Are you making too many trips to the supermarket when you could actually get it done in 1 or 2? Do you spend time taking your children to places that actually could be shared with other parents? – there are so many things that you may be doing simply from habit rather than because they are required. Think smart!
Tips for mastering time management at work
Then life happens. You leave late, you hit traffic, and you arrive at your desk already frustrated with the world. Sitting down to finally knock out that project you’ve been procrastinating for weeks, you realize you’ve got back-to-back meetings until noon—and yes, you’re already late for the first one. You finally walk out of the last meeting, and you start wading through emails when you get pulled into a meeting with the VP. He has a last-minute request for you. “It should only take an hour,” he says. Try three.
The good news is that there are ways to reclaim those seemingly elusive lost hours of the day. It’s all about personal time management—manage your time instead of letting it manage you. We’ve got ten time management tips for work to get you started
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 starting 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 allows you to get going as soon as you get to the office.
Putting everything 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.
If you can’t do it the day before, make sure you write out your list first thing in the morning. You’ll find that the time you spend creating a clear plan is nothing compared to the time you’ll lose jumping between tasks when you lack such a plan.
Use your Diary Properly
People often overlook how fantastic a time management tool a simple diary can be. They simply use one to track the general outline of the day – and so that they can ensure that they don’t get double booked – but often overlook the fact that it can be the most valuable thing they own because it manages your time for you and enables you to be proactive everyday.
I always do this exercise at the end of the day ready for the following day – as then I know I can wake up with a plan of action – and won’t waste time procrastinating in the morning about what I feel like doing (and this is a weakness of mine – I have wasted DAYS like this!)
As and when you get appointments and unmoveable items – add them into your diary – and – as Duncan Bannatyne Suggests in his book “How to be smart with your time” – don’t just add in that it starts at say 10am – actually mark out a block of time that covers the event, travel time both ways, prep time etc….
Note – This system works brilliantly – as long as you only have one diary! If you work – use different colours for work and home if that helps – but always keep them together – you are only one person so treat your diary the same way.
Tip #2 – Don’t let yourself get sidetracked or interrupted
In the home, it’s usually the phone – with recent years the laptop (think email, social media etc….) adding to this. Basically its however people can reach you in your home at any time of the day where you feel that you have to answer their call right there and then.
My way of getting round this is to do two things. Get a phone with number recognition – that way you can avoid numbers you don’t know, and answer those that you do (ONLY if you have the time there and then of course!).
Sound harsh? well not really – pretty much everything can wait. I will always pick up if it’s wherever my daughter is – no matter what – as she is my responsibility and I want her to know I am always there for her, but everyone else won’t mind me getting back to them when I have the time to talk. It’s actually a better way of doing things, as then you will call and talk probably more in depth and with no distractions when you have finished whatever you were doing that stopped you picking up initially.
There are stats out there aplenty about how much time is spent getting back into a task once you have been interrupted, so stopping interruptions before they happen will ensure you get your tasks done quickly and more efficiently.
The time spent per day being interrupted and trying to refocus is 2.1 hours. (2009, Basex)
My husband and I have gone one step further with this. We have a deal that if we really can’t talk when the other calls, then we can divert to voicemail. HOWEVER – if it’s urgent and we really need to talk to them, if we call back immediately then they know it’s serious and will pick up and drop whatever they are doing. This works brilliantly but we have had to make sure we don’t abuse it!
And as for emails and social media – limit yourself to looking at it once your jobs are done for the day – that way it’s a bonus to your day, a reward for getting things done, and won’t distract you while trying to work if you know that you have given yourself time later.
They found a clue when they asked employees about how conflicted or aligned their goals were. Employees lacking in passion said that their goals were competing with each other, fighting for time and attention; for example, the drive to do well at work might make it hard to get home for dinner with the family. But passionate employees were different: They saw their goals as supporting each other. After all, healthy home cooking and family bonding might give them more energy and motivation tomorrow.
Gift of Time
So, time pressure isn’t just about how enjoyable our activities are, but also how well they fit together in our heads. One study found that people who simply think about conflicting goals—like saving money vs. buying nice things, or being healthy vs. eating tasty foods—feel more stressed and anxious, and in turn shorter on time.
Knox College professor Tim Kasser, an expert on materialism who coauthored a seminal paper on time scarcity, once joked, “If every research project that I’m currently working on right now was a cat living in my house, it would be very clear that I had a problem.” If your to-do list feels like a herd of hungry felines, all in competition for your one can of food, it’s no wonder you’re overwhelmed.
While we may freely choose some tasks on our plate, others are largely the product of our society or culture, says Australian National University professor Lyndall Strazdins, who has spent the last decade trying to show how time scarcity matters for individual and public health. For example, being a good suburban mom today seems to include chauffeuring your kids around the neighborhood to countless sports and hobbies.
“If you don’t do that, then you feel you’re not living up to one set of norms, but if you don’t do [something else], you’re also not living up to another set of norms,” says Strazdins. “You’ve got 24 hours…and you get to a point where you just can’t expand your day.” If you feel a lot of inner conflict about a task, then you might consider just letting it go.
Time Management Tips and Tricks
Put a time limit on tasks.
Tasks expand to fill the time they’re given, or so argues Parkinson’s law. If you give a task two hours rather than one, the amount of work you need to do to accomplish the task will simply expand to fill the full two hours.
Take another look at your time audit and identify tasks that took longer than you expected. Set a time constraint on those tasks. By setting constraints you will improve your focus and work more efficiently. You will also avoid scope creep: the expansion of a project that occurs when duties are not well-defined or controlled.
If you still find yourself going beyond these time limits, examine your workflow and determine if you should assign more time to those tasks in the future. You can also try eliminating little time-wasters like unscheduled breaks.
Add a “done list” to your to-do list.
Be one day early.
Many people believe they work best under the intense pressure of a deadline and will put off work until the day before it’s due. However, for most this isn’t actually the case. Projects often take more time than initially thought making it difficult to actually complete projects on time.
Don’t answer right away.
Don’t automatically answer email or Slack messages the very second they arrive. Batch process your emails and catch up on phone calls in your downtime. Close email or messaging apps to avoid interruptions when working on high-focus tasks.