How to improve your time management

23 Apr 2014

Are you feeling overwhelmed with your never ending 'to do' list? Do you feel as though you're not achieving anything meaningful or significant? You're definitely not alone.

Life is busier than it's ever been and it seems, just when you can't fit another thing in, you do. This can lead to a feeling of fatigue, or frustration, particularly when your list of things to do just seems to get longer, and you're not ticking much of.

You've no doubt heard the phrase, 'How do you eat an elephant? "One bite at a time". Well, the same thing applies with time management.

There's a plethora of time management apps and tools that are available these days. Yet they may not be that helpful if you're not approaching your project planning effectively.

If you have a large overwhelming task that you're putting off, and let's face it, many of us are, the first step to get you make into motivation and productive mode is to have a look at the big picture and then break the task down into smaller more manageable tasks, so that firstly, it's not so overwhelming and secondly it's easier to 'chip away' at making you feel as though you are maintaining momentum, feeling productive and keeping you moving forward.

Once you've broken down a task into its multiple parts, you can take on the parts one step at a time. This may mean you can slot in parts of the tasks into smaller time frames, fitting in to an already full schedule but ensuring that you're keeping on top of what you need to do to get your job done.

Often when approaching a big project or task (such as a research paper or developing a new business) you may not be able to see the full path or what the end destination looks like. It's important in any project that you set the big picture goal of what you hope to achieve, after all why are you doing the project/task in the first place. But it's easy to get overwhelmed, particularly when you are balancing many other tasks or projects as well as having a crack at that thing called 'work/life' balance! That's why at the start of any project planning or strategising it's important to spend some time on chunking down, breaking the project/task down into bite sized, management pieces that can then be scheduled in.

As you are breaking the tasks down, you can also assess whether there are tasks within the greater plan that can be outsourced for efficiency purposes. Spending time on your area of expertise and outsourcing those areas that are not may be the difference to a productive and efficiently carried out task or project, and one that loses steam, sucks up resources and may or may not get completed. Tim Ferriss's '4 Hour Work Week' thrust time management into the stratosphere with respect to new ways of doing things to be more efficient and productive to get the best possible outcomes. Outsourcing is a very common approach to project management these days; by creating tasks into discrete projects and tendering them to the market, you can potentially reduce costs to the project and achieve your outcomes much more efficiently. Outsourcing websites are sprouting faster than you can say 'help'. ODesk and Elance are some of the biggies.

In any case, despite all the technology that exists to help you with time mangement, the key is to have a clear plan based on some specific goals and then chunking down to create the map of how you're going to get to your destination. You can then budget for each mini-task to determine whether outsourcing or slogging it out yourself is more cost efficient for you. Either way, consistently completing small tasks that form part of a bigger project is invaluable in keeping up motivation to momentum.

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