5 Effective Time Management Hacks to Conquer Your Day

This article is authored by Emily Liou, an American career coach and founder of Cultivitae, part of the Career Money Life Supplier Community.  This article is originally published by Cultivitae.

I Wasn’t Always Great with Time Management

When I was in college, I was always late to events and parties. I think this bad habit cultivated overtime when I was hanging out with friends who seemed to always be running on CPT (color people time). I know I’m generalizing here, but in my circle of friends, time management was a serious issue.

“If you’re on time, you’re late.”

Post college, I entered the real world and realized punctuality was key. In college, you could easily stroll into the classroom late and quietly slide into a seat. But in the corporate world, it’s hard to slide into your empty desk after 8am when all of your colleagues are already running meetings and completing daily tasks. My days of showing up late were no longer acceptable. I really strived to not only show up on time, but aimed to arrive at least 10 minutes early.

Luckily, about a decade later, I’m proud to say I’m rarely late to anything!

5 of My Best Time Management Hacks:

1. Set your clocks forward

I’ve had so many occasions where I felt stressed because of unpredictable traffic, road closures, no available parking spaces, car accidents, and my inability to accurately decipher cardinal directions.

Because of this, I started to set all of the clocks in my house, my car, and my watches 10 minutes earlier than the actual time. The extra 10 minutes of buffer time really prepared me with wiggle room to allow anything to happen and still arrive within the desired window.

 I realized when I arrived early to places, I always felt more cool, calm, and collected.

It provided me with the mental space to collect my thoughts and ensured I was composed. I could actually smile as I waited for certain meetings, events, or programs to start, which often allowed me to network with more ease. As a bonus, I always carried a book with me in my purse so I could read anytime I arrived too early and needed to kill time. I also spend a lot of free time now cultivating my Instagram

2. Block off 15 minutes before and after each meeting

I used to have these crazy back to back meetings scheduled with candidates back in my recruitment days. I remember feeling drained from repeating the same intro, asking the same questions, going over the same company spiel. I also remember occasionally needing to use the restroom but couldn’t because the notification popped up that I needed to call someone right after I hung up the receiver.

And of course, there were those days when calls went 5-10 minutes over, which created a domino effect of all my other calls starting 5-10 minutes late.

Because of this, I purposely have my Calendly to block off my availability 15 minutes before and after each time slot that is booked. This gives me the ability to reflect after each phone call, complete any notes or emails I need to for my clients, or simply have buffer time to talk further about anything needed. It also allows me to center myself before my next call.

Oh, and I can actually use the restroom, if needed!

3. I turned off all notifications on my cell phone

This is going to sound extreme but I turned off all of my notification alerts on my cell phone. I don’t know if I have any new emails, text messages, price alerts, etc. unless I actually open up the app and check.

I did this for two reasons:

1.) I noticed every time a new message or email came through, I would stop what I was currently doing to address it.

2.) I was always on my phone.

I realized the world isn’t going to end if I don’t respond to every text message and email within the hour. My former mentor and boss used to tell me, “You should pretend you’re in a meeting. If you were in a 2-hour meeting you wouldn’t check your phone for those two hours.”

So, I do exactly this and I can’t tell you how much my productivity has increased. I have regained so many minutes of my day back without having to shift my focus from app to app. Only after I am done with a specific project or task at hand do I actually open up my various apps to see what is going on. This took a while to get used to, but now it feels second nature… and in some ways a mini reward.

4. I plan my week every Sunday

Every Sunday, I sit down with my calendar and plan for the week ahead. I can visualize what big tasks and events I need to attend on what days, and I then work backwards to fill in my hours. I schedule everything including fun. I find when I have clear tasks at hand, I know what I am doing with my time and therefore feel in complete control with how I spend my time. 

I also know what three main goals I need to accomplish each day. Before I fire up my laptop and emails, I already jot down the three main tasks I need to do and before I go to bed at night I make sure these tasks are crossed off. It’s liberating!

5. I started to say “No”

If you were friends with me just 3 months ago, you probably noticed I was eager to say “yes” to everything. I was really eager to help people, meet people, and take on all tasks and projects thrown my way… even if I felt overwhelmed and stressed. But I’ve recently being practicing essentialism and learned how to say yes to the things that I genuinely want to do. That means I’ve said no to a lot of outings, events, and invitations. At first, it felt weird, and I felt like a “bad” friend. But now my friends are all conditioned to know that I still care deeply about them, I just choose to be more selective with my time. 

This means when I commit and say yes to something, I’m putting all of my heart and energy into it. I have regained a lot of energy, focus, and enthusiasm back in my daily life because I’m no longer bogged down with things that don’t really excite me or contribute towards my bigger goals and desires.

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