Most people can identify when there is a need to manage their time at work better, however, they usually do not know where to start or what activities to change or alter. The following tips and guidelines can give you a start on effectively organizing and dividing your time.
- Create a “To-do” List
Organizing your tasks into a “to-do” list can give you direction and focus for your day. By creating a list, you are essentially dividing your work tasks into timed slots, which can guarantee that you complete, or work on more than one task for the day.
Doing this allows you to visually see what tasks you are required to complete during your day. Your list should not be cluttered. Avoid placing too many things on your list as you can become overwhelmed and may still end up not knowing where to start. Realistically divide your day and tasks into smaller activities so that your list is not ambiguous or jumbled- this way you can logically go through your list.
- Prioritize your Tasks
Figure out which tasks are urgent and which ones can wait. You should rank them according to how urgent and important they are. Often times we can get lost in many smaller, unimportant activities instead of figuring out and working on the activities that are urgent and need to be addressed immediately.
There are tasks that can be done immediately as they are “received”. For example, following up on a call as soon as you have received the information to be followed up on or even sending a brief e-mail response are activities that can be done in less than 2 minutes. These things can pile up and turn out to be a burden if not addressed as soon as received. Always think before you accept more tasks- especially time consuming or urgent ones. If you already have many tasks to complete, avoid adding more to your plate.
- Organize your List
Creating a “To-Do” list isn’t all that’s required to better manage your time- you must organize the list itself so that you can effectively maximize on the time you have during the day. Divide your tasks into time slots and include time for mistakes or unavoidable distractions into each task time. Make sure to include break and meal times as well. Forgetting to eat or take breaks can negatively impact your day and the work you are doing…it can even slow down your work activity.
When you are given long term or broad tasks- try to include them in your daily work. Break down the task into reasonable sections- this helps remove the ambiguity in the task and can actually help you finish the task before the target date. Place like activities together so that you are utilizing the same resources and effort at the same time. This saves time and improves the flow throughout your day. Organize your long and medium term tasks onto separate lists. This can help you develop your daily lists better as they serve as a guide and gives purpose to your daily activities.
- Review your Work
Take time close to the end of your workweek to review the tasks you had set out for yourself. This helps you gain an understanding of how fast and efficient you may be working and can help guide you in determining where you can save time or improve your efficiency.
Evaluate how you are spending your time so that you can develop a better way to do things. When you review your work immediately after it is completed you are ensuring that it is done right the first time. You do not want to submit work or complete tasks that you have to come back to as this will prevent you from completing the rest of your tasks on your list and spoils the flow you would have set for yourself.
- Avoid Distractions
It can be very easy to get caught up in workplace gossip and discussions, however, it is important to figure out when to leave or avoid conversations so that it does not negatively impact your work activity. When there are potential distractions, always analyze your workday and what you have to do so that you can decide how much time you have available to indulge in the potential distraction.
If you have a lot to do try closing your door or moving to a space where you can operate without much distraction. Manage common distractions such as e-mails and allot set times during the day to check them. Alternatively, you can check frequently to see whom the e-mail may be coming from and the subject area. If it is something that you can come back to then ignore it. Procrastination even on one task can greatly slow your workday. Avoid putting things off that you can attend to immediately- remember that you have scheduled in breaks and try to stick to those.
- Use your Available Resources
Your co-workers, assistants, the internet and in-office resources can be a great help in managing your time. Often times there are people and resources already available with information you may need to help you finish your tasks. Figure out which parts of task you can delegate to others and whom you may be able to get information from. Search the systems and public resources in your office frequently for any updates or new resources. The updated information may be exactly what you need to complete your task.
- Keep Meetings Brief
Before meetings, ensure that you send out an agenda to all participants. This helps to guide the meeting and can help participants prepare questions beforehand thus eliminating time wasted on brainstorming and irrelevant discussions. Follow the agenda you have created and set a time for the meeting to end. It is usually better to start the meeting at 10 or 11am so that participants do not fall into the comfort of thinking they have the entire morning to discuss issues. If you are a participant, try to remind the leader of the time schedule he/she would have set up for the meeting.
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