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The elements of time management can greatly assist you in turning your life around. People who set realistic goals for themselves and promise to get them done by the day’s end are happier and more productive. Did you know that an average American spends 7.6 hours of the day working and 2.5 hours or more performing household activities?

That’s a big chunk of the day spent on tasks that can be easily accomplished in lesser time. In fact, most young people are wasting away 21.8 hours of their working day on such tasks. The numbers are scary considering how short our lives are.

We’ve all heard the famous adage, “so much to do yet so little time”. Well, these statistics are a reflection of how much you may be overworking yourself. It’s not healthy to be laboring away the entire day and to not focus on your personal goals.

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Whether you’re wasting your time, or are struggling to achieve all your goals at once, everyone could use a bit of time management in their lives. Time management can help you get things done instead of focusing all your energy on a single unfinished task.

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It’s time to take back control of your life by incorporating these 11 elements of time management.

1. Draft a Time Audit

Effective time management starts with trying to figure out where all your time is going. When you identify the areas where you spend the most and least time, it can really put things into perspective.  

A time audit, in this regard, can help you step back and review your time allocation. As the first step to creating the desired schedule, it helps bring your intentions back into alignment. There are countless apps to help you track all your day-to-day activities. Tools like Toggl, Rescue Time, Everhour, and Timenely can record minutes spent on each activity.

We often underestimate the time it takes to execute certain tasks like checking e-mails, wrapping up the chores, or working out at the gym. You may meet up with someone on your way to exercise, and that chitchatting may steal 10 minutes of your workout.

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It really could be anything, and you will never know where all that time is going unless you track it. The primary idea behind a time audit is to stop you from obsessing or dedicating too much time to a single task. If you really want to manage your time well, using an app will chalk out which tasks are stealing most of your minutes.

Once you’ve discerned this part, you can get on with the following elements of time management.  

Using a time audit to manage time effectively

2. Plan Out Your Day

You can’t expect miraculous time management when the entire day ahead of you appears haphazard. Start by organizing and planning the bundle of activities in front of you. Planning daily will help you tap into a fixed routine, which will also have amazing mental health benefits.

When you write down your daily goals and tasks – before going to bed, or early in the morning— half of the mental clutter will disappear. People who have a regular sleep cycle and spend their lives on a fixed daily routine are generally happier and hopeful.

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Make sure your planning is concrete. Instead of rehearsing the tasks of the next day in your head, write them down somewhere or use an app. Habitica and Strides are two great apps to motivate you in creating a productive checklist.

Getting up early in the morning for greater productivity

3. Wake Up Early

 “Take excellent care of the front of your day, and the rest of your day will pretty much take care of itself” –

 Robin Sharma, The 5 AM Club

If you want to be productive, become an early riser. You need time to manage your day effectively. Mornings are the best time to do this. With zero distractions and absolute quiet, your mind is in a state of Zen to think things through.

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Use this time to get a head start on your days’ priorities. If it’s applying to jobs, writing a few chapters of a book, or visiting the doctor – put those first on the list. Your pressing priorities will come first, while the secondary tasks can take the back burner.

If you’re having a hard time aligning your tasks, here are 3 tips to help you prioritize.  

  • Begin by creating a to-do list of all the tasks you need to complete in a day.  
  • Sift out the most urgent ones, and set attainable goals for them. (This way, you won’t be disappointed or frustrated in case you don’t end up accomplishing them)
  • Allow your schedule to be flexible to avoid any unforeseen problems.

This type of strategic planning will help you jump into action because you will have a solid picture of the things you need to complete.

4. Break Down Your Tasks into Smaller Chunks

While this can be partly dealt with in the planning phase, it’s important to set a separate reminder just for this. Too often, when we’re passionate and zealous to get things done, we set unrealistic goals for ourselves.

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When your tasks are too big for the day, you’ll find yourself more frustrated and hopeless than when you started. By raising the bar too high, you’re paving the road to your own failure.

