There is no doubt that stress starts to play a role when our busy schedules get on top of us. Effective time management can help you keep on top of your workload and keep the stress at bay. Here are seven of our top tips for time management…
To Do Lists – Don’t avoid the ugly tasks
Do the work tasks you are trying to avoid when you’re at your peak and keep procrastination at bay. Work around your internal body clock.
If you find that you’re more of a morning person and your concentrate is lost later in the day, do those mind numbing tasks earlier in the day and the tasks you enjoy later in the afternoon when you’re struggling to get motivated.
Get into a habit of writing Your To Do list just before you leave work so you can return the next day and hit the ground running.
Learn to prioritise – Do the most important things first
Effective time management is all about prioritising your tasks and doing the most important things first. The easiest way of managing your workload effectively is prioritising each task. The Motivation Expert suggests prioritising tasks as follows:
A = Top priority jobs – those which must be completed today
B = Jobs that should be completed today
C = Jobs that you’d prefer to complete today but can put off until tomorrow
D = Jobs where the deadline is some way off and you can complete later
If you are having problems prioritising your tasks or there are two tasks that seem as urgent as each other, speak to your manager who will be able to clarify which task is more important or better still, set priority of tasks in your regular meetings.
Be Proactive Not Reactive – Don’t fight fires
Encourage your employees and colleagues to be proactive and not reactive and pre-empt any possible problems with project management, client management or general day to day work tasks.
There is little point having an ‘ostridge in the sand mentality’ because when the problem does reach the surface and become known to your manager, it will more likely take longer to fix and use more resources. Ways to avoid this are:
- set up regular work in progress meetings and catch up sessions
- put reporting mechanisms in place and
- establish benchmarks or key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure workload.
These are a good way to foresee any problems before the proverbial hits the fan in an office.
Learn to Delegate – You are not an island
Delegation plays a defining role in being able to manage your workload. You need to be able to let go and trust your staff and/or colleagues to take on part of your workload. There are many advantages to delegating work:
- The motivation of employees is increased as you trust them with more responsibilities.
- It increases employee’s self confidence and leads to development of decision making skills.
- It encourages an environment where creative ideas and alternative ways of working are expressed.
- It saves time – we can achieve at least twice as more through delegation than we can by doing all the work by ourselves.
It can be quite difficult granting someone else the authority and responsibility and they may make mistakes along the way and not do everything as you may have liked. However, with patience and guidance, it can alleviate the less crucial parts of your workload leaving you to work on more important tasks.
Managing expectations – Learn to say no
Effective time management can sometimes be more about managing expectations from your manager and/or colleagues. While there may be occasions where you work overtime, this should be an exception rather than the rule. If you find that you are continually working more than a standard 8 hour day through no fault of your own, speak to your manager about:
- assigning extra resources;
- delegating your workload to other employees or;
- hiring a temp or casual staff member
This should all help you bring your workload down to a more manageable level and allow you to skip out the door at a reasonable hour.
Manage your employees and colleagues – Don’t Let Them Manage You
Attending to emails or tasks and answering adhoc questions or the telephone can take up valuable time in your day. It may only be a task that only takes five or ten minutes but that can easily add up during the day but this can be avoided by:
- encourage your employees and colleagues to save non urgent questions for meetings where you can discuss the project;
- asking colleagues to email you when rather than come to your desk or call you directly so you can attend to the email when you have time;
- making your priorities known to your colleagues and ask them if you can do their task later after you have finished your more important tasks.
Take control back of your workload and don’t let your colleagues dictate your work patterns. Attend to urgent or more important tasks first and attend to the tasks further down your list later on.
Manage yourself – Time management is a myth
It is also important to manage yourself and make sure that you are hitting your deadlines, not working excessive amounts of overtime and also taking regular breaks throughout the day. It is important to set aside regular breaks in the day for the following reasons:
- decreases levels of procrastination and work avoidance;
- maintains the level of quality and productivity across the day;
- increases your concentrate and motivation levels;
- reduces stress and maintains your health.
Remember you can’t manage time – there are only 24 hours in a day. The only thing you can manage is yourself, your colleagues to a certain extent and your workload so incorporate these time management tips into your workday to create more of a work-life balance that will have you leaving the office at a reasonable hour.