How often do you start your day thinking: “how on earth am I going to get through all my work?” Once a week? Twice a week? Daily? Let’s be honest, for most of us the answer is daily. Time management is a skill that we all wish we could master and one that even top CEOs, MDs and other industry high flyers continue to struggle with.
When clients are demanding the world of you, deadlines are looming and your to-do list is constantly growing; you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Now is the time to learn how to work smarter rather than harder, before its too late!
Here are 10 top tips on effective time management that will help you do just this:
1. Start with a weekly to-do list
To-do lists act as a helpful reminder. They offer peace of mind and ensure that you don’t forget anything super important. Whether it’s buying your Dad’s birthday present or completing that pitch document, having it in writing is half the battle won. Try splitting your to-do lists into separate personal and work columns so you know what to do, when. Don’t let tasks loom on the list for too long! Perhaps have a flagging system where you delete a task completely that has been pushed out for a week or two, it clearly isn’t that important.
2. Plan your work schedule
Ideally this is best done before your day even starts, perhaps just before you go to bed or even first thing in the morning. Identify your top 3 or 4 major goals for the day and block out a specific period of time per goal, in your diary. Why not take this one step further and sit down on a Sunday evening to plan your whole week in advance? Block out time slots for tasked work, and have a limit on the number of meetings per week. Try to be strict on not booking more than your limit, as too many can be distracting and cause you to fall behind.
3. Always prioritise
Streamline your tasks and eliminate the unnecessary! Although it may not look like it, there are items on your to-do list that are important but not as urgent as they may seem. Identify these items and remove them from the day’s tasks. Then prioritise the remaining “absolutely necessary” tasks into an order of importance. Try not to kick-start your day by opening your e-mails as this will involve you immediately in micro (non urgent) tasks, a mistake that most of us make every day.
4. Break down tasks
Goals often seem insurmountable, so breaking them down into smaller step-by-step tasks makes them much more manageable. Write each step down; be as specific as possible and only focus on completing one step at a time. Before you know it, you will have achieved your goal!
5. Record your time
Do you ever get to the end of a day and wonder what you did with your time? By simply recording your hours, you will become more aware of how your time is spent. This will help you focus on productive time rather than on time wasting exercises.
6. Block out distractions
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, chatting to friends, messages or phone calls… you need to block these out completely when meeting a deadline. Everyone has their own unique “time wasters” and interruptions. Identify yours and make a conscious effort to steer clear of or switch them off entirely at crunch time!
7. Avoid multitasking
Let’s face it… very few of us are excellent at multitasking so although it might seem like a good idea, it’s rarely advisable. Trying to do more than one thing at a time often leads to average work, multiple unfinished projects and heightened stress levels.
8. Manage expectations
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. This is the cause of much unnecessary anxiety in the workplace and can easily be avoided. By fully understanding your schedule you are able to manage client/ colleague expectations upfront. When agreeing to deadlines, always build in a little more time than you think you’ll need.
9. Don’t procrastinate
Even when the going gets tough, try to persevere to getting everything you set out to do, done. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” However, if a task is becoming tedious sometimes it helps to move onto another one and come back to it at a later stage.
10. Be disciplined
The above points won’t help you unless you make a conscious effort to be disciplined and stick to them. Check in with yourself daily and make sure you are using these tools to the best of your ability.
Becoming the master of your time is one of the greatest skills you will ever learn. We hope these tips have helped you in some way. Feel free to share them with your colleagues and please do let us know if you have any questions.