Feeling Overwhelmed? 14 Time Management Tips That ACTUALLY Work

Francesca Rice
Francesca Rice

We all struggle with the daily work-life juggle, so we've spoken to the experts to find out how to manage our time more effectively. Say goodbye to panic-induced stress...


1. Let it out 
'When you're busy, it's easy to lose any sense of priority, and panic because everything seems urgent,' says Claire Mitchell, founder of The Girls Mean Business. 'In reality, there will be things that can wait or just need your attention for a short time, so the key thing is to get visibility on what you're dealing with. Try a "brain download", where you write everything down, so that you can take a look at what's clogging up your brain. You can then ditch some of it, and do the rest in order of importance. Do this every time you feel overwhelmed.' 

2. Try the one-day rule
'Think of how productive you are the day before you go on holiday,' says Claire Mitchell. 'You only have one day to sort out a mountain of work and it looks impossible but you somehow manage it. This is because you become ruthless with your to-do list. Try to recreate this attitude whenever you need to make some serious headway with your workload. Pretend that you have one day to get it all sorted and if it's not worth doing, ditch it. Hand over anything that can be delegated, and get things done instead of worrying about them being perfect.'

3. Don't multitask
'Women are brought up being told that we're great at it, but multitasking is not useful at work and definitely not useful when the task is important,' says Claire Mitchell. 'Multitasking requires you to spread your attention across many tasks, so, by definition, this means that you don't give any single job your full attention. If you really need to get something done, focus on it 100 per cent. You will get things done much more quickly, and get much better results.' 

4. Make yourself un-interruptible
'We often get distracted from tasks by phone calls, colleagues, emails and social media. But, the thing is, you allow this to happen by not putting yourself into a protective "work bubble",' says Claire Mitchell. 'If you really need to get stuff done, switch off your phone and shut down your email for 30 minutes. Set a timer so that you're working against the clock and give yourself a deadline to complete one important thing. To stop colleagues from interrupting you, stick some earphones in. Once you've finished the important task, make yourself available again - this will "train" those around you to know when you shouldn't be interrupted.'

5. Make a 10-minute list
'Every morning, break down your tasks into small jobs and write them down,' says Claire Mitchell. 'This means that instead of having one or two huge things on your to-do list, you will have several smaller tasks to get on with, which should take about 10 minutes each to complete. Every time you have a spare moment, pick one of these small jobs and tackle it. Things will feel more manageable so you'll get more done.'

6. Make a won't-do list
'Start a list of your won't-do's to go alongside your to-do list,' says Bach Original Flower Remedies time management expert Rosie Gray, founder of Mosaic Learning. 'Include anything that distracts you, stealing away precious time that you could use to accomplish important tasks.'

7. Have a "Tidy Friday"
'Go through all of the scraps of paper lying around your desk - add any information to your to-do list and file the rest away before the weekend,' says Rosie Gray. 'Friday afternoon is also a great time to check your calendar for the following week. Make sure that you have all the information you need from others for meetings or projects, and send timely reminders if anything is missing.'

8. Keep it real
'Be realistic about what you can and can't do,' says Rosie Gray. 'You have a finite amount of time and must choose what you do with it wisely - you can't do 12 hours of work in an 8-hour day. Noticing how long tasks tend to take will improve your future scheduling, allowing you to give accurate forecasts and meet deadlines more easily.'

9. More than three's a crowd
'Try focusing on only the three most important things on your to-do list. Be clear on how you'll know you have achieved them and the resources that you'll need to ensure their completion,' says Simon Alexander Ong, life designer and success strategist. 'The key is to be productive, not busy, as "being busy" is often used as an excuse for avoiding the most important tasks of the day.'

10. Learn to say no
'Don't overwhelm yourself by overcommitting or you will raise the likelihood of failing on several fronts,' says Simon Alexander Ong. 'Think about what you will need to forfeit from your schedule to make time for the extra requests and consider whether it is worth doing this. If you have no choice but to take on extra demands, learn how to delegate anything that will distract you from your most important tasks.'

11. Prepare the night before
'You will wake up significantly less stressed if you prepare your day the night before, working out exactly what needs to be taken care of,' says Simon Alexander Ong. 'Try deciding what you will wear and figuring out if there will be any transport issues on your commute so that you can prepare an alternative journey - this will save you a lot of time.'

12. Invest in planning
'There are loads of planners on the high street, all aiming to make your life easier and more manageable, so buy one and keep it with you at all times.' says Francesca Turner, careers adviser at the National Careers Service. 'If writing things down isn't your thing, there are plenty of apps out there that will do the same thing.'

13. Make a plan for the week
'Making a rough plan on Sunday evening or Monday morning about how you are going to spend the week will give you structure and things to aim for,' says Francesca Turner. 'It doesn't have to be set in stone but, even if you don't manage everything, you will achieve more with your time.'

14. Become an early riser
'If you're not a morning person, become one,' says Francesca Turner. 'Get up a bit earlier every day and make a point of crossing off some chores from your to-do list. Research shows that it takes 28 days of repetition to form a habit, so it should only take a month for you to become a fully-fledged morning person.'

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