A goal of setting up a blog, for example, can’t be completed in one day. It’s impossible to dedicate the entire day to this one task, even if you’re hell-bent on completing it. The disappointment will cause you to brood over your perceived “incompetence”, which will waste hours of your time.

Instead of wasting your precious time and emotional energy with big goals, lay back, and start with smaller, achievable ones. In the modern work culture, people are forced into thinking that if they’re not achieving something big every day, they’re doing something wrong.

This is unrealistic, impractical, and foolish. When you’re setting daily goals, make sure they are clear and there isn’t too many. There is a greater success rate at achieving smaller chunks of goals, which can catapult your motivation to achieve the bigger ones very soon.

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Reducing distractions and multi-tasking to manage time effectively

5. Cut Down All Distractions

The biggest barrier that blocks away time management is your distractions. It’s amusing how when you get down to goal-setting, everything and anything turns into a distraction. According to a recent American study, social media, video games, and television are responsible for sucking away more than thousands of hours of your day.   

People are distracted by Facebook, Instagram, Netflix shows, and addictive video games. What you think may have just been 10 minutes of browsing could quickly go up to an hour if you don’t keep your habits in check. It will take effort at first, but in order to use your time productively, you have to eliminate these distractions from your life.

Some practical things to help you get into the habit of cutting distractions are:

  • Switching off your cell phone an hour before going to bed.
  • Keeping your phone far away from the bed, once you wake up to avoid the temptation of using social media.
  • Installing a site blocking software to keep your online habits in check. Focus and Freedom are two useful tools to block any site that takes too much of your time.
  • Keep yourself motivated and busy with a to-do list. When you’re preoccupied, your mind won’t wander.
  • Tame yourself to spend only an hour on social media or watching television every day. And, reduce the time gradually.
How to stop procrastinating and start achieving

6. Managing Your Procrastination

Procrastination is not the same as a distraction or being lazy. A sluggish lifestyle is indicative of a lack of ambition. Lazy people are complacent with their lives and don’t feel the urge to create or do something.

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Procrastination, however, is a different state. You are fully aware that there are many things left to do, as you waste time putting them off. Your mind is constantly anxious because of the mental clutter that you’ve put aside. When you’re procrastinating, you do have the ambition to get things done at the back of your mind.

However, you could create the fanciest check-list of the day, but if you’re a habitual procrastinator, you won’t get much done. Therefore, it’s important to eliminate such habits alongside prioritizing goals to become more productive.

Tap into Your “Why” Power

The moment you catch yourself procrastinating and drifting away from your goals, question yourself. Ask yourself why you’re doing those things, and what benefit does it reap? If you can, pen your answers down. That way, you’ll have a tangible reason to continue fulfilling your goals.

It’s a profound Socratic practice to question your ideas and actions. It opens up a stream of new ideas, reaffirms old ones, and helps you ground yourself. When you know why you’re getting up early in the morning, finishing your projects, responding back to E-mails, and reading the news, you are less likely to procrastinate.

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Every human has a “why” power that impels them to contemplate the end goal of their actions. Imagine finally opening up that NGO, or undertaking that new project.

Visualize the consequences – how happy you will feel, the people you’ll be benefitting, and the opportunities you will be exposed to. This alone will push you to leap out of bed and get to work without wasting even a single minute of your day.

7. Shatter the Myth of Multi-tasking By Focusing on the Task at Hand

If you genuinely want to tick-off all those tasks on your to-do list, you need to have an eagle-eye focus. Many people glorify the idea of multi-tasking to achieve their goals faster. However, when you’re multi-tasking, you’re demanding your brain to work in different ways.

In turn, you end up killing your productivity and wasting even more time. This point is an extension of setting smaller achievable goals for yourself. Don’t try to accomplish too many things at once. If you want to dedicate your time to finish a book, then don’t squeeze in those last few E-mails, or a vigorous workout while you’re at it.

