5 creative time management tips to help you conquer that to do list

Linda Le Phan

When it comes to time management, most of us already know the more obvious things that keep our schedules from going haywire, like eliminating distractions and keeping a to-do list.

But if you find yourself feeling like you don’t have enough time to get things done and / or  overwhelmed by the feeling that you’re behind all the time, you could probably use some new inspiration for managing your time better.

Because wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t only on time for all of your deadlines, but ahead of time? To get you closer to that ideal scenario, here are 5 creative time management tips to try out to help you conquer your to-do list more consistently and less stressed about your time management:

Know your peak times

Did you know that we’re all most productive at different times of day? Some people can knock their whole list down in two hours if they do it first thing in the morning while others peak in productivity around 3pm or even 10pm. Know when you’re most productive (you can use this tool for just three to five days to get a good idea) and then capitalize on that time by scheduling your most important tasks then. Remember: knowing your peak times and planning to leverage them is not the same as procrastinating. Know the difference and don’t procrastinate – it won’t help!


“I enjoyed my time with Lionbridge. The work is a little boring and time management is key.” – anonymous employer review at Lionbridge


Eat the frog

Paraphrased, Mark Twain once said that if you have to eat the frog, do it first thing in the morning. By this, he meant that by doing that hardest task – or the one you dread the most – right away, you eliminate all of the wasted time and energy that we often put into dread itself. Manage your time better by doing the hardest task first, energizing yourself for what’s left on the list and eliminating the waste caused by dread.

Try the new to-do list

To-do lists are especially motivating because they provide an organized visual of the tasks at hand and a satisfying way to mark each complete as you tackle them. While many people love an old-fashioned paper-and-pen to-do list, there are lots of other visual ways to stay organized and productive including a myriad of apps for your phone. You might find that one of these new, creative options is exactly what you need in your routine to capitalize on your time for the best results.


“Being a teacher is one of my greatest joys. Wouldn’t want to spend my time doing anything else.” – anonymous employer review at Seminole County Public Schools


Leverage technology

Creative apps have been developed to help people like you stay focused on your to-do list despite the nagging distraction of technology. While some lists are developed specifically for those with ADD or focus issues, I think we can all agree that distraction is the driving barrier to getting that resume updated, applying for jobs, and then achieving at the top of skill sets in those roles. Consider apps that either keep you off of your phone, prevent you from being distracted by social media, or track and report how you use your time online.

Try the Pomodoro technique

Designed to speak to common human motivators and overcome common discouragers, the Pomodoro technique is a unique time management tool to help you make the most of your time and effort. It’s quite simple: choose a task that needs to be completed, set a timer for 25 minutes, dedicate your time to that task until the timer goes off, and then take a 5-minute break for yourself. Repeat until you have completed 4 “Pomodoros” (25-minute periods of work) and then give yourself a 20 or 30-minute break.


“I’ve been working there for 3 years now. I love my direct supervisor. I love our mission. I love my actual job and what I spend my time doing. It is very gratifying work.” – anonymous employer review at Community Action


Do less

Perhaps the most life-changing time management technique you can incorporate is to simply do less. Apply minimalist principles to your time – decide which tasks make you happy and produce results and which don’t. If you have kept your home totally devoid of dust for six years running but it hasn’t served you, perhaps you can loosen the reigns and dust once or twice a week instead of twice a day. Likewise, if you’ve signed up to bring brownies to every school function since the beginning of time, now might be a good time to say, “I’m not all that interested in baking brownies.” Spend your time on the things that matter, keeping in mind that peace, relaxation and your own sanity matter, too.

 

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