It’s a sad fact that most people are not happy in their lives. I don’t want to get into the detailed reasons of this unhappiness. But, one of the reasons, that I’m more interested in, is the lack of time management skills. I know that this might sound absurd. But, let me explain.
People with no time management skills don’t have any control over their time. They handle their tasks and obligations randomly with no prior management or proper prioritizing. As a result, they’re busy all the time. They complain constantly about not having enough time to do the things they wanna do. They think that it sucks and they can’t do anything about it. This feeling of incapability and frustration leads to unhappiness because there’s nothing more infuriated than having a problem but you can’t do anything about it.
So, as you can see, time management isn’t just something that you need to learn in order to get more things done throughout the day. It’s more than that. It’s a must-learn skill that improves the quality of your life and, ultimately, makes you happier.
A skill is an ability to achieve something. It’s developed through experience and learning. Anything that meets this criteria can be considered a skill.
Time management is a skill. No doubt about that. However, I believe that there are a few skills that can make a person a good time manager. A few skills that are the core of all the other called time management tips/techniques. So, based on my belief, I went through over 50 time management tips and analyzed them trying to figure out what they have in common. The results of my research revealed that there are only four time management skills which are the basis of, almost, all time management tips/techniques out there.
Therefore, I wrote this article to explain those four essential skills. I believe that these 4 skills are the basic ground of an effective time management system. They, combined, are the key that will enable you to control your time and energy and put them in the right places.
#1 Prioritizing Is The Missing Key
This is really the key to everything else in time management. This particular skill is what differentiate successful people from everybody else. As you’ve probably noticed, you can’t do everything that is put in your plate. You just can’t. You have to choose the tasks which matter the most. You need to identify the High Value Added tasks (HVAs) and put them on your schedule. As Stephen Covey says “the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”.
The deadliest mistake you can ever make
Most people fail in time management because they’re trying so hard to make time for EVERYTHING they wanna do. That’s the whole point of time management, right?
At first sight, it makes sense. However, it’s nearly impossible to do such a thing. The reason is that they’re so many things that we wanna do and there isn’t enough time. I hate to admit it but it’s true. If the things that you put on your schedule are solely based on the fact that you wanna do them, then you’re probably using most of your time on entertainment, feeding your own ego and low-impact tasks.
I’m not saying that you should schedule tasks that you don’t want to do. But, the main idea here is that following your desire of doing anything that seemed interesting will consume your entire time and energy. As a result, you won’t find enough time nor energy to do the things that can actually help you attain your goals and make your life better.
To recap, your time and energy are very limited while your desires are countless. So, you need to learn how to prioritize. You need to learn this underrated skill that will allow you to choose the “right” things that are worth doing.
Can we consider prioritizing a skill ?
I know that you may disagree with me at this one. But, let me explain myself.
Prioritizing is a decision making ability to choose from many tasks that are presented in front of you. Usually, defining your priorities in a macro level (life priorities) can be easy. However, it’s more complicated when you’re working on a certain project. You’ll have to choose your top priority tasks/activities that will drive the most value to your project.
Well, deciding which tasks to focus on is, most of the time, painfully difficult. It requires a lot of experience to make good decisions. Since good prioritizing requires experience, then it can be certainly considered a SKILL.
Tips For better prioritizing
- Go through all of your tasks and classify them to four main categories based on urgency and importance. So, there will be urgent and important tasks, urgent but non important tasks, non urgent and non important tasks and important tasks but non urgent. This way you’ll have a clear idea about the nature of all tasks which will make the process of prioritizing a lot easier.
- Don’t be perfectionist. Stop being obsessed with non-important tasks just because you believe that no one else can do them better than you. You’re certainly wrong. Besides, Non-important tasks don’t have to be done perfectly because they’re non-important and their impact is little to nothing.
- Be honest with yourself. Don’t consider a task as a priority just because you like doing it. Usually, that can be fine. But if the task is hurting your productivity and slowing your progress, you may need to drop it or outsource it to someone else.
#2 Outsourcing Is Not a Choice, It’s an Obligation.
After choosing your priorities, it’s time to decide which tasks should be outsourced and which should be done by you. It’s not always as easy as it looks like. The ability to know which tasks need to be outsourced is a necessary skill for anyone who’s seeking success.
The common mistake most people make is being a control freak. They refuse to trust someone else to carry out one of their tasks or assignments. They’re obsessed with carrying out EVERY SINGLE TASK. There’s nothing wrong with that, well, if you’re still living in 2004. But, to keep doing that in these days is a HUGE mistake. It’s costing you more than you can imagine.
