Time management doesn’t come easily to everyone, and in today’s workplace, it’s a battle to stay on task and productive. If you feel the crush of workloads and personal life pressures, here are some strategies to help. The keys to overcoming wasted time are identifying its sources and avoiding temptations. The benefits of effective time management, of course, is a lot less stress in your life and more relaxing moments at work. (Sounds pretty good, eh?)
Busy vs. productive
Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. There’s an old saying that busy people talk about how little time they have, while productive people make time for what’s important. Focus on the most important project on your desk and don’t stop until you finish it … or at least until you cannot do more on it for now. There’s another saying that busy people say “yes” quickly while productive people say “yes” very slowly. It may sound harsh, but someone else’s emergency is really just extra work for you. You have enough on your plate without taking on co-workers’ projects, no matter how small. Think hard before you automatically say yes to a co-worker’s request for help.
Workers who feel that they have too many tasks to complete each day should take a good look at what they spend their time doing. Everyone’s schedule has hidden periods of wasted time, including yours. Better time management starts by looking at your morning routine. Often, arriving to work on time means you don’t actually begin working until well into the morning. Getting coffee, saying hello to co-workers and catching up on what they did the night before you start your day takes time. If your day officially begins at 9 a.m., arrive early enough to do the pleasantries and ensure you’re at your desk working at 9:00 sharp!
Be true to your capabilities
Getting ahead in your career often entails seeking new responsibilities at work. Taking on new tasks shows management you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and work hard. However, it’s important to turn down tasks that could be the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. With too much to complete in a given time, no matter how critical each project seems, all the work will suffer if you spread yourself too thin.
To remedy this, don’t take on anything extra that does not have a direct, positive effect on your reputation and skills, or is a significant networking opportunity. You are your own brand and only choosing projects that reinforce that brand is a smart move. Though it’s tempting to accept anything offered, first determine how a task affects your reputation and then make your decision. Next, focus on building the skills necessary to reach your goal. For instance, if management and project coordination are your aspirations, avoid taking on anything that requires solitary work.
When in doubt about how well you manage your time, design a schedule to stay on track. As stated earlier, arrive to work earlier so your day can start on time. Add in short “power breaks” that allow you to get away from the task at hand even for five minutes. Note: This does NOT mean checking out social networks, emails or instant messages, which might be some of the biggest time wasters ever invented. Sticking to a new schedule is difficult at first, but eventually a productive routine should become habit. Do not attempt multi-tasking or tackling two separate responsibilities at once. This only leads to further distractions and less real work.
Finally, set aside some time at the end of each day to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, so that your time tomorrow can be spent even more efficiently. Physically write down your goals and tasks for tomorrow before going to bed and you will be stunned at how productive you are.