Effective time management skills with a twist – get more time out of your day


At first glance, time management is all about our capacity to manage time itself. But to get more time out of our day, the focus should be on managing ourselves, not on time per se. To be able to manage ourselves, have the time we want and be content with what we have, we have to focus on the way we think. It is when we wear “busyness” as a badge of honour that we keep ourselves busy by being busy, overwhelm ourselves with the small stuff and stress ourselves out, therefore forgetting about what we want and need to accomplish in the bigger picture.

1. Do less and achieve more by being extra clear about what you need to get done

We usually overestimate how much we can accomplish in one day. When we make our to-do list, we tend to be optimistic and forget that things happen during the day that we have no power or control over. Our to-do list will be packed with all types of minor tasks and the big picture is easily lost. At the end of our workday, many of us still have plenty left undone.

The to-do list grows every day and, at the end of the week, our to-do list has got longer, instead of shorter. We feel overwhelmed by the amount we need to get done, which might lead us to procrastinate or even opt out altogether. That is why having a traditional to-do-list might increase your feeling of stress. Instead, I’m going to suggest a way to turn the situation around. Begin your week by looking at the big picture. What needs to get done? Start at the end or with the big picture in mind, then try to divide that into a weekly list of things that need to get done – by you or someone else. Oftentimes, we tend to focus on the small tasks and feel there are “thousands of them”, instead of looking at the big picture and starting from there. This way of thinking will make more sense when you actually try it out.

2. Planning your calendar

When you are planning your time using your calendar, try using different colours for various areas of subjects and tasks. This is a way to make it visually easier to notice what you spend your time on. If you are clear about what you should spend your time on at work, this should be reflected in your calendar – I mean, you do know what your main expectations are at work, right? The colours will highlight whether or not you are focusing on what you should be focusing on.

3. Multitasking makes us stupid

Stop multitasking, it will only increase your lack of focus. More mistakes will be made, and you will thus have to redo some of the tasks you already finished. Multitasking will never get you into a flow state, which has been studied and is known for increasing motivation. Instead, multitasking will increase the feeling of stress. So, cut out everything from your work surroundings that interrupts your focus too often.

4. Pay attention to your mind

Try to avoid the feeling of distress, i.e. negative stress (compare distress and eustress). It will narrow your focus so that you might have the right answer in front of you without even noticing it. The feeling of stress is built in the head – taking breaks and thinking things through will help you keep stress at bay. Also try to stay in the moment and focus on what you are currently doing. If you let your mind get hijacked by feelings of stress, you will get mediocre results and the stress will still be there.

5. Take breaks and find a peaceful place to work

If possible, work from home now and then. Most people say they are more effective when they get to work from home. Working without a lot of interruptions makes it easier to get into the flow state, the one that increases motivation. When you do work from home, remember to take breaks. Your brain has the power to stay focused for only a certain amount of time.

6. Set boundaries

Learn to set boundaries for yourself and others. Are you a people pleaser who most of the time will choose other people over yourself? Maybe you were brought up to be the “good girl” who never says “no”. When you know what you need to get done (look at hack 1.), it is easier to focus on your big picture and set some boundaries that you are more likely to keep. This does not mean though that you have to be unfriendly or inflexible towards anyone. When you are clear about what you are doing and why, it is actually much easier to adjust your schedule for others if needed.

7. What is good enough?

Trying to be perfect in everything we set out to do will take a lot of time and effort. Then again, performing at a great level and feeling proud of what we accomplish is satisfying. What I would like you to pay attention to is not setting too high expectations for yourself. You might do this because of perfectionism or imposter syndrome or something else entirely. However, you are not only putting a lot of stress on yourself, it can also lead to procrastination.

Feeling stressed, procrastinating and feeling not good enough isn´t the best combination. If this is how you typically act, then always try to pause and think: “What is a good enough level for what I’m doing right now? Your concept of good enough might be way more than someone else’s.

8. The holistic view

Finally, eat well, sleep well and move that body of yours. Think about time management as something holistic. It’s not only about time, but also about your brain being sharp and focused, working your mind, staying positive and having a can-do attitude. This will not be possible if you sleep five hours, have no energy to exercise and eat poorly! If you choose to only start with one topic from this holistic approach, please choose sleep!

What should you do next? Pick one or two of the suggestions above and start implementing them. See to it that you continue for at least three or four weeks with your new routine.

Kirjoittaja: Catharina Kallio  Catharina Kallio