Outsourcing Vs. Delegating
Before getting into why you need to be outsourcing most of your work, let’s first clear something up. People, usually, confound outsourcing with delegating. Their definitions are close, but they’re not the same thing. They both involve assigning one of your tasks to someone else.
The difference is that outsourcing usually refers to contracting work to an external party (using Craiglist, Upwork, Virtual assistants…) while with delegating the task is done by a colleague/co-worker who is, usually, a subordinate.
The benefits of outsourcing :
- It saves you a lot of time which you can use to focus on the tasks that bring the most value.
- It makes you happier. You won’t have to do any boring tasks anymore. Pay other people to do them for you.
- Better quality. Outsource your tasks to professionals who know what they’re doing instead of torturing yourself trying to learn how to do the task.
- It’s cheaper. You can outsource a certain task for 10$ instead of wasting 3 hours ( 60$ wasted if your hourly wage is 20$) to do it yourself.
When You Need to Outsource ?
Sometimes, deciding if a task need to be outsourced can be tricky. So, I prepared a simple series of questions that will help you decide which tasks to outsource and which to do yourself. You’ll need to follow the questions in the order presented in the image below. Don’t skip any question.
#3 Scheduling Has Never Been Easier
After deciding which tasks you’ll outsource and which you’ll do by yourself, you’ll need to put all of that on a schedule. But before doing that, you’ll have to go through every task and determine how much time it needs to either be done or to be outsourced.
You can use daily calendars, to-do lists or both of them as I do. Every Sunday before going to sleep, I set my schedule for the following week. I put all of my tasks on a calendar to give me a full vision of the week. Then every morning, I add the tasks due that day to my to-do list app. I use Wunderlist because it easier to use and it sends push notifications without the need of internet connection. It’s very practical and intuitive and I highly recommend it.
That was just an example of how I schedule my tasks and manage them. You can use any system that works for you. There are dozens of task management apps out there that can do the job. You can use a physical to-do list if you want to. It’s doesn’t matter what tool you’re using. Just go with something that you feel more comfortable with. It’s that simple.
Tips to maintain an effective scheduling
- Don’t overload your schedule. Remember that the goal is not to have a schedule that covers every single minute of your week. But, to be able to carry out all the tasks that you’ve scheduled. Sticking to the schedule is what matters the most.
- Make it a routine to check your schedule every morning. It’s a good reminder of the things that you need to accomplish in that day.
- Be sure to dedicate the sufficient time for every task. Always take into consideration a few minutes that will be used to take breaks.
- Don’t forget to put in your schedule your outsourcing activities. I mean by that the time you’ll use to find the person who is able to get your outsourced task done. Also, this refers to the time used to contact, discuss or supervise that person.
#4 : Self-discipline Is The Hard Part
Self-discipline is a crucial skill that comes to complete the other time management skills. Some call it perseverance or self-control. It’s by far one of the most important skills needed to achieve any type of personal excellence. Most people acknowledge its importance, but very few work on strengthen it.
Self-discipline is the ability to control yourself by using a kind of inner strength. It’s the ability to turn down any kind of immediate pleasure in favor of long-term fulfillment from attaining more meaningful goals and purposes. In other words, it’s being able to stick to your plan and follow it through regardless of any sudden changes that may come up.
In the context of time management, self-discipline means to be able to stick to your schedule no matter what. It’s to say no to any tempting desire that may present itself along the way. It’s to be able to maintain absolute focus on achieving your goals no matter what obstacles, difficulties or failures you encounter along the way.
How to develop your self-discipline :
- Break down your goals to small, specific and easy-to-do tasks. You can easily be distracted if your goals are still in your head. So, write them down and divide each on of them to a few small tasks that can be easily done.
- One goal at the time. It’s really hard to be able to focus while working on two major goals at the same time. Pick the most urgent and important one and focus on it. Draw a detailed plan that will get you to it and give it a determined deadline.
- Gain more experience. I think the best way to strengthen your self-discipline is through experience. Working on many projects, facing many obstacles and failing many times is what builds self-control. You just can’t expect yourself to be really self-disciplined in your first project or challenge in your life.
- Get bored. It’s totally normal to feel bored after working on a certain project for a long period of time. But, this doesn’t mean to drop it and look for more interesting project as you may think. People who jump all the time from a project to another before finishing it end up achieving NOTHING. The sad fact that most people ignore is that working on achieving success is usually boring. That’s why only a few people manage to achieve it. The others give up too soon.