Your desk is buried under an ocean of paper and your inbox is about to explode. There’s an urgent message from your boss about an overdue report. To challenge your time management skills even more, you’re unexpectedly asked to cover for a colleague sidelined by a medical emergency. Ack!
Ever have days like that? When you do, they can certainly spike your stress level. If they’re happening more often than you’d like, maybe it’s time for a closer look at your time management skills.
Are you a thinker or a doer? Both personality types have pros and cons when it comes to managing time. The fact is, we all have 24 hours in a day to accomplish what we need to do. When it comes down to the bottom line, it’s really all about awareness, intention and organization.
Where Does the Time Go?
First and foremost, effective time management begins with self-awareness. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical to understanding how you ‘operate.’ Take some time now to reflect on how you spend your time at work. Ask yourself if you:
• set aside time for planning and scheduling
• start each day working on priority tasks
• know when you’re most productive
• know how you waste time
For more self-awareness insights, try this time management quiz.
Time Management Tips
Once you’ve identified your time-related strengths and weaknesses, you’re half-way there. Then it’s a matter of making the most of your day and your productivity. Here’s how:
1. Set an intention
Decide what you need to achieve each day and estimate the time you’ll need to do it. By doing so you program yourself to do the work in the allotted time. Because if you don’t set a goal, you allow the work to fill the time available.
2. Make a list
According to a LinkedIn survey, 63% of all professionals frequently create to-do lists. A to-do list is an essential roadmap to guide you through tasks and projects and can also help you visualize what you’ve accomplished.
3. Be flexible
A to-do list should not be carved in stone. Pay attention to your physical and mental energy rhythms during the day and adjust tasks to take advantage of when you’re functioning at your best.
Experts advise to build in 50% more time for each task for unexpected emergencies and distractions.
4. Prioritize tasks
Use your time and energy to do the most important things first because they will lead to significant consequences if not done today.
Productivity experts say you should try to do one to three priority tasks each day. Having trouble defining your priorities? Try tapping into your intuition.
5. Take small bites
Break up time-consuming tasks and projects into ones that are smaller, manageable, and specific. After that focus on each one at a time and work on them uninterrupted for up to an hour.
In addition, spend 15 minutes at a time working on dreaded tasks to increase their chances of getting done. Need help staying focussed at work? Try a pomodoro desktop or mobile app.
TED Talk: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator
6. Avoid multi-tasking
While multi-tasking can have advantages in certain situations, it can be detrimental to managing time well.
When you multi-task you force your brain to make many different decisions at the same time. This can lead to fatigue, errors, and less-effective decision-making as a result.
7. Learn to say no
Saying no can be the hardest part of time management for many. However, you can achieve a greater degree of satisfaction and productivity by clearly knowing (and communicating) what your needs are. To do that, carefully evaluate requests for your time and deal with a request as quickly as possible.
8. Limit interruptions
Technology especially can really distract us, beckoning us with blinks, beeps, or vibrations. Social media is a big issue that many companies are addressing with policies on acceptable use, for example.
Otherwise, email and the telephone are two important tools that also need to be used strategically. Need help controlling your email? Try this simple guide to managing your email.
9. Delegate duties
If you’re swamped with work, chances are you can delegate some part of it. Assigning tasks to others will free up your time and energy to focus on what’s really important to you. So they might even be done better by someone who has more time and energy.
10. Clear your head
Take a break several times a day to ease stress and let your brain relax. For instance, enjoy a 5-minute meditation, go for a walk, or do some deep breathing to re-oxygenate the brain. They’ll help refocus your thoughts for better concentration and keep you motivated.
11. Reward yourself
Crossing things off your to-do list calls for a reward for all your hard work. But whatever you do, make it fit your accomplishments – don’t give yourself a big reward for a small achievement. Furthermore, make it immediate for extra motivation and make it specific.
12. Evaluate your time
Keep a time management journal to track where you’re spending your time. The best kind of log is a simple one. Record such details as activities, purpose and effectiveness of those activities, your energy level, and any interruptions, for example.
Tame Your Time
When you tame your time management challenges, your work day is less stressful and more productive. Not only that but it can lead to better work life balance and more peace of mind. So get time working for you. There’s no time like the present to start!
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