Judging by the number of all-nighters my friends and I spent in college studying for exams and writing papers, I think it’s safe to say we hadn’t exactly mastered time management yet. And while I still haven’t mastered it, I have learned a lot since jumping into the real world and starting my career. While you may not have mastered time management by your college years, it’s definitely something you should have a grasp on before leaving your twenties. Here are some time management tips to learn in your twenties!
Keep a Calendar/To-Do List
If you’ve read anything else on this site before, you knew this was going to make the list! I’ve had a mild calendar and list obsession for basically my entire life. With balancing so much going on in my life, this has always been essential to staying productive.
While I certainly don’t think everyone needs to become quite the list fanatic that I am, coming up with some sort of system for keeping up with your calendar and to-do list is going to make a huge difference, especially if you’re in school, early in your career, or balancing a side-hustle with your full-time job.
Depending on your needs, you may want something as simple as Google Calendar, or something more robust like Asana, which is what I use to organize everything for my blog and business. Or if you’re more of a pen and paper kind of person, that works too!
There is no one right answer. I’ve adapted and changed my system a lot over the years. It’s all about finding what is more realistic, efficient, and productive for you.
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Learning to prioritize the different parts of your life can be challenging when you’re balancing everything from family, friendships, relationships, work, possibly a side-hustle, and time for just yourself.
There are some things that are just non-negotiable for me. Obviously, during the hours I’m at work, that gets my full focus. But when it comes to my side-hustle, which isn’t quite as mandatory, it can be difficult to prioritize well.
When it comes to making priorities for myself and making the best use of my time, I like to compare how important certain things are to me. Like, sitting down and binge-watching my favorite show on Netflix sounds like fun. But when I think about how much blog work I could accomplish in that same amount of time, I’m more motivated to get to work! Every hour of blog work I’m able to put in will have a payoff, whereas something like watching Netflix all evening won’t.
I feel like learning to prioritize is a balancing act we really have to learn as young adults, as it’s only going to get more complicated as we get older when additional responsibilities get thrown into the mix.
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Break Down Large Projects Into Smaller Tasks
Between my full-time job and my side-hustle, I have had to tackle some pretty huge projects over the last several years. And while it’s always a bit overwhelming to start a project like this and you just aren’t sure where to start, I have definitely found ways to make it easier to tackle them!
The most important piece of the puzzle is taking your monster project and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then you can add these small tasks to your to-do list, and suddenly it looks a lot less overwhelming!
For example, when I was writing and launching my eBook, I spent some time and created a calendar that included every task I would do over the course of three months related to writing, editing, launching, and promoting my eBook.
Multitasking Isn’t (Usually) Productive
I remember all through high school and college, and even early in my career, thinking that the ability to multitask important projects was a skill to strive for. Just think how much more productive you could be if you could knock out multiple tasks at once!
Now that I’ve actually spent years attempting to do that, I know that’s not really how it works, at least not if you want to do all of those tasks well.
You can only give all of your brain power to one task at a time, so if you’re attempting to accomplish two tasks at once, you aren’t giving either of them your full focus and they’ll both take longer to accomplish. Better to get each task done separately. You’ll do both tasks better and get both done more quickly!
If you’re dead set on multitasking, pair a mindless task that takes only your physical energy with a task that takes your brain power. For example, I love listening to my favorite podcasts while running, driving, or cleaning.
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Don’t Overschedule Yourself
I am someone who has always managed to keep myself very busy. In college, I was going to school full-time and working just about full-time, while also holding down internships and participating in extracurricular activities such as writing for the school newspaper. It’s safe to say I was pretty busy.
Now I spend many hours per week working on a side-hustle after I get home from a full-time job that can be pretty draining at times, while also attempting to keep some semblance of a social life.
I have always liked to keep my schedule pretty full – I just tend to do better when I’m kept busy. But I learned years ago that scheduling every minute of my time is super ineffective. If I’m scheduling tasks to fill my entire workday, I probably won’t get to all of them because I’m taking into account things like phone calls, last-minute meetings, tasks that pop up throughout the day, time to take short breaks, etc. It’s just not realistic to expect to accomplish 9 hours of focused work into a 9-hour workday.
As for the rest of my schedule, I know that scheduling something to fill all of my time, whether it be a night out of the house or a night working on my business, is going to lead to burn out pretty quickly.
Rather than filling every single hour of your schedule, leave some buffer room for yourself to keep you more productive and less stressed, and to leave plenty of time for self-care when you need it!
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Write Everything Down
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a meeting with a notepad and pen and yet failed to write anything important down because I was sure I would remember it. But in reality, what actually happens is that 5 other things pop up between the meeting and when I have time to tackle the tasks that came up in the meeting, so they’ve been pushed out of my mind by other things.
Now, even when I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember what is being talked about, I still take notes for later, and I am always glad that I did! I am significantly less productive when I have to spend time scrambling to remember something I failed to write down. This is something that will come in handy through your entire career, but especially early on!
Learn to Say No
This one is particularly challenging for me, and I feel like challenging in general in the early years of your career. Many of us are eager to prove ourselves when we’re starting out in a new career so we make it a habit of saying yes to everything. This can be okay, but it can be problematic if the additional workload starts taking a toll on either your work or you personally.
Learning to say no can also be really difficult outside of work when it comes to friends, families, and extracurriculars. It’s okay to set personal boundaries for yourself and tell people you aren’t available if you really aren’t, or if you need an evening for yourself.