10 Ways To Manage Your Work Time, Part 1
Like anyone else, my job is demanding. In order to finish all of my work, I get to the office early and tackle my to-do's, but I usually leave work late, feeling like I haven't made much progress.
While I start each day with good intentions, I find myself in meetings all day long, and when I finally return to my desk, I have to leave to take care of personal obligations. A while ago it became apparent to me that I have enough time to receive work, but not enough time to finish it. Fortunately, there are ways to reclaim those seemingly elusive lost hours of the day. It's all about personal time management—managing your time instead of letting it manage you.
Today and tomorrow, Promotional Consultant Today will share 10 important time management tips from Lauren McNeely, a senior content marketing specialist for Lucid Software and a blogger for LucidChart.
1. Figure out how you're currently spending your time. If you're going to optimize your time management skills, first you'll need to figure out where your time is going. Try diligently logging your time for a week by tracking all your daily activities. This audit will help you determine how much you can feasibly accomplish in a day, identify time sucks and focus on activities that provide the greatest returns. As you conduct this time audit, it will become pretty clear how much of your time is spent on unproductive thoughts, conversations and activities.
You'll also gain a more accurate sense of how long certain tasks take to complete. This exercise can help you determine the time of day when you are most productive—that way, you'll know when to work on projects that require the most focus and creativity.
2. Create a daily schedule—and stick with it. This step is absolutely crucial for learning how to manage time at work. Don't even attempt to start your day without an organized to-do list. Before you leave work for the day, create a list of the most pressing tasks for the next day. This step will allow you to get going as soon as you arrive in your workplace.
Writing everything down on paper will prevent you from lying awake at night tossing and turning over the tasks running through your brain. Instead, your subconscious goes to work on your plans while you are asleep, which means you can wake up in the morning with new insights for the workday.
3. Prioritize wisely. As you organize your to-do list, prioritization is key for successful time management at work. Start by eliminating tasks that you shouldn't be performing in the first place. Then identify the three or four most important tasks and do those first—that way, you make sure you finish the essentials.
Evaluate your to-do list and ensure it is organized based on task importance rather than urgency. Important responsibilities support the achievement of your goals, whereas urgent responsibilities require immediate attention and are associated with the achievement of someone else's goals.
To prioritize based on personal goals, McNeely suggests using one of the time management tips for work found in Stephen Covey's book, First Things First. Covey suggested a time management matrix with four quadrants for prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency.
Here's a closer look at each of these quadrants:
- Important and urgent: These tasks have important deadlines with high urgency—complete them right away.
- Important but not urgent: These items are important but don't require immediate action and should involve long-term development strategizing. Strive to spend most of your time in this quadrant.
- Urgent but not important: These tasks are pressing but not critical. Minimize, delegate, or eliminate them because they don't contribute to your output. They are generally distractions that may result from the poor planning of others.
- Urgent and unimportant: These activities hold little (if any) value and should be eliminated as much as possible.
When you can figure out prioritization, your personal time management can reach a whole new level. You'll be better prepared to manage your time on those days where there simply aren't enough hours.
4. Group similar tasks together. Save yourself time and energy by dividing your responsibilities into the type of task that it is and completing them altogether before moving onto the next task group. For example, devote separate brackets of time for sending and responding to e-mails, making phone calls, filing, researching, etc. Don't answer e-mails and messages as they come in, which is a distraction at its finest. Turn off your phone and e-mail notifications to eliminate the temptation to check them at an un-appointed time. If you're concerned about missing a pressing e-mail or phone call, keep a lookout as to its urgency and address according.
5. Avoid the urge to multitask. This is one of the simplest time management tips for work (and life), yet one of the most difficult to follow. Focus on the task at hand and block out all distractions. It can be tempting to multitask, but you're just shooting yourself in the foot when you attempt to do so. You lose time and decrease productivity when switching from one task to another. Similarly, don't get overwhelmed by a to-do list stretching a mile long. Stressing over it will not make it shorter, so breathe in, breathe out, and take it one task at a time.
For more time management tips, read PCT again tomorrow—put that in your important and urgent quadrant.
Source: Lauren McNeely is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University, where she majored in business management with a focus in marketing. McNeely works as a senior content marketing specialist at Lucid Software and as a blogger for LucidChart.