You have just woken up, got to work, sat down at your desk and turned on your computer.
Congratulations, you have over 20 new emails.
Your boss then asks “Hey! Can you meet a new client at 1:30? Thanks”.
The phone then goes off; you have just been given some new assignments with unrealistic deadlines.
On days like this, you could use more time.
Everyone could use more time.
So, how do you get more time?
A common misconception about time management is that it is always about doing more. If you are cramming too many tasks into your day, you will be rushing around doing as much as possible while achieving a fraction of what you set out to do. Time management should do the opposite. You should be able to accomplish more while doing less, potentially giving you more time back or improving the quality of the work you get done.
It’s easy to accept new assignments; saying yes to people feels good! You may want to back up a team member while on vacation or take on an ad hoc task for management; however, this can lead to being overloaded with deadlines. Whatever the reason, you need to cut the clutter and start to prioritise your tasks, rescheduling, delegating them or cut them out completely. This could be hard depending on your job however you will not be doing anyone a favour if you fail to complete the tasks you already had or rush through things without giving them the attention they truly deserve.
There is a common culture of people wanting to be seen as being busy; however being busier doesn’t mean you are getting more done! Our brains weren’t made to multitask, they were designed to focus on one thing at a time and bombarding them with too much only slows them down.
Having good time management at work means doing high-quality work, not high quantity. You shouldn’t focus on how busy you are; instead, focus on the results of your work. Spending more time on one thing doesn’t necessarily mean you are achieving more.
-- Leaving all your work to the last minute because diamonds are made under pressure. --
People genuinely aren’t good at multitasking.
Multitasking is just switching from one task to another, very rapidly. It encourages bad brain habits. You probably feel like you accomplishing a ton of work, when really, you’re not doing much at all (Or at least something that doesn’t require as much critical thinking).
You can bring order to chaos, massively reduce stress and move towards a successful conclusion using one vital tool - prioritisation.
I like to manage my tasks into categories.
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent but important
- Neither urgent nor important
I concentrate mainly on “not urgent but important” activities. That way, I am lowering the chances of tasks ever becoming “urgent and important”.
To make these important decisions, you need to know your priorities. Priorities help you decide what you should be doing and for how long. If you find yourself adding more tasks to your calendar in a zombified state, WAKE UP! Pre-plan your work and then you’ll be able to follow them and complete your assignments on time. Your calendar is an essential tool, don't let it get out of hand! It's such a great way of keeping on top of tasks that would otherwise get missed. Unless you are organised and good at time management, you need to take a look at your calendar and make sure it is benefiting you!
Perhaps, the most important thing to remember is; stay calm. Feeling overwhelmed by too many tasks can be very stressful. Remember that the world won’t end if you fail to achieve your last task of the day. Leave it until tomorrow – just make sure tomorrow you prioritise sensibly.
If you are having trouble prioritising your tasks, you could reverse engineer them. Writing down everything you do during the week and how long each task takes lets you see how long each takes and decide “was it worth the time?”; if yes, then make it a priority and if it’s a no, reschedule it, delegate it or cut it.
Every job requires some sort of repetitive work. This could be daily reports or weekly update meetings. Whether every day or weeks apart, they often require the same data. Can you work smarter and have the information better prepared to stop you repeating unnecessarily?
Time management’s purpose is to make your life easier. Building your time frame can help accomplish more with less effort.
What happens to your day when the unexpected happens? The unexpected see's your calendar and plays with it like a baby. Planning some breathing space into the day can help you deal with the unexpected and stop it throwing off your entire week.
Free time can help you re-arrange your day when your morning meeting gives you three new assignments. It can also give you time to work on those assignments and also increase your chances of completing your list.
Don’t procrastinate – but do ask why you’re tempted. If a task is genuinely important, get on with it. However, if you are finding excuses for not doing something, ask yourself why. You may be doubtful about whether you should/shouldn’t be doing that task at all. Perhaps you are concerned about the ethics or you don’t think it’s the best option. Others might agree.
Whether it’s your job or your lifestyle, as a whole; learning how to manage your time effectively will help you feel more relaxed, focused or in control.
I know I keep on going on about it but take a moment to get your life and priorities into perspective. You may find that the view changes quite quickly.
-- By Lottie Foskett --
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