Time Management: Overcome Distractions and Prioritize Your Work

How are you with time management? Do you feel like you’re always running out of time to accomplish everything you want? Are distractions getting in the way of your productivity? In what follows, I share with tips that anyone can use to create more time in their lives. From setting priorities to scheduling breaks, these practical tips will enable you to focus on what’s important, delegate tasks, reduce distractions, and learn to say “no” to activities that don’t align with your goals and values. Whether you’re a busy professional or a working parent, these time management strategies will help you overcome distractions and prioritize your work. As a result, you can achieve your goals and enjoy more free time.

Eight steps anyone can take to create more time

1. Set Priorities

Identify the most important tasks and focus on completing those first. This helps to avoid wasting time on less important activities such as social media or emails. I use a very simple, 5-minute method to determine my priorities every day.

 “If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States.

2. Use the Pomodoro Method

Time management techniques such as the Pomodoro method can help increase focus and productivity. The Pomodoro method breaks work down into manageable intervals with short breaks in between. One of my friends swears by this technique as it enables him to tackle really difficult or creative tasks knowing he only needs to focus intensely for 25 minutes at a time. 

3. Reduce Distractions

Limiting distractions such as phone notifications and email alerts can help improve focus and reduce wasted time. Let’s be honest, almost everyone spends more time on social media than necessary to stay connected to friends and family. Place your phone on silent when you have to focus on something. Also, consider removing social media from your phone altogether. Then, just check it once a week via a computer instead.

4. Delegate Everything You Can
Delegate tasks to others where possible. This frees up time to focus on more important or enjoyable activities. What can you delegate at work and at home? Can you get the kids involved in more chores around the house? Could a neighbor iron your shirts or cut the lawn or babysit? While your situation is unique, here are some ideas of things that you could consider delegating to free up your time:

Administrative tasks like data entry, scheduling, and email management. These are often time-consuming and can be delegated to an assistant or virtual assistant. When I lived in the Catskill Mountains I had a retired neighbor come and help with the admin tasks and filing. She was happy to have a little extra income. I was very happy to have the extra help.

Repetitive tasks including tasks like invoice processing, social media posting, or content formatting. They can be delegated to an employee, intern, freelancer, or virtual assistant.

Business functions such as bookkeeping, marketing, or HR can be outsourced to a specialized service provider or consultant. If you own your own business, this is especially important. I’d be completely bogged down in admin and bookkeeping tasks if I didn’t have an amazing virtual assistant! But don’t think you have to have your own business to delegate these tasks. One of my clients couldn’t get motivated to submit his expense report. It created a cash flow issue for him since he wasn’t getting reimbursed in a timely fashion. So, he hired a bookkeeper who spent an hour a month on this task, and the problem was solved. 

Personal tasks like grocery shopping, household cleaning, laundry, meal prep, and child care. Delegate these tasks to a personal assistant, household helpers, or family members. When the kids were little, we paid a retired neighbor next door to iron all my husband’s shirts. We also hired a house cleaner and had a live-in au pair. It is very likely that you’ll need a load of help if you are a working parent, especially in the early years when the kids need constant attention and supervision. 

Low-priority tasks like anything not urgent or important, or things that don’t align with your strengths and expertise. Can you avoid doing them altogether? If not, delegate to someone else. This will free up your time for high-priority tasks and the things you enjoy doing most.

By delegating as many tasks as possible, you can free up your time and focus on more important tasks that require your expertise or attention. It’s important to identify tasks that can be effectively delegated. Also, communicate clearly with the person to whom you are delegating to ensure that they understand what is expected of them and can complete the tasks effectively. 

Yes, initially it takes some time to train the person to whom you are delegating the task. However, you’ll reap so much free time afterward that it’s worth taking the time to train properly. That said, I just hired a team of cleaners that really know much more about cleaning the house than I do and which tools and products actually work and which don’t. There was very little instruction time required. This is the beauty of delegating to people who are better at the job than you are! 

5. Learn to Say No

Just say “No, thanks!”  to requests or activities that don’t align with your priorities, values, or goals. You could map out the activities you’d like to accomplish over a lifetime on a timeline. Remember, you can get it all done, just not all at once. This can take the pressure off the feeling you must do it all right now. I find it helps to have a default setting of “no” when you have small children. The truth is, you really are busy.  Kids are massive time sinks!

6. Schedule Breaks

Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help increase productivity and prevent burnout. Experiment with the Pomodoro method of intense work followed by a short break. If I have a dreaded task, I talk myself into doing it by setting a timer for ten minutes and promising myself that I’ll just do ten minutes and then stop if I want to. Getting started is most of the battle. 

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ― Lao Tzu

7. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

Simplifying routines and schedules and decluttering your possessions will reduce stress and increase efficiency. Every year I look for time-saving techniques that I can apply to my routines and look for more things to automate and delegate. As a result, I have plenty of time despite running an international coaching company and looking after a family.  Read more about this with 11 Ways to Simplify Your Life.

8. Practice Mindfulness or Meditate

Being mindful and present in the moment can help improve focus and reduce wasted time on distractions. It can also prevent burnout. For beginners, try one of the great apps to get started like Headspace.com or Calm.com

These simple steps can help you create more time and reduce stress.  Creating more time in your life is about finding a balance that allows you to prioritize what is most important and enjoy life to the max! Want more tips for creating time? Read my top 10 tips or grab a copy of my bestselling book, Coach Yourself to Success

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