Be Smarter with your Smartphone about Time Management
There are a mere 1440 minutes in a day, we all have the same, and yet what is interesting is how differently we view that amount of time, and how productive we are within it. There is a category of people for whom there are never enough hours in the day, they achieve a lot but are busy from the moment they wake up in the mornings until their head hits the pillow at night, at which point their minds are more than likely still busy even if their bodies are not! More and more of us are falling into this category in our attempt to meet the demands of modern life.
Then there are the group of people who will view those same 1440 minutes as being a huge amount of time and therefore whatever needs doing can be done later – there’s plenty of time! These are the people who time often catches out because it changes. The number of minutes in the day doesn’t actually alter, but what happens within those minutes that will impact upon the amount of time available for a certain task or tasks, all too often does.
Finally, there are those with whom the rest of us endure a love-hate relationship. They are the ones (and we all know someone like this) who have the same number of tasks to do in a day as we do, but not only do they appear to be totally in control and permanently on top of everything that they have to do, but they seem to do it with time to spare! Meanwhile, the rest of us of us study them, feeling perplexed, full of great admiration for them one minute and finding them the most annoying people on the planet the next!
So what is the difference between us and them?
Well, there are a couple of things that are certain. Firstly, they will be avoiding habits and mistakes that are detrimental to time management, and secondly, they will use some form of system to ensure that they are organised. Let’s take a look at some of the time management pitfalls and then look at the features of a smartphone that make it an effective organisational tool and therefore fantastic for aiding time management.
Pitfalls to good time management
Multitasking – Contrary to popular belief, good time management and the ability to multitask do not go hand in hand. Someone who can multitask can do several tasks effectively at the same time but usually without too many constraints on time. Once deadlines are introduced, the multitasker will normally struggle and end up foregoing any spare time in order to contend with the time constraints. Research has shown that multitasking is really task switching; instead of doing two things simultaneously, your brain is switching from one task to the other, but it does so at such a pace that you don’t even realise it’s happening. Multitasking is detrimental to time management because we work more efficiently, and spend less time on tasks, if we focus on a single task at a time rather than splitting our attention.
Foregoing breaks – When we’re feeling the pressure of time or we’re in the flow of whatever task we have set our minds to do, it is sometimes tempting to plough on and forgo any breaks in the hope that we might get it finished sooner and enjoy our spare time more once the task is complete. However, there is evidence to support the theory that working non-stop reduces your concentration and increases fatigue. Breaks are important to replenish your cognitive energies and that is only possible when you are away from your work space and the task at hand.
Breaks should appear periodically within your daily schedule and be regular enough that you don’t feel exhausted by the time they arrive. Avoiding exhaustion makes it easier to restore your focus and concentration because you do not start the break with depleted levels of energy.
For those of you who struggle with time management because “there’s plenty of time!”, try to re-train your mind to think of breaks as energy restoration time rather than an excuse to avoid work, too many breaks/too longer breaks are as bad, if not worse for time management than taking no breaks at all.
Failing to plan & prepare – Completing tasks and assignments is as much about planning, preparation and thinking as it is about doing. They are ongoing processes that are imperative to you accomplishing everything on your to-do list. Getting your thoughts together before starting, and stopping periodically to take stock and reorganise those thoughts, will improve the quality of the work you do and increase your productivity.
Managing multiple calendars and organisation systems – Which calendar are you actually using? Is it your Outlook calendar at work, the one on your phone, your Facebook calendar, the paper diary in your bag or the one hanging on the wall?! Managing multiple calendars wastes time, wouldn’t it be so much more efficient if you had them all in one place?
Being a perfectionist – Time management is not about getting a task done as fast as possible to the detriment of the quality of the work that you produce, but what it can’t be is striving for perfection. It is about completing a task efficiently and effectively in accordance with the standards and objectives set for it. Striving for perfection if the work that you have already done meets the standards and objectives required is time used in vain. No matter how much time a perfectionist spends on a task, they will struggle to get to the point where they feel that they can declare that task complete.
So how can you use your Smartphone to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above and improve your time management?
- Set reminders – Alarms make it easy to remember all of your important tasks and prevent you from thinking about the next task whilst working on your current one. It serves as your task-switching cue so that you can avoid the detrimental effects that multi-tasking will have on your management of time.
- Create a daily schedule – There are various apps available to help with time management that will enable you to create daily schedules. However, simply using the calendar on your smartphone is very effective as it enables you to enter tasks and appointments for the day and view them on your schedule within hourly time slots. Don’t forget to include those all-important breaks!
- Create “to-do” lists and planning notes and add to them on the go – By creating an ongoing “to-do” list or planning note on your smartphone, you have the ability to add to it whenever things pops into your head. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking about something and then forgetting what it was and wasting time later trying to remember it. Capture those to-dos and planning ideas whilst they’re fresh in your mind!
- Consolidate your calendars, contacts and “to do” lists – One of the most powerful smartphone features is the ability to synchronise your calendars, contacts and “to do” lists across multiple devices. In other words, if you synch your smartphone with your i pad, desktop at work and even your home PC, then whatever you add into your smartphone will automatically appear on your other devices. Train yourself to put every event, meeting, invitation or deadline onto your smartphone calendar as soon as you know about it and let your smartphone do the rest!
- Manage phone call interruptions – Mobile phones are fantastic in many ways but they do mean that we are permanently accessible, and when they ring, we feel compelled to answer them. Constantly taking calls is multi-tasking, it interrupts what we are doing and in turn affects our productivity. Use your smartphone to manage your calls. Calls can be silenced to ensure that you are not disturbed but the caller be given the opportunity to leave a voicemail that you can deal with later. Alternatively, if you need to take some calls but not others, then your smartphone can be programmed to ring if certain contacts are trying to call you but silenced for all others.
- Create a balance – Control the perfectionist in you and use your smartphone to give you a visual summary of your day. Allocate blocks of time to each activity/task and make changes to your day if one particular activity is taking up too much of your time or you need to re-prioritise.
Time Management Apps
You can carry out all of the tips given above without additional time management apps, your smartphone is already equipped with the features mentioned. However, there are many fantastic applications available for Smartphones in this category. If you choose to use one of these, ensure that it complies with your overall strategies for better time management. A comprehensive task management application or program might have many valuable features, but if you find that its complexity means that you are spending a lot of time using it, you will be defeating the object of having an application to help with your time management in the first place. If this is the case, consider using one of the myriad of other programs available or simply use the features already available on your smartphone. Remember, the point of a task manager is to make you more efficient with your time and reduce the stress in your life, avoid anything that adds to it!
A final tip…….
Back it up! If you are going to use your smartphone as a mini pc then make sure that you back it up regularly. It is far easier to lose a phone than it is a desktop pc but the information on it will be just as important.