We’re all busy, but being overly busy can become counter-productive to making the most of your time. Staying busy doesn’t always equate to getting things done, or spending the right amount of time on tasks that actually matter. Practicing a handful of effective time management strategies can really help you make the most out of every working day.
Fancy implementing some time management methods into your daily routine? Then read on.
- Plan ahead. Lists are your friend, particularly to avoid the small tasks falling through the cracks. Work from a to-do list, possibly written as one of the last things you do the previous day. Or use a to-do list app, whatever works for you. Everything you need to do must go on the list. Everyone loves crossing something off a list, and the sense of achievement is a great motivator. Run monthly, weekly and daily lists simultaneously if you’re feeling fancy.
- Organization pays off, it’s dull but true. Delete emails you’ve dealt with, file those you need to keep, and scanning or filing loose bits of paper will save you a lot of time further down the track. Clear your computer’s desktop, clear your inbox, and clean your work desk. Clear workspace is said to promote a clear mind – but then research says a messy desk is a sign of genius, so go figure.
- Deal with a task once, and one task at a time. If you spend too long thinking about everything you need to do you’ll end up getting nothing done.
- A good idea is to put aside a block of time to check voicemail, return phone calls, and deal with all your emails. The time for this is not first thing in the morning when you can easily get sucked into the dark recesses of your inbox. (Although if you’ve organized it as above, this might be a lot less interesting of a place to waste time). Constant email alerts can break your concentration and distract you from the task at hand, so turn them off and deal with emails once or twice a day in bulk.
- Beware the time suckers. They come from beyond the office walls to ruthlessly sap you of your productive work hours, mwah haha! Seriously though, email inboxes, smartphones, social media, and the internet are not, I repeat, not your friend when you have a pressing task at hand. Close any extra browser windows and focus solely on what you’re working on. Turn off your email alerts, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’, and even put it over the other side of the room if necessary. This is a tough one but important for making the most of your precious work time. (Disclaimer: I don’t always practice what I preach).
- Prioritize. Work your way down a to-do list organized in descending order of importance. Ask yourself If I need to get one thing done today, what is it? This task goes at the top. Followed by tasks which are very important, important, yes I really should, would be nice but could also wait until tomorrow. When the day is over and you need to stop working, your most crucial tasks are in the bag.
- Eat the frog! Sayeth Mark Twain: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
- Frogs aside, the crux of this famous quote is to decide on your most dreaded or hardest task of the day, do it first, and get it over with. The thought of doing something is almost always worse than actually doing it. Whether it’s a call you don’t want to make or a report you don’t want to write, get it done! Avoiding it means it’ll play on your mind all day, diverting your focus, sapping your mental energy, and yes, wasting precious time.
- Figure out the window in your working day in which you’re at your optimum – focused, full of energy, and raring to go. This might be first thing in the morning, it could be a couple of hours before lunch or later on in the day. Once you’ve locked it in, schedule works to power through in that slot when you’re the most efficient, and save other things for your lower energy times of the day.
- Once you decide to do something, don’t flake on yourself. Schedule time to get your own tasks done like you would a meeting or appointment with colleagues or clients.
- Take a break. Taking time away from the coalface will find you returning to work rejuvenated and all fired up to get back into it, rather than a constant dragging of the chain with no break. So get that coffee, work out, run errands – whatever takes your fancy, just get away from the desk.
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