We’ve constantly been told that proper time management is an essential skill to have during adulthood. But it’s surprising how many people don’t know how to (or choose not to) manage their time wisely. Although many would excuse themselves as being career-driven, procrastination, multi-tasting, etc. are not healthy.

In fact, the imbalance between our professional and personal lives can lead to serious consequences. If you play too much and work less, you’re losing opportunities to foster professional growth. On the other hand, if you work too much, you’re at risk of stress and burn out. A little too much of both is harmful, so we need to find the right balance between the two — that can be done through effective time management. Here are some rules to set for yourself to help you better manage your time.

Follow the two-minute rule

Why is it that we always push back accomplishing our tasks up until the due date? Procrastination has become more of a norm than a bad habit. Break your tendency to procrastinate by following the two-minute rule. This dictates that if a job can be done in less than two minutes, then do it immediately. Pay your mortgage when the bill arrives, plot the time and date of an important meeting the moment you get confirmation, answer inquiries instead of saying “I’ll get back to you later,” etc. Don’t wait to accomplish two-minute tasks the next day when you’ll have a bunch of new paperwork to review.

Set daily goals

You wake up in the morning and probably the first thing you think of is how much work you have to get done today. So you rush getting ready for work to get a head start. Then, in an effort to check off tasks in your to-do list, you tend to multi-task and work overtime. Come tomorrow, we do it all over again, bearing the stress and fatigue.

It’s definitely overwhelming to have all your paperwork just lying around your desk. But the key to getting things done productively is to set daily goals. The moment you get to work, start your day by organizing your to-do list and your workstation. Put the high priority tasks in a stack on your desk and keep the less urgent ones elsewhere. Have a realistic and concrete vision of what you want to accomplish that day. Setting this goal will help organize your thoughts so that your focus and attention is not all over the place. Ultimately, you become more productive.

Learn how to prioritize

Most of the things we spend time on every day are very trivial. Just reflect on how much time you actually spend checking and answering your emails. In a study conducted by Adobe, they found that employees spend an average of five hours a day checking their emails! That valuable time could have been allocated on more important matters.

To avoid the tendency for you to spend time on minor tasks, learn how to set your priorities. Put urgent tasks on the top of your to-do list and break up time-consuming tasks throughout the week. If feasible, allocate time to do administrative tasks in the morning, such as checking your emails, updating your schedule, etc. Spend an hour or two doing trivial tasks and then don’t get back to them within the day. Instead, use the rest of your time to accomplish more crucial matters.

Time management is not just about how fast you accomplish tasks at work. It involves your productivity and your ability to find the right balance between your professional and personal lives. Commit to effectively managing your time, and you’ll reduce the risk of stress and burn out.

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