Mismanaging your time can tank your life both personally and professionally. You’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities if you get a reputation for being flaky or unreliable. Happily time management is not an inborn talent; it is a skill that can be learned.
Determine what type of system is going to work for you. Some people love to-do lists. Some people love calendar diaries. Some people prefer tracking their agenda on software. There is no one “correct” system – do what works for you.
Write out your items to be competed. You need to stop relying on your memory to get things done. Get it out of your head. Write things out and start assigning due dates. Does the item have a set due date (drinks with friends this Friday, quarterly budget report, etc.)? If so, enter the item and the due date.
If it doesn’t have a set due date then you’ll need to prioritize. Decide which priorities are urgent, which are important but not urgent and which items can be assigned a lower priority. For the items that are urgent, decide which order they need to be completed in.
Now this part is important – pad your time! Never work on a best-case-scenario. Never schedule optimistically. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. If you have three urgent items and you can only reasonably commit to two with the third being an outside possibility – don’t commit to the third. Try your hardest to get it done but don’t promise to get done. (Btw, it’s the same with your social life. Don’t commit to dinner at 6 if you get off work at 5:30 and it’s a 45 minute drive to the restaurant.)
At the end of each day, organize your schedule for the next day (be flexible – it can and will change). Every morning, take a look at what you need to accomplish that day so you know how hard you’re going to have to work to get everything done. Being organized is worth every penny and every minute spent on it.