Managing your time doesn’t have to be a complicated task. We are given just 24 hours per day to do our work, relax, spend time with family, buy groceries, and all other tasks we need or want to do. Thankfully, we have many tools available to us to help plan and manage our time. Let’s go back to the basics of time management and learn what tools are available to us and how to choose the right ones to get the job done.
The Basic Tools of Time Management
Time management is made up of four key areas of focus: tasks, time, staff and information. We have 4 basic tools that we can use to plan and manage each of these areas.
- Todo List – A strong todo list is the foundation of every time management program. With it, you can list and prioritize your tasks, cross them off as you complete them, and see an overview of your productivity.
- Calendar – Use a calendar to plan your day. This is one of the most important tools in your arsenal, whether you are a business professional or run a busy household. A well-organized calendar will help you avoid scheduling conflicts and over-working yourself. Be sure to schedule downtime to spend with your family, stay on top of your health, and reduce stress and burnout.
- Address Book – Many people underestimate the importance of a good address book in our over-connected social environment. While Linkedin and Facebook are great communication tools, they aren’t as reliable as a working phone number or address.
- Notebook – A decent notebook is the most common resource that my clients use to manage their time. You can keep a spiraled notebook or a pad of paper with you to jot down quick ideas, tasks, and other important bits of information.
Choosing Your Time Management Tools
There are hundreds of time management tools out there to choose from. You’ll easily overwhelm yourself by searching for the “best time management tools” on Google. When picking your toolset, keep these four things in mind:
- Go with what you like.
Using a tool that’s unintuitive or displeasing can lead to burnout. When picking your time management tool(s), or any tool for that matter, make sure that it’s something you enjoy using, otherwise, you’ll probably stop using it at some point.
- Consider time spent learning how to use the tool.
Some tools are easy to use and others require some time to learn. If you find a tool you really like that’s easy to use, I recommend sticking with it. If you want to spend the time learning a new tool, be sure to do your research beforehand, make a commitment to spend some time every week learning the tool, and understand that it’s okay to abandon the tool if you find it to be too overwhelming. Going back to my first point… spending weeks learning a new tool that you don’t like could be a big waste of time.
- Keep it simple.
A simple solution can yield big results, while a more complex one could end up in disaster. Finding the easiest tools for you and sticking with them is the best solution, in my opinion. There are a lot of complex time management tools out there that seem great but can eat up your time without you even realizing it. They may get the job done but require more steps to do so than a simpler tool or application.
- Too many tools can be daunting, avoid duplication.
In your time management program, strive to reduce the number of tools in your arsenal. Pick the ones critical to your time management success and stick with them. Try to avoid shiny new tools that pop up from time to time and go with what’s familiar to you. It can be tempting to try the latest tools and apps, but it’s very time-consuming trying them out, learning how to use them, and switching over your daily routine to using the new tool. Plus, if you spend the time testing and learning a tool just to find out you don’t like it, you’ve wasted countless hours that could have been used elsewhere. That’s why I recommend sticking with your proven toolset unless it’s absolutely necessary to switch to something else.