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Top 10 tips for time management

A lot of people ask me about time management, especially students just starting their study, one of my big strengths is time management and organisation.

I have a few commitments; I am 2 years into a 4 year Masters Massey Uni, I work full time for NZIE as a programme leader for their diploma in Digital Marketing, I run my freelance company Online Toolbox providing hosting and support for over 100 WordPress websites, in both the UK and NZ. I am married and have a 1 year old with another baby on the way. For my down time I also enjoy the outdoors, walking, camping, baking and making crochet animals.

1. Plan & Prioritise

Make lists, I use Google keep but have previously use Evernote. I divide my to do list into the days of the week, working out when things are due and allocating them to different days. I just love ticking things of my list this give me a sense of achievement. I did try having a to do list for work, home and study, but it just didn’t work, I ignored at least one of the lists and started to drop the ball. Now everything is on the same list but gets allocated to the correct days, so I have weekend lists for my personal stuff and some days are even divide into the order which I would approach them, leaving personal to dos till the end of the day. When I prioritise my to do list, I am a big advocate of the book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy (which I listened to on audible see Tip#5) he talks about tackling your fattest ugliest task first, so everything you do afterwards seams easier and you have a sense of accomplishment. 

2. Pen & paper

I might work in a digital world and spend most of my day on Zoom and Teams but I am a big supporter of pen and paper. Sometimes it you can be distracted by the notifications on your laptop or tablet, so I bring a paper notebook to my meetings and always have one next to me at my desk. I write down all the tasks or important things from the meeting then transfer if needed to my devices. This is useful for students during their lessons. I summarise a lot of my academic readings in my notebook and refer back to them when writing assessments, I learn better through application so find writing out the important parts embed this to my memory better.

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3. Block out time

I have a set schedule for work and home, as I work from home this is important as the boundaries can often get merged. For example, 4:45pm – 7pm is family time this also includes daycare pick up, cooking and eating dinner as well as baby bath time. You know when you work best, so I try to set some of the more difficult tasks from my job or study for the morning, then when I return to my laptop at 7pm I will do the easier tasks.

I make sure Saturdays are completely work and study free this is home time, family time and often used to make sure things are washed and clean ready for the working week. I am luckily that I can work flexible and from home and have the self-motivation and support to do this.

4. Work to deadlines

If you are given a deadline, stick to it, but if you haven’t, set yourself a deadline. If you have an essay to write don’t just work to the deadline for your submission, work backwards Look at when should you do the draft by, when can you meet with your tutor and have your first draft ready for that meeting. I use meetings, as deadlines to get stuff done and this can drive my to do list.

5. Multi-task

Be very careful of this one, I don’t mean have 25 tabs open in safari and try to manage all your tasks at once, this is NOT going to work! However when I’m taking my baby for a walk to get him to sleep I will be listening to a podcast on educational theories or when I am cleaning the kitchen I am listening to a audile book on digital marketing. My brain is focused on one thing whilst my body another.

6. Delegate & Outsource

What tasks can you share or outsource. Are there things around the house that you could share with family members or pay a cleaner or a gardener. At work can you delegate certain tasks or make use of support teams. I cannot delegate my study, I understand that, but work and home you might be able to share the workload

7. Set goals

Remind yourself why you have all these commitments, you once thought that course you enrolled in was a good idea, or taking that promotion, or signing up to that hobby. Remember the bigger picture; it is to earn more money? get that qualification? Promotion? or build a family? Remind yourself by setting annual, monthly and weekly goals, this will drive your to do list on a day to day bases. 

As a digital marketer, the main objective is to attract customer attention to brands with the help of user-friendly and engaging content. Make sure that you master what different audiences want and don’t use the same digital marketing techniques for all industries you work for.

8. Be organised before you start

Clear your desk, do the dishes before cooking, plan the night before. If I know I have be out the house tomorrow, I lay mine and my sons clothes out the night before, make sure every bodies bags, coats and shoes are by the door and lunches are made.

In fact a top tip around lunches is that I always made a packed lunch if I’m out for the day, as I know I don’t want to waste time finding food. Another area of planning is meal planning and food shopping, I plan the dinners for Monday to Thursday and have my groceries delivered on a Sunday evening to reflect that plan, then for the remaining nights I make sure there is something that can be thrown together using the ingredients bought earlier in the week.

9. Avoid perfection

I don’t mean be careless, but perfection takes time and sometimes it can be a waste of time. There is a time and a place, do not rush your assessment or job application, however does the dishwasher need to be stacked in a certain way?

Do you need to keep going back and checking that quick e-mail you’re sending to a colleague. I confess in the avoid perfection topic, on the days where I don’t leave the house (other than for the day care run) I seriously avoid perfection, no make-up, gym pants, fluffy socks and throw my hair together; why not zoom, has a “touch up my appearance” feature.

10. Make the most of technology

When an e-mail comes in, if I am working on a task I flag it to follow up, delete it or forward, then I set a time for processing flagged e-mails. All my devices are synced so when I use tools like Google Keep I can quickly add to my to do list on my phone so if I remember something at 3am and it’ll be synced to my computer. I use cloud softwares like Dropbox so I can access files across multiple devices. I am the queen of shared calendars and invitations, I have all the car taxes, insurances, inspections and direct debt dates scheduled into my calendar to repeat each year or month with alerts to remind my husband and I. I have even colour coded my calendar so I know if it’s personal, work, freelance, a bill or study. Referring back to google keep I have lists for my to do, shopping, invoicing as well as friends and family’s birthdays. I also love siri and will often ask my watch to set alarms and reminders, a lot of my freelance work is in the evening as this is when the UK wakes up and I can often forget after a long day that I have a skype call at 10pm so I set an alarm 5 minutes before to remind myself. Use apps to your advantage but be careful to use to ones which work for you, for me having my 4 e-mails accounts (work, freelance and 2 personal) on my phone means I can manage everything but for some people doing this means they cannot switch off.

Author Emily Cordwell, NZIE Digital Marketing Programme Leader 

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