Let me first make a disclaimer: I have spent years being terrible at managing my time, yes that’s right… downright terrible. However, I’ve been hyper focused on becoming better at managing my time and being more efficient in everything I do. So, what does that look like? Well, for starters, it is really hard, especially for someone like myself that is a chief procrastinator. The first thing I had to learn was that I don’t have to be a procrastinator! I used to think I did my best work under the gun, and the thrill of having to beat the deadline was a rush. But I’m here to testify that the exact opposite has turned out to be true! It turns out that I do my best work when I prepare and put in good, calculated effort on a task. I also feel accomplishment and a sense of well being when I am done on time and sometimes even early!

5 Time Management Tips

That’s a great idea and all, but you are probably thinking, “It’s too hard…I’m not good at preparing…I’d rather put it off until tomorrow…etc., etc.” No! Don’t think that way. Let me share with you some tips that I’ve learned this year so far that has helped me manage my time better and find more peace in being prepared instead of procrastinating. For the record, I still spend some time procrastinating – it is a process, after all.

1. Put it On Paper

I was born in 1979, so my middle school and high school days were without technology. Our Internet was dial up, ahhh, that dial up tone! We used DayTimers, our phones took quarters, and we still largely used encyclopedias… and it was glorious! Every now and again, I think back on those days and feel like they were simpler. So my first tip is this… put the phone down and put your to do list or schedule on paper. Use a pencil even – there’s more flexibility in using a pencil. Scientific studies have shown that when you write things down physically, you retain the information better and therefore are more efficient with your time.

2. Use an App

Ok, yes, I am directly contradicting my last tip; however, this isn’t the app you would imagine. When I say use an app, I mean, find an app that will track your time, not one to manage your time. I’ve begun using an app called Toggl, that tracks the time I work on each task. You can get really granular with your time tracking or you can be more broad – whatever works for you. Toggl allows you to create tasks, and when you begin working the task, you just click the Toggl button and it starts a timer. When you are done, it logs the time you worked on that task. This app has been a game changer for me.

3. “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”

This tip is pretty straightforward. If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who was a busy guy. The busier you are, the more you have to plan things out. Where you are going, what you need to get done, who you need to talk to. Plan these things out so you avoid the anxiety that comes with no plan.

4. Prioritize

Prioritizing the items on your task list or the things you know have to get done in a certain time frame, will help you stay on task and get things done. How can you know what needs to get done first without prioritizing? This is actually the very first thing I learned to do in terms of time management. Make a list of what needs to be done, and then number them with one being the most important thing to get done, and go up in order from there. 

5. Eliminate Distraction

Lastly, but maybe most importantly – eliminate your distractions. In order to eliminate your distractions, you have to first be able to identify them. For some, it’s things like the smartphone or the TV. Whatever your distractions are, put them aside and focus on the task at hand – unless it’s a pandemic year and all of your distractions are homeschooling while you work. I’m not suggesting just working non-stop without breaks. Take your breaks and enjoy them, but don’t let distractions derail you from what you need to do.

Get Ready to Form Habits

Put these time management tips somewhere visible, write them down, and read them daily. At the end of day, check yourself against these tips and see how you did. You will find that a habit will form quickly, and it will only get easier to manage your time and become your most efficient self.

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Greg Stuart is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He has 20 years of IT experience and currently works as an IT Consultant both in the private and public sector. Greg holds a BS in Information Technology and an MBA degree. He currently resides in Southeast Idaho. You can follow him on Twitter @vDestination, read his blog (vDestination.com) and listen to his podcast (vDestination.com/feed/podcast).