Many people know that we could be managing our time more effectively; but it can be difficult to identify where we are going wrong and know how to improve. We also slip into bad habits easily, procrastinate and do other things.
Well managed time = less stress and higher productivity and being more organised will make you more effective as well as efficient – not to mention happier! And we all want that, don’t we?
So, if you need help getting organised or managing your time more effectively here are some tips for taking control and not allowing time to control you.
1.Make and keep a ‘To-Do List’
Do you ever have that nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten to do something? If so, you probably don’t have a To-Do List, or you might not be using the list very effectively!
To start with create a list of everything you need to do. Then you need to prioritise the list. Not everything can be top priority and it may be hard to start with, but stay focussed and ask for help if you need it to get going. Be specific when you add something to your list, for example; Complete timesheet by noon on Friday.
This will help with effective prioritisation and ensure you are clear on what it is you need to do.
Your manager has just emailed you with a ‘must do task’, but you’re in the middle of a coaching session with one of your team. You are at a crucial moment in the 121 and you are at risk of losing the moment because of this ‘must do task’. Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to prioritise especially when you’re facing lots of seemingly-urgent tasks. If you are clear about what’s important and what’s urgent and you use this to prioritise effectively, you will be able to manage your time better.
3. Managing Distractions
How many hours of your time gets ‘stolen’? Do you know that some of us can lose as much as two hours a day to distractions? Think how much you could get done if you had that time back!
What are your distractions? Emails popping up? IM chats, colleagues in a crisis, or phone calls?
Once you understand what your distractions are, you can then take action to reduce or remove them. For example, turn off your IM chat and email pops when you need to focus, and let people know if they’re distracting you too often.
Procrastination occurs when you put off tasks that you should be focusing on right now. When you procrastinate, you feel guilty that you haven’t started; you come to dread doing the task; and, eventually, everything catches up with you when you fail to complete the work on time. A ‘to do list’ will help with this. Having that list in front of you in black and white is a driver to getting things done especially when coupled with the satisfaction of putting a line through a completed item!
Try tackling the things you like least first thing in the day. Our resilience reduces as the day goes on so you are more likely to put it off later in the day.
5. Think before you say Yes.
Do you find it hard to say no? If you do, it’s most likely that you are taking too much on and making too many commitments. This can lead to poor performance, stress, and low morale for you and those around you. Take a few seconds and ask more questions before committing; try “to make sure that I am clear, what exactly do you need from me / need me to do?”. Firstly, the person asking for help is required to be specific about what they need from you and secondly, you get a little more time to think through the consequences of saying yes. Remember, if you are saying yes to this, what do you need to say no to!
6. Stop thriving on being ‘Busy’
Some people get a rush from being busy. When you ask a colleague or friend how are they you many often hear “busy, but good busy”. The problem is that an “addiction to busyness” rarely means that you’re effective, and it can lead to stress. Print off your calendar for the last month and in a quiet space reflect on where and how you spend your time. Are you adding value? Are you doing the things you need to do or the things that are easy and keep you busy?
7. Less multitasking and more presence in the moment
Do you regularly check and write emails while on the phone? Do you dial into a teleconference and see it as an opportunity to catch up on email? If so you are probably doing both tasks poorly and this will lead to re-work and even a negative impact on relationships. Forget about multitasking (save that for walking and talking) focus on one task at a time. That way, you will produce higher quality work.
8. Take time out
We are not machines and very few of us can work for 8-10 hours straight, especially if you are working in a high-pressure environment or working to a deadline. Your brain will need some time to recharge and refocus. Taking regular breaks for a drink or to get some quality food, fresh air or even stretch your legs will enable you to think creatively and work effectively.