Principles of Time Management: Get the Fundamentals First Before Anything Else

Written by Domantas Vanagas

November 4, 2021

Great time management isn’t a mysterious process that only the best gurus of business understand. In fact, you can learn the principles of time management following this article. After all, I mastered many of these skills and think that you can too!

After all, following these great principles of time management could increase your productivity by as much as 25%! So why not get started on mastering these unique steps right now?

You Don’t Always Have to Say Yes

You didn’t get to where you are today by saying no to many things. On the contrary, for every opportunity that came your way, you jumped on it and made it matter.

no written on piece of paper

However, there comes a time when you need to say “no” to something. Otherwise, you’re going to end up getting overwhelmed and struggling. 

Let me share an example from my life to give you an idea. I am an author and a composer and try to keep busy with many projects.

Recently, I had the chance to publish a book on my favorite jazz musician, Charles Mingus, and a science-fiction novel series my publisher loved. Working on these two alongside my music (which is just a hobby) proved stimulating and challenging.

Then, however, I decided also to take on a job writing an essay about financing that tipped my load. I hadn’t wanted to do it but thought it would be good money. 

Unfortunately, I’d taken on too much at once. I couldn’t give anything the attention that it needed, and I missed publishing deadlines for all three of my jobs. Eventually, I got through this time, but I should have said “no” to that financing essay. 

Know How to Plan 

Planning is one of the essential principles of time management. If you don’t understand the basic steps necessary for this process, you’re going to struggle.

Unfortunately, most people assume they know how to plan and don’t fully understand the unique challenges this process puts on them. 

So, what’s the big deal? How can you plan your time effectively?

First, you must make planning a routine. Wake up every morning early and plan what you need to do that day. Focus on your big task to increase your productivity, taking a look at the “big picture.”

Write all of your tasks down in a planner and then put them in a simple, time-saving app. A planning app will warn you when you need to do something. You can also use it to check off each task as you finish it. Or you can use a Sticky Note if you’re not the technology-focused type.

Prioritize Your Time 

When you’re planning your day, it is crucial to prioritize the most important things first. For example, I always start my morning with a big meal, an excellent workout, and half an hour checking my emails and replying. I take these steps before work because they get me energized and ready

Next, I take a shower, get dressed, and head into the office. Once I’m in the office, I tackle my most challenging tasks in a staggered fashion. I don’t do all the hard stuff at once because it tires me out. Instead, I’ll do something challenging and then something easy for a break. 

Prioritizing your time is based on similar rules and concepts. For example, taking a break to chat with a co-worker does strengthen your relationship and build morale. However, it may also cut back on your productivity. Focus on tackling your duties for the day before moving on to relaxation. 

I like to write on my books and music after I get home, take care of dinner, walk the dog, and spend time with my family. However, I also stagger in small things like stretch breaks at the desk to keep myself from getting fatigued.

Understand the 80/20 Rule 

In 1895, Italian economic Vilfredo Pareto published a paper describing what he called the 80/20 rule. He discussed how 20% of the country’s population owned 80% of the wealth. Since then, this rule has been expanded and is often used to inspire many principles of time management.

For example, 80/20 means that 20% of your work produces 80% of your results in a work environment. Understanding this fact can make time management easier by giving you a better insight into how the minds of the average worker work when they’re on duty.

I can vouch for this ratio in all my life’s work.

For example, when I write in my books, I take about an hour to produce at least 1,000 words. During that hour, I probably do a good 10-15 minutes of good hard writing. The other time I’m thinking, planning, and debating what I wrote. To compensate, I add an extra 15-30 minutes to my estimated task time to be safe.

Don’t Overstimulate Yourself 

The modern world is a wild place and can be incredibly overstimulating in the wrong environment. Unfortunately, this problem is something that we all have to deal with every day, especially teenagers. Let’s take a look at an example of how this issue can affect your productivity. 

woman talking on her phone, scrolling a phone and working on a computer at the same time

Let’s say you work from home. You wake up, take care of your daily tasks, and get to work. However, you like listening to music or watching television while you work. Maybe you keep Facebook Messenger open, so you can track your family and friends through the day. 

Or maybe you’re like me, and you always take on too many hobbies. At one point, I had something to do every day after work: kickball, softball, Wednesday drinks with friends, board games night, video game night, live comedy night, and hikes and exercise with my friends. 

I got overstimulated and was exhausted at the end of every day. I had to cut back and balance my everyday life in a way that kept me engaged and entertained but not overwhelmed.

Streamline What You Do

You probably have a work process that makes sense for you and your needs. However, you might be doing things inefficiently. I used to take a lot of extra and unnecessary steps in my day-to-day tasks.

Cutting back on this issue gives you more time in your day. You must:

  • Find out where you are inefficient 
  • Cut back on unnecessary steps 
  • Continually gauge your work efficiency 
  • Minimize unnecessary extra steps 

I always start by examining the key areas I want to focus on for my current work. For example, when editing a chapter in a book, I focus first on the obvious grammar mistakes, move on to wording, and then to paragraph flow. This streamlining process helps me focus on each of my tasks more easily.

Consider Delegation 

You don’t have to do everything yourself to finish your day! Trying to take on too many tasks will overwhelm even the best worker and cause confusion and agitation.

Instead, consider delegating small tasks to others, such as:

  • Cleaning your home 
  • Buying your food 
  • Editing your work 
  • Researching your work 

Trust other people to handle these simple tasks, and you’ll plan your day more effectively. Usually, moms have to delegate. Otherwise it will get overwhelming for them quite fast. And you can cut back on endlessly repetitive and time-consuming tasks that you don’t need to do yourself.

Relax and Take It Easy

Lastly, you need to know when to relax and take life a little easy. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take life seriously or get everything done that you need to every day. But, instead, you should set aside at least one hour every day (preferably before bed) where you relax and do nothing.

For example, I turn off my computer, put my phone on mute, and watch one hour of television before bed. Usually, I don’t turn on the dang thing, but it helps calm my mind after a busy day. Or I keep the TV off, put on some Miles Davis, and read until I feel my eyes drooping. 

Also take small moments of relaxation throughout the day to keep yourself engaged.

For example, take a 15-minute walk at the office, practice yoga or meditation, or listen to binaural beats. All of these steps should help to make your life a little bit easier to handle at work. Of all the principles of time management, this is the one I love the most!

You Can Do This! 

If I can get my life together and improve my time management, you can do it too! I’ve always had a bit of ADD and struggle to focus. But using these steps, I’ve gotten my life together and have pushed to a higher level of success. So don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to do these steps at first. It has nothing to do with willpower but simply retraining your brain to plan your day better. Anyone can do it!

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