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UMGC Career Connection20 Ways to Take Back Your Time

Jennifer Tomasovic
By Jennifer Tomasovic

A wise person once said, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day.” So how is it that some of us breeze through our to-do lists with time to spare while others are always two steps behind –and twice as exhausted.

“The key is to focus on how you ‘spend’ your time, rather than how you ‘manage’ your time,” explains Rhoda Smackum, MA, Career Advising Specialist in UMGC’s Career Services Office of Institutional Advancement

Here are 20 simple ways to use your 24-hour time budget effectively so you can put it to work for you.

1. Limit your use of your cell phone for checking your social media accounts, text messages and other apps. Turn off sounds and notifications so you won’t be tempted to pick it up constantly. Try placing your phone face down while working—and only check social media during your breaks and lunch hour.

2. Check work emails periodically versus constantly throughout the day.

3. Clarify due dates on work tasks and projects. Sometimes what you think needs to be done ASAP could actually be completed at a later time or date.

4. Find your peak work zone. We all have a time of day when we have the most energy and mental clarity. For some it’s mornings. For others it’s afternoons. Work on your top-priority tasks during your peak time frame.

5. Find ways to manage stress. Go for a walk. Read something fun and entertaining during breaks. Watch motivational videos or try exercising during lunch time.

6. Avoid multitasking. Instead of dividing your attention across multiple tasks, try focusing on one task through completion.

7. Identify your top priorities. Not everything on your to-do list is a priority. Use the 4D method when evaluating your “to-do” list. Review each item on your list and decide if it is a Do, Delegate, Delay or Drop.

8. Get proper rest and nutrition. The body and mind perform much better when they’re taken care of. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Have healthy snacks available at your desk.

9. Break large tasks down into 3 or 4 smaller items. Large tasks can seem overwhelming and unachievable. Breaking the task down into smaller steps makes it more manageable.

10. Location. Location. Location. It can be hard to focus on and complete a task when you are interrupted by the phone, co-workers and the general hustle bustle found in shared workspaces. Consider moving to another location for a few hours, perhaps a meeting room or other quiet space, to focus on your priorities for the day.

11. Use an online calendar, such as Microsoft Office Calendar, to list your appointments.

12. Assign a time limit to each task or appointment.

13. Schedule breaks throughout the day.

14. You can use different apps to track your time if you are trying to figure out why you don’t have enough time to complete everything.

15. Plan ahead by spending time the day before listing all of the tasks that need to be done the next day.

16. Enlist help by delegating so you can spend your time on critical tasks and activities.

17. Complete all tasks giving your full attention. Avoid stopping and starting.

18. Don’t schedule too many tasks in one day. Leave room in between tasks for breaks and the unexpected.

19. Avoid overcommitting yourself and learn to say no.

20. Prioritize those tasks that are most critical and complete those first.

When you follow these pointers, you may be surprised at how efficiently you’re working. “Remember, proper planning prevents poor performance,” sums up Smackum.