When it comes to managing our time at work, we’ve all had our fair share of frustrations. You jump out of bed full of determination and optimism; today you will not only finish all of your work on time, but you will also go to the gym and prepare a nutritious lunch from scratch.
However, life intervenes. You are stuck in traffic and are already irritated with the world when you finally reach your desk late. You sit down to finish the work you’ve been putting off for weeks, only to remember that from now until noon, you have no less than three meetings, and you’ll be late to all of them. After leaving the last meeting, you sit down to start reading through your inbox when the VP calls you into a meeting. In a pinch, he needs you to do something for him. It shouldn’t take more than an hour, he says, but you know it will take at least three.
The good news is that there are strategies for recovering those evanescent minutes and seconds. Time management is key; master it rather than letting it control you. Here are five suggestions to help you better manage your time at work.
Table of contents
1. Figure out how you’re currently spending your time.
Finding out where your time is currently being spent is the first step toward improving your own time management. For a week, try keeping a detailed diary of everything you do. The results of this review will aid you in doing the following:
- Find out how much you may reasonably expect to achieve in a day.
- Determine time wasters.
- Prioritize endeavors that will bring about the highest payoffs.
- By keeping track of how you spend your time, you can see where you could make improvements.
- You’ll develop a more realistic understanding of the time commitment involved in various activities (which will be very helpful for executing on a later tip). By analyzing when you complete tasks with the most focus and inventiveness, you may maximize your productivity with this activity.
2. Create a daily schedule—and stick with it.
This is the first and most important step in mastering effective time management on the job. Don’t even try to face the day without a planned agenda. Make a priority list of tomorrow’s work before you clock out for the day. Taking this measure ensures that you may immediately begin working once you set foot in the office.
Writing down your thoughts will help you get some sleep instead of tossing and turning as you try to sort through everything in your head. Instead, as you sleep, your subconscious is hard at work on your plans, so that when you awake in the morning, you have fresh ideas to bring to the office.
If you didn’t have time to compose a list the night before, do it first thing in the morning. When compared to the time wasted switching between tasks due to a lack of a clear plan, the time spent developing one is minimal.
3. Prioritize wisely
Successful time management at work requires priority when you organize your to-do list. Reduce your workload by first avoiding activities that have no place in your day. Then, prioritize the top three or four items on your to-do list, getting them out of the way first.
Check your list of things to do to see if they are prioritized in order of priority rather than by how quickly you need to get them done. Your urgent obligations are related with the success of someone else’s aims, while your important tasks help you get closer to your own. Sometimes we allow the immediate to take precedence over what might better serve the company’s long-term interests.
Get out of this rut by applying a technique from Stephen Covey’s First Things First for better time management at work. As a method of organizing one’s time according to these notions of importance and urgency, he proposes the following matrix, which has come to be known as the Eisenhower matrix.
4. Group similar tasks together
You can save time and effort by focusing on only one category of tasks at a time. Set aside blocks of time, for instance, to deal with various tasks like emailing, calling, filing, etc. Don’t be so easily sidetracked by responding to incoming messages and emails. The temptation to check your phone or inbox at an inopportune time can be eliminated if you turn off all alerts.
5. Avoid the urge to multitask
This is one of the most basic pieces of advice for managing your time effectively at work, but it’s also one of the most challenging to do. Pay attention to what you’re doing and ignore any interruptions. It’s tempting to try to juggle multiple tasks at once, but doing so is a surefire way to slow down your progress. When you go from one task to another, you waste time and become less productive.
Similarly, a mile-long list of tasks is no reason to panic. It’s not going to get much shorter if you worry about it, so try to relax and focus on doing one task at a time.
6. Assign time limits to tasks (bonus tip)
Instead of working on things until they are finished, you should include time restrictions in your schedule. To-do lists are useful, but they might leave you feeling like you’re never getting anything done.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that divides your workday into 25-minute sessions, with shorter breaks in between and a longer one once you’ve finished four consecutive sessions. This method alternates periods of intense concentration with shorter ones, relieving mental fatigue and preserving drive.
Timeboxing gives you the freedom to work at your own pace by allocating blocks of time of varying lengths. Determine how long a task is expected to take by consulting your time log (step 1). Spend the allotted time on the assignment, and then go on to something else. When you have these constraints in place, you’ll discover that your productivity increases and your list of things to do decreases.
Every person shares the same daily time limit of 24 hours. In our hands, they are completely different. Executives Assistants, managers, and team leaders all have far more on their plates than they’d like, regardless of how much we might want otherwise. It’s incredible how much effort and brainpower are required to lead a corporation. EAs are accountable to a wide range of stakeholders, including investors, customers, employees, the board of directors, the media, the government, and the general public. Because executives are not automatons, they also have personal lives that require time and attention. Unfortunately, the day simply isn’t long enough. This highlights the importance of learning how to effectively manage your time.
Check out our other blog on how an Executive Assistant can work more productively. Click here.