The struggles of time management at work are familiar to all of us. You get out of bed full of determination and optimism, certain that you will not only do all of your tasks on time, but also go to the gym and prepare a nutritious lunch from scratch.
However, life intervenes. You are stuck in traffic and are already irritated with the world when you finally make it to your desk late.
As you settle in to finally complete the task you’ve been putting off for weeks, you remember that you have a string of meetings till noon (and, yes, you’re already late for the first one).
Once free of the last meeting, you begin to wade through your inbox before being called into a meeting with the vice president. He needs you to do something quickly. He estimates one hour’s work at most. You could try all three.
The bright side is that it is possible to recover those evanescent minutes and hours. Time management is crucial; you must take control of your schedule, rather than allowing it dictate your life. Here are five suggestions to help you better manage your time at work.
One of the first steps in improving one’s own time management is identifying one’s time leaks. For a week, be sure to record everything you do with precision. If you use the results of this audit, you will be able to:
It’s important to prioritize the things that will bring the biggest payoffs.
The results of this time audit should make it abundantly evident how much of your time is now being wasted on meaningless chatter, idle browsing, and pointless chores.
Have a more realistic understanding of how long various activities often take you (which will be very helpful for executing on a later tip).
As a bonus, this activity might help you zero in on the hours of the day when you are able to get the most done, making it easier to schedule time for the most involved, thought-provoking undertakings.
Expert advice: evaluate how well you predict how much time you will need. When you are finished with your audit, compare the actual time it took you to accomplish each activity or project to the estimated time it should have taken.
Humans tend to exaggerate their own efficiency. If there is a noticeable discrepancy, factor it into your future plans so that you may better allocate resources and prevent delays or missed deadlines.
For effective time management in the workplace, this is the first step that must be taken. Never begin the day without first making a list of everything you need to get done.
Create tomorrow’s most important to-dos before you clock out for the day. This action will help you to save time and get things rolling as soon as you enter the office.
When you write down your must-dos, you won’t have to spend sleepless nights going over them in your head. Instead, as you sleep, your subconscious works on your plans, so that you can gain useful insights when you awake.
Don’t put off making your list till the last minute; if you can’t do it the night before, do it first thing in the morning.
Making a detailed strategy will save you a lot of time in the long run, especially when contrasted to the wasted hours you’ll spend switching back and forth between different projects.
Establishing priorities as you sort through your list of tasks is essential for efficient time management. Start by avoiding activities that are unnecessary. Then, prioritize the three or four most critical chores and get them out of the way first.
Check your list of things to do to make sure you prioritized them according to how crucial they are rather than how quickly they need to be done.
Urgent tasks demand immediate attention but don’t contribute to your long-term goals, while important tasks do. Oftentimes, we allow the immediate to take precedence over what might better serve the company’s long-term interests.
Avoid wasting time and effort switching gears by focusing on finishing all of the tasks in a single category first. Set aside blocks of time, for instance, to deal with various tasks like emailing, calling, filing, etc.
Do not respond immediately to incoming texts and emails; doing so is a major time-waster. The temptation to check your phone or inbox at an inopportune time can be eliminated if you turn off all alerts.
This is a straightforward piece of advice for managing your time at work, but it’s also one of the most difficult to put into practice. Put in the time and effort necessary to complete the task at hand and ignore any interruptions.
Multitasking is enticing, but it only ends up backfiring on you. When you go from one task to another, you waste time and produce less.
Don’t let a mile-long list of tasks paralyze you, either. Breathe in, breathe out, and focus on completing one step at a time; worrying about it won’t make it go any faster.
Instead of working until a task is complete, it is better to set a time restriction for it as part of your schedule creation process. It’s nice to have a list of things you need to accomplish, but it can be frustrating if you feel like you never get through it.