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9 Time Management Tips

[Listen to an audio version of this blog HERE.]

One thing employers usually like about my resume is my experience as a Division 1 athlete. The reasons they like this vary: my time as an athlete shows that I have a strong work ethic, time management skills, the ability to lead, grit/determination, etc. But one of the skills athletics taught me that I use most often in the workplace and in life is time management. I dislike wasting time more than nearly anything else on earth. People say "time is money," but few of us treat it as such. I like to think I do a lot with my time: hold down a full time job, train for ultra marathons, maintain this blog, complete off-handed freelance projects, write/perform poetry, and spend time with the people I love. I only know how to manage my time because I have no other choice, and I've consolidated by best time management tips for you. You're welcome. 😘

1. Prioritize Tasks

Some things are non-negotiable. If I have a deadline at work or meetings I can't miss, those obviously come first. I usually run in the morning before starting work, which gets at least one thing out of my way. After knocking out the really important stuff, I make sure I'm cognizant of how I use the rest of my time. When I'm trying to get work done, I put my phone in a drawer so I can hear it if it rings but am not distracted by it otherwise. I plan my day before it begins so I know exactly what needs to get done before jumping in. And if push comes to shove, I prioritize the things I care more about (work, training for ultras, writing) over things I care less about, like getting my nails done or watching TV.

2. Become a Minimalist

I don't have that much stuff and I still think I have too much stuff. Minimizing clutter minimizes distractions. Removing the desire for stuff also frees up a lot of mental space that can be better put toward anything productive. Some *quick and tasty* benefits of minimalism include: more financial freedom (less possessions), more time to focus on health/hobbies, less stress, and more peace of mind. Get on board, yes?

3. Eliminate Half-Work

James Clear writes, "In our age of constant distraction, it's stupidly easy to split our attention between what we should be doing and what society bombards us with. Usually, we're answering emails, responding to messages, taking phone calls, interacting with people, all while trying to cross something off our to-do list. It's really rare to be fully engaged in a task, something Cal Newport writes about in his book Deep Work. By putting my phone away while I'm writing or working, I eliminate one major distraction. If I'm trying to just write and don't need the internet, I turn it off entirely. Engaging in "deep work" can feel uncomfortable at first, but it lends itself to productivity by eliminating fragmented sessions of "half-work." P.S. Despite our best attempts to multi-task, it's incredibly not productive.

4. Wake Up Earlier

Changing your schedule may not be a popular tip, but waking up an hour earlier than normal grants you 60 full minutes of uninterrupted time to workout, work on a project, meditate, meal prep, whatever. A University of Barcelona study found that "morning" people tended to be more persistent and be less likely to experience "fatigue, frustrations, and difficulties." Many smarter-than-average people wake up early to get more done, including these successful CEO's.

5. Take Breaks to Mentally Recharge

I'm not a napper, but word on the street is that naps are pretty damn awesome. They can reduce fatigue, increase alertness, improve mood, improve performance, and have positive impacts on reaction time and memory. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should nap before 3 p.m. and for no longer than 20 minutes to reap the benefits of napping without negatively impacting your nighttime rest.

6. Say No

Saying "no" can feel hard, but it's actually quite empowering. Say "no" to engagements, jobs, people, relationships, etc. that won't bring you closer to your goals and/or aren't fulfilling. Saying no can feel awkward and weird, but only because you aren't saying no enough. Find tips for saying no here and here, but I don't think you need to read about it. Just be firm but polite and don't waiver. Give a reason if you must, but remember that "no" is an entirely valid answer that will allow you to say "yes" to engagements, jobs, people, relationships, etc, that do bring you fulfillment.

7. Don't Always Aim For Perfection

Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” While striving for perfection seems admiral, it's rally an enormous hurdle. Often, we procrastinate finishing a project until it is "perfect" and therefore get less done. I'm in the midst of finishing a collection of poetry, and I feel as if I've edited my poems to death. I'm on the cusp of reaching for perfection. Obsessing over small things won't end up moving the needle in any direction. To avoid getting caught pursuing perfection, set deadlines and stick to them. I've found that nothing encourages perfection more than a soft deadline. The more time I have to work on something, the less satisfied I am with it. Perfection is an illusive and subjective state anyway, rendering it *impossible* to fully reach.

8. Don't Waste Time Waiting

Waiting really irks me. Like, really irks me. Someone crunched a number or two back in 2016 and found that, on average, Americans spend 43 days of our lives waiting on hold, which is only one kind of waiting. We wait in lines, at doctor's offices, for other people to show up on time, in traffic. I will do anything I can to avoid waiting, or I'll try to make good use of dead time by listening to a podcast, doing some writing, catching up on emails or text messages, or striking up a conversation with someone nearby (you never know who you're going to meet)!

9. Follow the 80/20 Rule

I hate that I'm including the 80/20 rule, because it's as ubiquitous as it is overdrawn, but it exists for a reason. The 80/20 rule is also known as the "Pareto Principle," and it can apply to anything, not just time management and productivity. It suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort put in. In sales, 80% of sales typically come from 20% of customers, so a salesman should focus on that. In the world of nutrition and dieting, the 80/20 rule refers to eating "clean" 80% of the time and indulging that other 20%. When it comes to time management, 80% of your result should come from 20% of your actions, which means that you should focus on the most important and productive tasks first. You can eliminate a lot of busywork by utilizing the 80/20 rule, and you'll likely garner better results.

P.S. Watch Brad Aeon's Tedx Talk about the Philosophy of Time Management Here. Read why time management is more important for part-time students than it is for full-time students HERE.


Sarah Rose

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