You’ll not complete anything because your mind will be constantly distracted by the next task. Immerse yourself on what you’re currently pursuing, and focus all your energy towards it. Then move on to the next goal.

This, however, isn’t a rule set in stone. If you can manage two tasks at once, then why not, but don’t overburden yourself thinking it’ll save time. It won’t – you’ll just end up with a mental traffic jam and half-baked goals.   

8. Create Deadlines

Let’s face it – if there were no deadlines, half the things we set our mind to could not be executed. The human brain has an awful record of staying put and focused. With constant distractions everywhere, fulfilling your goals can be extremely challenging if you don’t have deadlines.

Deadlines are pressurizing and get you in action. You may put off a freelance project for months, but once the deadline approaches, there isn’t a more efficient employee than you. If you want to achieve your goals quickly and effectively, you have to give yourself deadlines.

This way, you’ll be fighting away your lazy habits and getting down to work. This is one of the best hacks to effective time management. The deadline could be next month, the approaching weekend, or the next hour – don’t underestimate even the smallest of deadlines.

Delineate a time limit for all your tasks. Instead of instructing yourself to complete a chore today, tell yourself “I’ll only be dedicating three hours to this for today”. You’ll be surprised at the variety of tasks you will end up completing.

This is because the time constraint will help you focus and complete what’s at hand. Even if you have to return to the same project the next day, you’ll still be progressing.

9. Delegate Where You Can

If you’re tackling a big project or business venture, then it’s always wise to delegate. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve through great teamwork. If your tasks are too big and can be shared with a friend or family, then go for it.

Not only will it save time, but it will also open doors to newer opportunities. Completing a project with a friend may inspire you with the prospect of a joint venture. Effective teamwork can give birth to innovative ideas and help you manage your time successfully.

If there’s someone else who’s better at calculating or resolving logistics, then give them the responsibility. Both of you can then focus your creative energy on things you like doing.

Improving time management by taking more mental breaks

10. Take Sufficient Mental Breaks

Managing your time isn’t just about fulfilling your goals. It’s also about giving your mind the break it needs. As a human, it’s impossible to work endlessly without a buffer time in between. If you don’t take enough breaks to relax your mind and re-adjust your focus, you’ll end up overworking.

Come the next day, you won’t have the energy to carry on with your goal, and your peak performance will drop drastically. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure to add a few breathers when you’re planning your list at the start of the day.

The elements of time management are meant to help you become more productive. And, sparing a few moments of the day just for yourself will help kick-start the next task with even greater enthusiasm. Don’t rush from one goal to the other, otherwise, you won’t be able to appreciate what you’ve achieved or how far you’ve come.

Take your time, and allow your brain to relax to regain your mental energy. Go out for a brief walk, indulge in some mind-clearing exercise, or munch on your favorite snack. And while you’re at it, don’t feel guilty for it.

There is clear evidence between the greater productivity of employees and the “long lost lunch break”. Hence, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it too. It will help you reconnect with your purpose in life and higher goals.

11. Exhibit Commitment

In the end, time management is a habit you will have to work hard to live by. It will require sheer dedication and commitment. This is something that will come from you and you alone. Be professional about your goals, and work towards them day and night.

Peter F.Drucker said, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes. But no plans.”

The next time you feel like flaking on your plan, remember the promises you’ve made to yourself. You have to actively show commitment and engage in positive self-talk to stop wasting time. It is a conscious process and requires you to exercise firm will.

When you’ve set your mind on accomplishing a feat within a set deadline, commit yourself to it. Practice self-affirmation every day to stay on track and not waste time on mundane activities.

Use these timeless tips and become the master of your destiny. There is nothing in this world to replace the precious moments you end up losing in foolishness. These tips will inspire a practical mindset and assist you in creating achievable goals. Once you put your mind to it, nothing is impossible.   

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