Time this the most valuable resource in the universe, and management of your available time can be one of the trickiest skills to master. We all have unexpected interruptions, caused by urgent user requests or changing deadlines. Anything from unexpected events to emergencies can prevent us from accomplishing the things that are important. Time management is really a personal pursuit that is unique to your lifestyle, but we can provide some basic tips that should help you get started in better managing your time.
- Plan on spending 30-50% of your time at work thinking. If you are doing and not thinking you will never have time to create new processes or build a mental picture that can help you propose now projects.
- Start your day with the first 30 minutes spent on thinking about what you need to get accomplished today, planning your daily activities, and scheduling any required meetings.
- When starting to work through your daily tasks, start with the biggest tasks first. Even if you only get that one thing done, you will still feel like you got a lot of work done. Measure success by the volume of output, not the count of tasks you worked on or completed.
- Plan for interruptions. You should expect to have you work interrupted with questions, emails, and telephone calls. When planning how long something will take to complete, build into your estimate extra time for these interruptions so you will still complete your tasks on your planned schedule.
- Take daily notes of events. Write down what you worked on and what you got done. This will help you easily reference what happened on which particular day, but it can also help you measures success and failure. This can help you understand how much you can actually complete based on the evidence of actual output instead of what you think you remember being able to accomplish.
- Block the normal distractions of the day, like email and social media. Control your time by deciding when it is time to read an email or check social media for updates.
- If a task is important to you, it should have a schedule time of the day to work on it instead of hoping to find time to work on something. Never assume you’ll find the time to work on something important, schedule the time and stay on schedule.
- Don’t be shy about closing your office door or posting a “Do Not Disturb” sign if you absolutely shouldn’t be interrupted. You should also respect the same notifications from your coworkers.
- Start any scheduled task by spending the first 5 minutes focusing on the task you are about to start. Focus your mind on the new task, and make sure you have a clear mental picture of what you are trying to complete. Don’t let your mind lose focus or drift into random thoughts or thinking about other tasks.
- Don’t start working on a task unless you have the proper tools. Working thorough a task without the proper tools will always take longer. If you don’t have the proper tools to accomplish the task, reschedule the task and start gathering your tools.
I hear people telling me that they are too busy to work on specific tasks they have been asked to complete. When talking to those people it becomes clear they are usually busy working on the wrong tasks, they are trying to complete a task without the correct tools, they are trying to squeeze unscheduled tasks into their day, or they have allowed themselves to be distracted with emails and social media. The most important thing you can do to become more productive is effectively managing your time.