Time is a funny thing—for the past 10 months as we have been navigating our world it has seemed that time has concurrently sped up and slowed down with no rhyme or reason. Because we are all spending much more time in our closed circles, every day can feel like Groundhog Day and it’s hard to keep track of what is happening when. Interestingly, you are likely spending your time doing the same things you have always done—just now you may be doing them all from your home rather than out in the community. The lines of work and life have become blurred and it is even more important that we manage our time and goals effectively and efficiently.
Goal Planning Leads to Better Time Management
When we place value on a particular event or deliverable, it naturally leads to prioritizing within our daily task list and life commitments. In doing so, we determine a set of actions needed to achieve the event or deliverable in a specific timeline. In simple terms, we set goals. Goals without a plan and timeline are really just a wish. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound to achieve them.
It is beneficial to map out your long-range goals by setting the target completion date and then working backward to set specific weekly or daily goals, or action steps to achieve the long-term goals. The act of creating a to-do list is an effective goal setting tactic because written goals serve as a tangible reminder of what you have set out to do.
Frequently prioritize your daily tasks to help you plan for the day ahead and manage your time effectively. When it comes to long-term goals, its highly important that you evaluate the time it will take, as well as the tasks necessary to achieve those goals—don’t forget to anticipate the obstacles that may crop up. For example, for each one hour meeting you have in a day, blocking time for preparation and follow up will help you remain realistic about the actual time you have available in a day to work on your task list. If you make a habit out of anticipating obstacles and planning your time realistically, you will find that it is easier to navigate through them because they will come as less of a surprise.
Barriers to Time Management
Time management is crucial as we live in an age where we spend our lives in front of screens that serve as both productivity boosters and inhibitors. It’s very easy to find yourself spending time online traveling down a rabbit hole of content and lose track of time. Consider blocking out parts of your day on the calendar for things such as checking in on social media, reading the news, watching cat videos, etc… Once the time is up, it’s time to get back to work.
Procrastination is also a time management barrier and its very easy to find yourself procrastinating when working remotely—especially when you’re staring down the barrel of 24 hours to fill with little else but work on the docket. Despite not spending time working away from home, it’s still important to treat your workday as a strict construct with set hours. Keeping set hours will aid in keeping you on-task and focused, as well as ensure that you maintain a proper work/life balance.
Placing deadlines on your work is critical because work expands to the amount of time allotted. It’s called Parkinson’s Law. Without setting your own time deadlines, one can easily see their daily task list taking twelve hours to complete, when four hours would suffice.
So how do we achieve our goals and manage our time wisely? The first step is to visualize success by creating annual priorities and a quarterly critical path towards achieving those priorities. Then, further break down that quarterly critical patch into a monthly to-do list, weekly goals and daily task list. Manage your time effectively by blocking out parts of your day to be productive and maintain regular “office hours.”
Goal setting and time management may look a little different these days, but when it comes down to it there are still only 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year to achieve the goals you have set forth.