5 Ways to Better Manage Your Time

There are 168 hours in a week—use them well.

It happens to the best of us: You’re plugging away at your to-do list, and then you look up to find that it’s already 5:30. Didn’t you just sit down at your desk? You’ve got presentations to write, friends to see, yoga classes to get to—all before 11:00pm, because you know you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep. Short of adding more hours to the day, try these clever tips for making the most of the time you have. 5 Ways to Better Manage Your Time

The Skill Set: 5 Ways to Better Manage Your Time

1. Track how you spend your time

Laura Vanderkam, the author of I Know How She Does It and a productivity expert, suggests keeping track of your time for a week. Write down what you’re doing as frequently as you remember to and in as much detail as you think will be helpful. “Keeping track of our time prevents us from telling ourselves stories that aren’t true,” Laura explains. “A lot of people think that if they work full-time, they have no time for anything else,” says Laura, “There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 40 hours a week and sleep eight hours a night, that leaves 72 hours for other things. That’s a lot of time!” 

2. Determine what’s most important

Every morning, when Ivanka gets to work, she writes down the top three things she wants to accomplish during the day. “Just seeing them there helps me focus on what’s most important," she says. "It’s easy to get sucked into a rapidly filling inbox, returning calls and running from meeting to meeting. Writing down my top-level objectives helps me ensure I accomplish them.” 

3. Take breaks during the day

“The human brain can do amazing things, but it can only focus for so long without a break,” says Laura. “If you find yourself checking email constantly, wandering between websites and social media, that’s a sign you need a break. Get up from your desk and take a walk or talk to a friend; you’ll come back refreshed.” 

4. Give yourself a buffer when you schedule meetings

If you’ve got a day packed with meetings and one runs over, your whole day will be derailed—you’re setting yourself up to fall behind. “I’ve learned to never schedule 30-minute meetings,” says Ivanka. “Even if I know a meeting will likely be short, I block off an hour for everything—if it ends early, I use that time to catch up on things and return phone calls.” 

5. Spend more time on your priorities

“People think a lot about what they want to spend less time doing, but it’s better to ask what you want to spend more time doing,” explains Laura. “We can’t make more time, but time is highly elastic. It will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.” If you need to go grocery shopping, but your friends just invited you to dinner, go to dinner. “You’ll figure something out with the groceries,” Laura reminds us. “You probably won’t starve!” Put your priorities (friends and family) first—you’ll make time for the rest.


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Images Courtesy of Ivanka Trump