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5 Core Time Management Principles You Should Follow to Be Productive

By Sharon Hooper

Have you ever felt jealous of some people when you see them accomplishing so much more than you during the day? It might even make you wonder how they could possibly complete a laundry list of activities while you remain in the same rut all the time. The secret these people have over you? Time management.

Time management is a skill that doesn’t always come easily. In fact, it’s one of the most challenging traits people strive to achieve. However, through much discipline and effective practice, anyone can learn better time management in order to become highly successful. With these five core time management principles, you can be on your way to having the productive lifestyle that outperforms even the most effective people in your circle.

Create a To-Do List
Before you tackle the challenge of organizing your time, consider all that you have to do for the day. It’s best to take at least twenty minutes in the beginning of each day to list exactly what you must do. Consider this the brainstorming phase. Without worrying about a specific order of importance or the timeliness of every activity, simply write down a list of all that you need and want to accomplish.

To help you create a flawless to-do list, check out Todoist, a popular task making application that can easily prioritize your list of upcoming tasks. It features color-coded priority levels, handy notifications, and the setup of reoccurring dates and subprojects.

Understand Important vs. Urgent
While important and urgent might sound like similar labels, they are actually quite different. Urgent indicates that a task should be done sooner rather than later, but finishing the job may or may not matter. On the other hand, important tasks always matter, and there could very well be serious consequences if you do not do them.

In a nutshell, urgent tasks are timely but may not result in consequences, whereas important tasks are more imperative to accomplish but are not as timely. When you begin the process of organizing which tasks to do first, you should begin with the most important and urgent tasks, while ending your day with tasks that are neither important or urgent.

Avoid Multitasking
This might sound backwards, but there have been several studies reporting on the effects of multitasking that lead to diminished brain function. You don’t want that to happen to you. Instead, give yourself a reasonable window of time to complete each activity. Then, dedicate yourself entirely towards finishing all of your tasks, one by one. This will also strengthen your focus and patience over time.

Avoid procrastination at all costs, since this will give you the illusion that multitasking helps you recover by allowing you to accomplish more with less time. Procrastinating is bound to fail you. Simply give yourself a time frame that accommodates for each task you must do, without being too generous or stingy.

To best manage your time this way, you’ll need a program to keep you on track. Consider using the desktop application RescueTime which helps filter out distractions and ensures that you reman accountable for productivity by displaying a timer for time tracking.

Identify Your High-Functioning Window
Everyone has a time of day when they best function. Whether you’re an early bird, a night owl, or somewhere in between, there is surely a time that best aligns with your highest levels of productive energy.

Evaluate yourself honestly. If you are more of a night owl and you expect to get a bulk of your work done in the morning, you’re setting yourself up for burnout, stress, and failure. Try to be one with your body by organizing the majority of your daily activities in your high-functioning window. Not only will you most likely accomplish more in this time, but you will also feel physically and mentally better by doing so.

When it comes to being productive during this time, you want to stay organized. Check out the popular application Trello, which is a full-featured tool that allows you to view your lists on boards, organize projects, create checklists, set due dates, and collaborate with team members.

Establish a Distraction-Free Work Zone
At this point, you’ve created your list, distinguished between importance and urgency, avoided procrastination and multi-tasking, and have recognized your high-functioning window. Now, you’re ready to start working. What else do you need to do?

Well, it’s also critical to maintain a distraction-free environment, both with people and clutter. People can easily push boundaries and may not accept your request to not be bothered during your high-functioning window. However, this window is a precious chunk of time when you need to focus and stay away from people who waste your energy. Don’t be afraid to say “no” and demand space from those who would otherwise inhibit your time management and keep you from being productive. 
The same rule applies to your physical work surroundings. Look around—do you notice messy stacks of papers, cluttered drawers, and other untidy places? If so, it’s advised that you take some time to reorganize your environment so that it physically mirrors the stress-free quality you want in your mind. When you cannot structure this environment to be clean and empty of distractions, consider moving your work zone to a remote location that caters to a peaceful atmosphere.

If you want to organize your time well in advance to prevent these distractions, try the Week Plan application. This helpful application lets you see your entire schedule for the week, and it allows you to easily restructure, label priorities, and add new tasks as needed. Also check out the range of Daily Planner Templates by Canva.

Key Takeaways
Time management is rarely enjoyable at the beginning, but once it is attained, there’s no going back. Essentially, it can be broken down into three parts: making the initial to-do list, understanding the order in which to do each task, and completing them with important strategies in mind. Once you’ve mastered these five core principles of time management, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming the highly productive and successful person you’ve always wanted to be.

Sharon Hooper is a marketing specialist and blogger from Manchester, UK. When she has a minute, she loves to share a few of her thoughts about marketing, writing and blogging with you. Follow Sharon on Facebook.

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