Time Management For Beginners

Do you want to improve your time management, but don’t know where to start?

Read on, my friend, and I’ll try to help get you out of the blocks.

Time management is one of those things that can be more difficult in practice than in theory, but in essence, it’s pretty simple stuff and finding strategies that work well for you can actually have a pretty big impact on your life.

And I think that if you have a better understanding of exactly what time management entails and the elements that it is made up of, your chances of success are much greater.

So I’m going to break it down for you here and hopefully, you’ll be getting more out of each day before you know it.

What time management really means

Before we get into it though, just a few words on the definition of time management.

I’ve noticed that there are some people who argue that time can’t actually be managed. You can only manage yourself, your tasks, your activities and your attention, they say.

And if you want to get picky with semantics, I agree that they’re not wrong.

Because you can’t stop time and you can’t start it.

You can’t increase it or decrease it. Rewind it or fast-forward it. Stretch it, delete it or repeat it.

Time ‘just is’ and it will remain that way, day after day, regardless of how you try to ‘manage’ it.

But time is how we measure our existence and so for me, time management essentially equates to life management.

It’s a catch-all term that refers to how we use and allocate our time each day to the things we both need and want to get done while we exist as human beings on this planet.

It’s not necessarily about getting more done in less time and it’s not always about being productive every minute of the day.

It’s about making the most of your days and ensuring that you are dedicating your time (and, therefore, your life) to the stuff that makes a difference to your own life and the lives of others.

For more discussion on what time management is (and isn’t), check out this post, but for now, let’s not get bogged down in terminology.

For the purpose of this post, I am assuming you have recognized the need to improve the way you operate in your daily life, you have the desire to do something about it and you need some pointers on how to get started.

So let’s go . . .

The 4 elements of time management

For me, time management can be broken down into four core elements, all of which you can control and influence:

  1. Capturing
  2. Prioritizing
  3. Scheduling
  4. Implementing

And if you can master each one of these, you can master time management.

Capture your ideas, dreams and tasks.
Capture dreams, ideas and tasks / Image by Myriam Zilles

1. Capturing

David Allen, creator of the excellent “Getting Things Done” system, says that your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

And I couldn’t agree more.

Stuff that is always on our mind is a distraction. And if it’s on your mind, it’s probably because you haven’t taken any action to deal with it and so you need to get it out of your head and onto paper or a digital format that will then allow you to organize and plan time to deal with it.

You will need a system to capture all of your ideas and tasks and the simplest option is probably a To-Do list. And this is where time management begins.

These posts will help you with get started with capturing:

How To Write A To-Do List – Properly!

Should Your To-Do List Be Paper Or Digital?

TeuxDeux: To-Do List App Review

Remember The Milk: To-Do List App Review

Prioritize your work / Image by wallpaperflare.com

2. Prioritizing

A mistake many people make is to think that once they’ve made a To-Do list, they’re good to go and they’re going to become a super-efficient time management God.

However, a To-Do list is simply the beginning.

Once you have all your tasks on paper, the next crucial step is to prioritize them. Not everything you need or want to do is of equal importance and urgency and sorting them out will allow you to allocate your time appropriately.

There are various ways to prioritize your tasks and I don’t think one way is necessarily better than another. Of more relevance is whether or not the system you choose works well for you.

Check out these posts for help with prioritizing:

How To Prioritize Your Tasks

What Is The Eisenhower Box?

How To Prioritize With The ABCDE Method

Try These Military-Grade To-Do List Tactics!

What Are The 4 Ds Of Time Management?

Schedule your days
Schedule your days / Image by Canva

3. Scheduling

Having ranked your tasks in order of importance, you then need to schedule time. Urgent tasks may well need to be addressed on the spot, but those that are important but not necessarily urgent need to be scheduled. I find that if a task gets scheduled a time to worked on, then it almost always gets done. If it’s not scheduled, it just gets pushed down the priority list by something more urgent but less important.

Here are some posts for help with scheduling:

How To Create A Schedule

Why You Should Schedule Your Free Time

How To Use Time Blocking

Can’t hit the target unless you fire / Image by QuinceCreative

4. Implementing

Capturing, prioritizing and scheduling are essentially planing activities, but the implementation of those plans is where the rubber meets the road, as they say, and it’s the stage where most people struggle.

If you have handled the capturing, prioritizing and scheduling elements well, this becomes a whole lot easier.

But there can still be a lot of barriers to effectively implementing you plan, such as focus, distraction, procrastination, motivation, stress and others. So you need strategies to deal with these ‘humps in the road’ too.

So, for example, if you’ve identified your most important task and blocked out time to do it, but when that time arrives, you’re getting distracted, or you don’t feel motivated, you’re going to need to implement a strategy to deal with those distractions.

Or maybe focus is your problem, so you might want to use something like the Pomodoro Technique.

Here are some good posts that address many of the issues that can hinder implementation:

How To Deal With Internet Distractions

What Is The Pomodoro Technique?

How To Focus At Work And When Studying

How To Work Or Study When You Have No Motivation

How To Stop Procrastinating

What Is Parkinson’s Law?

Time Hack Hero Takeaway

Time management is quite simple in essence, but there are many potential barriers and pitfalls that can prevent you from succeeding in your quest to control your time effectively.

Understanding each element involved and introducing an appropriate strategy to handle each one will increase your chances of success.

If you’d like to kick-start yourself into better time management, you should sign up for my free 5-Day Hack-A-Day Challenge. This is a 5-day series of emails, each containing one small challenge for the day that will introduce you to a time management technique and give you an insight into its effectiveness without you having to get serious and commit all-in straight away. Check it out!

5-day hack-a-day challenge

[Featured image credit: pxhere]

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