Time is a precious resource.
While we can’t create more time, we can find ways to manage our working style and habits to optimize our time.
Learning how to structure and maximize our time is especially important when it comes to project management. Big projects involve lots of moving parts. Not only do we have to pay attention to details like daily tasks, deadlines, and meetings, but we also have to keep our eye on the overall project timelines and milestones. This multi-track way of planning and thinking requires us to allocate our time in an efficient way.
Below are some time management strategies that can help you take stock of how you spend your time, which, in turn, will allow you to put a system in place that suits your working style and needs. By putting these measures in place, you’ll be able to keep your project on track and ensure its success.
Time management strategy: do a time audit
Before figuring out your time management strategy, it’s helpful to first check in with yourself and see how you’re actually spending all your time. A time audit can be beneficial in that, “You may believe that you only spend 30 minutes on emails, but in reality that task is eating up an hour of your day.”
Alternatively, you may be dragging your heels on a task because you believe that it will take longer than it actually will. You might put off tidying your room or doing your performance report because you think you need an entire weekend to do it, when in reality you might find that all you need is 30 minutes.
Use a kitchen timer or the stopwatch on your phone to measure how much time you’re spending on a particular activity. Even mundane activities like scrolling through Instagram or paying your bills should be measured. Afterwards, take note of the areas in your life that are consuming most of your time. Is it social media? Preparing work emails? Meetings?
Try not to judge yourself after seeing the results. It’s totally normal to initially feel embarrassed or ashamed when you realize how much time you’ve been spending on your computer. But we can’t expect to be productive 24/7 and we all deserve a Netflix binge once in a while!
Instead, use this knowledge towards helping you be more mindful of your time. For instance, if you’d like to spend a free afternoon watching movies, then make a note to spend your evening doing something productive towards your project.
Time management strategy: make a project plan
At Ink+Volt, we love a good to-do list -- it helps you articulate your responsibilities, while also serving as a visual reminder to accomplish them.
But if you’re setting out to accomplish a work project or a personal goal, sometimes you need a productivity tool that can help you manage work on a bigger scale. That’s why we like to use the Ink+Volt Planning Pad to help us keep track of a project’s timeline and details.
The top section of the planning pad has a timeline where you can write down important dates and deadlines. You can organize the timeline by month or by quarter or even by day -- it’s up to you and your project’s needs. There’s also lots of space to write notes, tasks, and benchmarks you need to reach.
The best part of using a planning pad is that it incorporates the features of a to-do list, calendar, and project management tool, all in one place. Plus, it gives you structure to your days, which helps you maximize the most of your time. Without setting up these tentpoles, it’s easy to waste time getting situated every day. With a planning pad, you have much more clarity on what needs to be done and by when.
Here are some examples of projects you can manage with a planning pad:
- A special event or virtual conference. You can use the planning pad to help you get an overview of details like guests, vendors, expenses, and prep meetings, all synced within your full timeline.
- Writing a book or other large document. Maybe the end goal seems daunting and complex. But if you break it down into small chunks and visualize the steps that lay ahead, you’ll feel much more prepared and able to follow through on your goal.
- Financial goals. You can also use this pad to help you manage personal financial projects. Use the timeline to set financial milestones, like a savings goal. Then use the detail section to set out what you will do to reach your benchmarks. Maybe you’ll set aside some money each month. With a solid plan in place, you can set yourself up for success.
Time management strategy: plan time increments
After mapping out the timeline and key milestones for your project, write down time increments for each task. Determine how much time will it take you to draft your launch email or have a check-in meeting with a manager. This is when your time audit comes in handy!
Below is a sample task list for a special event and the amount of time each task could potentially take:
- Email invitations to guest speakers - 1 hour total (15 minutes per email)
- Write speaker bios - 1 hour total
- Hold prep meetings on zoom - 30 minutes each speaker
- Promote event on Instagram - 15 minutes
This list is a time-saver, especially if you’re juggling lots of responsibilities that particular week. The next time you find yourself with 15 minutes or 30 minutes to spare, you can quickly scan this list and see which task you can do within that amount of time.
Not convinced that you can be productive with just five or ten minutes to spare? Here are tasks you can probably do in 5, 10, 15, or 20 minute increments.
- Respond to a text message
- Respond to an email
- Confirm a meeting
- Clear clutter off your desk
- Water your plants
- Throw out the trash
- Tidy up your coffee table
- Pick up clothes off the bedroom floor
- Shred paper documents
- Have a quick status meeting with a work colleague
- Do the dishes
- Respond to work emails
- Pay bills
- Brainstorm ideas for a work or creative project
- Update your calendar
- Read an article you’ve been meaning to read
- Have a phone chat with a client or friend
- Organize your office
- Review progress on your goals and take note of what is working and what needs to be done
Sometimes you don’t need big chunks of time to do your work. You’ll be surprised to find that you can easily get things done in short bursts of time. It’s all about doing a little prep work up top, and then maximizing the time you do have instead of trying to create more.