Have
When you have a lot to do, but have a limited amount of time to work with, it is easy to waste the time you do have. When you worry about deadlines and time crunches, it can get in the way of concentrating on the actual work. You may end up spending too much time on a simple task, or too little time on a complex task, but either way it amounts to using your time inefficiently.
An easy way to keep yourself on track is to use a timer. You can get a small portable timer or find an online stopwatch, and use it to break your work up into blocks. If you only have 45 minutes to work on a task, set the timer to count down from 45 minutes. If you need a warning a few minutes before, set the alarm for less than 45 minutes, so when it goes off you know you only have a few minutes to wrap things up. This technique will keep you on track by limiting your time for each task, and keep you from focusing too much of your time on any one thing.
Break Up the Monotony and Motivate Yourself
Everyone has chores that they dislike, and repetitive tasks that they need to complete. Folding clean laundry, packing, and cleaning are all repetitious tasks that can consume a lot of time and energy. By using a timer to constrict a boring, monotonous chore to a specific amount of time, you can accomplish more in less time. Not only will a time constraint force you to concentrate on a specific task so you can complete it, but you can also challenge yourself to get it done in less time than it would normally take. You can also break up large tasks into small chunks, so that you can take breaks in between to rest and recharge, or reward yourself for getting more done in less time. A small reward for meeting your goal, like an extra 30 minutes of TV, can be more than enough motivation to complete your task in the time allotted.
Keep Projects On Schedule
If you are a project manager or you work on projects (by yourself or on a team), you understand how hard it is to estimate how long it will take to complete a task. Even the most experienced professionals will tell you that time estimation is at most an educated guess, especially at the beginning of a project. If you want to capture how long it takes to complete a task, you can use your timer as a stopwatch. Start it when you begin your task, and stop it when you have completed it. If it is a complex task with several steps, you can calculate how much time it takes to complete each step, and then calculate the total time at the end. This will give you an idea of how long it actually takes. You can use that as a basis for time estimates, and adjust it based on the experience level and work load of the assignee.
Photo by wwarby.
If you know that you only have a specific amount of time to complete a task (or number of tasks), you can also set the timer according to how long it should take you to complete the task. Let’s say you need to write four 500 word articles a day, and it takes at least two hours to write and research each article. If you set the timer to go off in two-hour intervals, you will be able to gauge if you are on or behind schedule throughout the day.
These simple techniques help you work more efficiently, pace yourself, and ensure that your work gets done in the time allotted. When you are confident that you are managing your time effectively, you can spend more time actually working and less time worrying.