Time management is a skill that many professionals struggle with. You may constantly feel as though you do not have enough hours in the day. You may sometimes glance at the clock only to realize that half of your day or more has been wasted on unimportant tasks that should have waited until the following day.
When you fail to manage your time properly, your levels of productivity and efficiency may be reduced. You may also have to work much later than you planned on to get important tasks done, and this could easily eat into your personal or free time. Altogether, time management can impact your personal and professional lives. These tips can help you to improve time management and to reduce your stress level throughout your work week.
Print Out Your Schedule
Some people may already use a calendar to plan their day, but the calendar is usually digital. While it may be convenient to enter details into a digital calendar, it is not as convenient to stick to your to-do list when it is embedded in your smartphone out of your line of sight at work. A smart idea is to use free printable calendar templates available online. Write down your tasks on the calendar to plan out your day as well as your entire workweek. Because the schedule is printed out, you can keep it front and center on your desk. You can also cross off each item as it is completed. This can help you to enjoy a feeling of accomplishment and to stay motivated to continue to plug away.
Make Full Use of Your Day
One of the best ways to maximize the amount of time that you have throughout the work day is to make full use of all hours. If you regularly arrive 15 minutes later to the office than the rest of your co-workers, make a plan to arrive 15 minutes earlier. This is a small and easy way to incorporate more time in your day. In addition, you will enjoy a few quiet minutes in the office each day to get settled in and focused before your co-workers arrive.
Leave Time Between Tasks
Scheduling all important tasks on a calendar is a smart way to stay organized and to ensure that you complete all necessary or critical tasks. However, one error that is commonly made is backing each to-do item up with no downtime in between. Few people can mentally transition from one task to another without at least some downtime to get refocused, to clear away their work area and more. In addition, it is always helpful to get up, stretch your legs and give yourself a mental break before you dive into your next task.
Prioritize Critical Tasks First
When you are planning out your workday or week, think about the tasks that absolutely require your primary attention and that are true priorities. For most people, the best time to tackle priority items is first thing in the morning and as early in the week as possible. As the day or week grows long, you may lose energy and focus. This is a more ideal way to tackle more mundane or less critical tasks while still remaining productive.
Even when you do your best to properly manage your time through the use of a printed calendar, you may be distracted by many things at work. This could be clients calling on the phone or the ding of a computer as you receive new email messages. Co-workers are another common source of distractions. It may be impossible to completely eliminate distractions, but there are steps that you can take to improve your level of focus and to remain on tasks.
For example, working on critical tasks earlier in the day before co-workers get chatty is a smart idea. If you do stop to chat, only do so for a quick minute. Turn off email notifications and turn your phone’s ringer on silent. You can always respond to calls and emails between tasks on your schedule. If you plan to follow this tactic, remember to allocate time in your schedule for these activities.
Cluster Related Tasks Together
You may have to complete numerous relatively unrelated tasks throughout the workweek, but some tasks may be closely related. For example, you may need to collaborate with mostly the same team members on multiple projects. A smart idea is to plan meetings as necessary so that they are back to back. This will eliminate unnecessary wait time or downtime between meetings. Depending on the tasks, it may also help you to remain focused in a specific area. It could even help you to avoid wasting time getting caught up to speed in different ways.
Schedule Personal Time
Everyone has personal activities that require attention throughout the week. This may include picking up your car from the shop, making a bank visit or visiting the doctor or dentist. In addition to these activities, you may also want to plan a lunch date with a friend once a week or plan to visit the gym during your lunch hour or immediately after work on the way home. When you fail to incorporate personal time into your workweek, you run the risk of being unnecessarily stressed about these to-do items. You may even feel as though your personal life is an inconvenience to your work schedule. A simple solution is to simply incorporate your personal activities into your work schedule when necessary.
There are numerous steps that you can take to improve time management. If you are not currently following all of these tips, now is a great time to change your habits for improved results at work.