3 Elements Of Effective Time-Management
Effective time management is a skill we can all use no matter where we’re at in life or what tasks and activities fill our day. Smart work always beats hard work, but what’s the secret formula to differentiate the two?
In our tech-filled world, we have likely tried an app (or a dozen) to help us track our time. And it’s just as likely that these apps end up being largely ineffective. This may be because electronic management isn’t best suited for our lifestyle. It could be we don’t stick to it long enough to make it a habit. There isn’t a one size fits all time management strategy and part of finding the best fit means experimenting until we find what’s best for us individually. Here are three things to keep in mind when searching for effective time-management techniques.
Plan The Day
Planning helps us identify the things we have to get done each day. When we wake up, many of us have a running list of tasks we need to achieve. But when we don’t write that down, it takes a lot of brain energy to keep track of that list. It can also start our day feeling overwhelmed, which can elevate stress levels and take up even more brainpower.
Either the night before or right when we wake up, we should take a few minutes and write out a list of what we need to accomplish for the day. This can include things like exercising, household chores, errands, or social time. Once we’ve written everything down, we can prioritize the list.
This exercise helps us visualize our day in concrete terms. Odds are by keeping a running list in our head, we imagine more on our plate than is there. It can also help us decide what our top priorities are and what can be left for a less hectic day. This helps reduce our stress and build our momentum, starting the day from a point of feeling powerful and in control as opposed to powerless and under stress.
The Body-Mind Connection
In order to ensure our mind is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible, we need to take care of our bodies. Eating right, exercising, and getting quality sleep are the three essentials to harnessing the day.
First, without getting our nutritional needs met, our brain cannot function at optimal levels. We are what we eat, and our brain uses 20% of our total caloric intake. Of course, not all calories are created equal, so eating a diet rich in brain-healthy foods like green, leafy vegetables, fatty fishes, berries, nuts, avocadoes, and dark chocolate ensures our brain gets not just the calories but the vitamins and nutrients it needs.
But eating right is only one part of the equation. Exercise helps get those vitamins and nutrients to our brain by increasing our oxygen levels and blood flow. This boost in oxygen and nutrients isn’t isolated to just when we exercise either. These benefits stay with us all day. Even better, exercising regularly elevates our mood and reduces stress too.
Finally, getting quality sleep helps our body and brain recover from the day. And while it may seem like we’re not active while we’re asleep, the brain is busy doing a ton of work during these restful hours. Neural connections are cleaned up, improving how our neurons communicate with each other. Our memories transfer from short-term to long-term memory stores. But most importantly, sleep helps regulate the chemical hormones in our brain, improving our mental health and reducing stress.
Remember The Rewards
The best way to ensure we stick to a schedule is to remember the rewards. Our brain has a powerful reward system in place designed to help us form habits. We can use this system to our advantage when deliberately choosing which new habits to form simply by giving ourselves a reward every time we engage in the targeted behavior.
When first creating a schedule, we need to reward ourselves often. Maybe we get to eat our favorite dessert if we write down our list the night before. Or set aside a small budget to get a fancy coffee every morning we complete the task. And set rewards throughout the day. After we complete our top priority item, take a break, and chat with a friend. We could take a quick walk around the office or log in and play a few minutes of our favorite game. If we achieve all our top priorities before lunch perhaps we splurge on a fancy meal.
Rewards need to be small but that doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful. We can create a coupon or token system where we add to a jar dedicated for a massage or to buy an item we really want. Watching that jar fill up or a tally system build will motivate us to achieve even more.
Learning how to manage our time more efficiently doesn’t require changing our entire routine or adopting a whole new lifestyle. Rather we can take small steps. Prioritizing our daily tasks by writing them down not only helps us keep track and celebrate each win, it reduces our stress. Taking care of our bodies by eating right, exercising, and getting quality sleep gives us the resources to tackle our day at our best. And by rewarding our success, we can make schedule management a habit, motivating us to achieve even more.