“Time is what we want most, but use worst” – William Penn
You have probably caught yourself thinking “Damn, I wish I had some more time” far too often. There always seems to be so much work that absolutely needs to be completed, but somehow there is always no time for everything.
Since we are not experienced in the art of chronomancy to extend the day beyond 24 hours, we need to learn to do what we can during those hours and hopefully, get enough rest at the end to be able to fight another day.
As a smart project manager, you need to learn just one thing: there is always a way out. If you can truly master this concept, everything else will be easy. Sure, tight deadlines, hundreds of tasks, dozens of clients, unexpected emergencies and large teams make time management pretty tough, but it’s possible.
Here are a few solid tips from top managers in the world that, when combined together, will help you manage your time most effectively and help you to actually get some work done, every day, bit by bit.
Prioritize your tasks
Mastering prioritization is the first step you need to take before you can get closer to effective time management. It’s impossible to do everything at once, but there are always matters that just simply outweigh others and need to be done first.
Prioritizing correctly might seem like no big deal at first, but the more you start doing it, the more complex it will seem. Practice prioritizing for a few days and see how it goes. If you see that what seemed to be important proved to be a more of a secondary task, then you should try again. Once you get comfortable with your prioritization techniques move on to the next step.
Plan, plan and plan some more
Once you’ve set your priorities in the correct sequence, it’s time to get down to the good old planning system, a system that is as old as the world itself, but never seems to disappoint when done correctly.
This time it will not be a project plan, but an action plan for every day of the week. Keep in mind the important tasks that you outlined for yourself previously and dedicate a specific amount of time (try to estimate it as close to reality as possible) for each task of your day.
It’s crucial to be completely honest with yourself. If you knowingly dedicate too little time for a given task but try to justify it by something like “I can manage this, no worries”, it’s not going to work. You will end up messing your plan from the first day, which will make all of this a complete waste of time.
If you know you need some rest between tasks, or just crave to have an extra cup of coffee or two, include that time into your plan. Disregarding small elements like those will eventually add up and you will suddenly find yourself around an hour or maybe two short each day, which is why you are making the plan in the first place, right?
One good tip is to make the plan adjustable or make a new plan every week. This way you can fit in all the new stuff that will come up in the future, get rid of some tasks if you need to and shift priorities in case it’s necessary.
This is what kills your time more than anything else. The only guy in history that actually succeeded at multitasking was Bonaparte, and we all know that things didn’t really work out that well for him in the end. Although he did leave his trace in history. We should credit that.
Don’t try to be a superhero. You can’t do everything at once effectively. Our brain wasn’t designed to focus on more than two tasks at once (you can probably talk and drink coffee at the same time, but talking, drinking coffee and writing a report might suddenly become undoable, right?), so don’t try to outsmart nature.
Eliminating multitasking will let you focus on each individual task with your full capacity and will help finish it in much less time. So unless you are simply trying to be remembered as the “the master of multitasking” in your company and really want to get stuff done, eliminate multitasking right after you finish reading this article.
Yes, yes I know. Nobody likes this term and even fewer people would admit that they procrastinate during the workday. But you and I know the truth right? It’s simply impossible to work nonstop for 8-12 hours a day, without having small breaks or letting your mind wander off.
I am not suggesting to eliminate procrastination since it will prove to be a little short of impossible, but limiting it is what you can and should do. Do you enjoy YouTube videos? Then watch no more than 2 or 3, instead of going through the whole channel. Do you like socializing on the web? Chat a bit with your friends, but don’t let it get to the point when you find yourself just scrolling your newsfeed pointlessly and telling yourself “just 2 more minutes”.
Limit this time to get the satisfaction and rest that you need and get back to work. I always find that the hardest part is to just start working, but when you do, you get consumed by it in just a matter of minutes.
Delegate the most time-consuming stuff to others
Lastly, remember about another time killer. Finalization. There is a huge difference between “completing a job” and “having the final version ready”. Take writing for example. Writing down an article often takes around 2 hours (plus minus 30 minutes), but editing, proofreading, formatting and mostly polishing it to be ready for publishing takes almost half the writing time. And guess what, that’s not something you need to be an expert in to do. You just need to be attentive, focused and dedicate enough time to it.
What I am saying is that when you face such tasks in your own projects, consider getting them done by ~90% and delegate the finalization and polishing to other team members. This will free up a lot of space for you and help you get your mind off the given task, allowing you to move on. Time is the most valuable resource we have in our life.
Every great project manager knows the true value of time and tries to maximize its amount as best as possible. If you are aware of the same problem, then you are on the right track to becoming a truly great manager and this article is your best starting point.
Thank you for taking the time to read it -)