Most people take a very straightforward view of time management – it’s simply about getting as much done as possible in the time that you have. It is based on quantity. The key principle here is efficiency.
But good time management is about more than just how much you can accomplish. It’s about effectiveness as well as efficiency. That means devoting your attention to the things that really matter most and doing them well, even if you are not getting everything done. This puts the focus on quality, rather than quantity.
It also means being able to do your work without feeling stressed or rushed. Here are some tips on effective time management.
1. Prioritize – the Eisenhower matrix
To manage your time effectively, you need to determine what is most important, so that you can devote needed time to these projects. You also need to consider the urgency of the tasks, those with deadlines for example, or that need to be finished quickly for some reason.
Important tasks generally revolve around your goals, while urgent tasks more often involve helping someone else toward his or her goal.
In order to set priorities, it is useful to use a matrix created by former president Dwight Eisenhower categorizing important and urgent tasks. In this system, the highest priority tasks are ones that are both important and urgent, followed by important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent.
You tackle the important and urgent tasks first, then work your way down the priority list, skipping the not important, not urgent tasks altogether.
2. Organize workflow
You should establish some patterns to your work so that you avoid redundant efforts and move more efficiently. For example, if you have several papers to write, you should do research for all them at the same time, rather than researching one, writing it, and then going back to research the next one.
3. Set schedules and take breaks
Some people believe that to be productive, they need to work as hard as they can for as long as they can. But this foolishness. The longer you work, you reach a point of diminishing returns, where you need to put in more effort for similar results.
The best way to work is to schedule a certain time period, say an hour, then take a break after the hour before beginning again.
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