Do you find time management easy? Some of us do – we’re the lucky ones. All my life people have said things like “you’re so organised” or “how did you do that so quickly?” or “ask Amanda, she’s the logistics queen!”

I encourage my coaching clients to play to their strengths, rather than focusing on their weaknesses, and time management is one of my strengths. If it’s not one of yours, you need to find ways to minimise any negative impact that this has for you.

When do you struggle to manage your time?

Struggling to control our time can show itself in a number of ways. Do you recognise any of these?

  • Forgetting to do something you have committed to
  • Making a mess of something and having to start again
  • Feeling like you never do anything properly
  • Turning down the chance to do something you’d really love to do
  • Ending the day feeling dissatisfied because you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do
  • Feeling guilty about the things you haven’t done
  • Juggling so many activities that you get stressed and easily upset, which can lead to…
  • Getting cross or angry with clients, colleagues, or with your nearest and dearest

You may have ticked several of these, because often when we don’t manage our time well, it has a knock on effect in lots of areas.

Here are my top 4 tips for controlling time

Start by identifying what it is that you struggle most with. What aspect of controlling time do you need to tackle? For each of these there’s a different technique.

  1. Get clear on your priorities

Work out which activities will have most impact on your success. These are the tasks you need to give priority. At the end of your working day, or in the evening before you go to bed, identify three items on your priority list that you really need to do the next day, and rank them in order of importance. Write them down and put that list where you’ll see it in the morning – by your bathroom mirror, on your phone, or in your calendar. Make sure you tackle your list in order. Start in the morning, ideally before you do anything else.

  1. Stay focused

Set yourself an amount of time to work on each task – a maximum of an hour is usually ideal. Smaller tasks may only need 15 minutes to ensure you don’t “faff” and procrastinate.

Decide when you are going to start, and commit to it. Turn off your phone, shut off your emails and if appropriate, tell those around you that you can’t be disturbed unless the building is on fire!

When time’s up, take a break. Have a tea or coffee, check your emails and phone. If you haven’t finished the task, decide when you are next going to tackle it and again commit to it.

When you complete the task, celebrate! Give yourself a pat on the back for sticking with it and appreciate the effort you have put into it.

  1. Clear away distractions

Of course, we all have distractions that we can’t just “clear away”. Sometimes it may be a case of working out what you find easy to pick up and put down, and doing these things when it doesn’t matter if you are distracted.

Then save the tasks that need more focus for those moments when you can be more sure of some uninterrupted time. Book a slot in your diary for this task, at a time of day when you are less likely to be disturbed. If relevant, “close your door” either literally or figuratively, so that people know not to disturb you.

  1. Tackle that job you have been putting off

Here the solution is to break the big job down into bite-sized chunks to make it more manageable. Treat each “chunk” as a separate job, with a goal to achieve and a timescale to do it. Then you can tick off each chunk and see the progress you are making.

Which top tip will help you control your time?

Did you identify with one of these situations? Or do you have another top tip for controlling your time? If so I’d love to hear about it.

My workshop for small business owners “Planning Made Simpler” runs a couple of times a year, and we look at planning, prioritising and time management. For more information visit my workshops page.