I’ll start off by saying I’m a huge procrastinator. In my defense, I do try really hard to get things done on time, no matter when I happen to start! In fact, I work better on a shorter deadline. So I figured I would write a short and sweet tutorial on how to manage your time wisely and get whatever is on your to-do list done — no matter what time you begin and when your deadline is. I use these steps for managing course assignments, online business, and even regular old hobbies like blogging!
I’m a frantic mess when I know I need to start working on something. That’s why it helps me to visualize everything I need to accomplish. You can do this in many ways, here are a few ideas:
- Post-it notes: Put everything you need to do onto a separate post-it note. If you just need to do one thing, break it down into steps and put them each on a post-it note. Rearrange and add to your notes as you stick them on your desk and get an idea of what it is you need to do.
- Illustrate it: Sometimes I’ll just take a blank page and start sketching a big web of things I need to get done, along with notes at the bottom so I don’t forget details.
- Make a list: I use this for my course assignments. Make a big list sorted by month and days, having all of your to-dos in a chronological list that you can refer to and cross off as you accomplish them.
- Use technology: Evernote is a life saver for fellow Mac users. I screencap everything I need to remember — from pictures, to conversations, to files — and then save them under the same folder in Evernote. When I’m ready to begin, it’s as easy as opening the application and finding the folder! The best part is you can store information to remember from your phone, iPad, and computer all into the same place.
This part is important. Within every project, there are steps that are unnecessary. If you’re shooting for a deadline, you need to know what you can turn in as acceptable for the time you’re working with and what has to wait until later.
- Be upfront. Make a timeline of what you’re going to do first. Use your visualizing tools!
- Delete steps! Quickly spot those time wasters. make a note to get rid of them, cross them off, erase them, put them in a pile for later. Things like color coding, highlighting, fixing a very detailed error only you will notice, or adding abundant information can be saved for when you have time to do so. You can always make something pretty or re-arrange it later.
- Just start it! Write an outline, draw, or dive right into the first thing written on your visualized list. You can go back and edit as needed, but it’s important to start right away to avoid putting it off or brainstorming too much.
Stay On Track
You need to keep track of time while you’re working. In the past I would look at the clock and tell myself what time I needed to be done. This is a disaster waiting to happen! Instead, try these tips I find to be much more helpful:
- Work in 15 minute increments. Every 15 minutes take a break for up to five minutes.This will keep you focused, because you’re “starting over” frequently with the same determination!
- Log your progress. Keep a notebook and write down everything you are getting done. You can even use your visualization tool and check things off on there. This way you’re visually seeing what you’re getting done, or how little you’re getting done. If you’re working on one big project, remember to write down your little achievements and not just the big picture.
- Use a timer. This works best for me! Mac users can download an application appropriately named Timer. Give yourself a time limit and hit the start button. It’s amazing how fast you’ll be working just to beat the clock!