As you organize your to-do list, prioritization is key for successful time management at work. Start by eliminating tasks that you shouldn’t be performing in the first place. Then identify the three or four most important tasks and do those first—that way, you make sure you finish the essentials.
Tips for mastering time management at work
Then life happens. You leave late, you hit traffic, and you arrive at your desk already frustrated with the world. Sitting down to finally knock out that project you’ve been procrastinating for weeks, you realize you’ve got back-to-back meetings until noon—and yes, you’re already late for the first one. You finally walk out of the last meeting, and you start wading through emails when you get pulled into a meeting with the VP. He has a last-minute request for you. “It should only take an hour,” he says. Try three.
The good news is that there are ways to reclaim those seemingly elusive lost hours of the day. It’s all about personal time management—manage your time instead of letting it manage you. We’ve got ten time management tips for work to get you started
Create a daily schedule—and stick with it.
This step is absolutely crucial for learning how to manage time at work. Don’t even attempt starting your day without an organized to-do list. Before you leave work for the day, create a list of the most pressing tasks for the next day. This step allows you to get going as soon as you get to the office.
Putting everything on paper will prevent you from lying awake at night tossing and turning over the tasks running through your brain. Instead, your subconscious goes to work on your plans while you are asleep, which means you can wake up in the morning with new insights for the workday.
If you can’t do it the day before, make sure you write out your list first thing in the morning. You’ll find that the time you spend creating a clear plan is nothing compared to the time you’ll lose jumping between tasks when you lack such a plan.
“The very act of using your organizational skills to plan your day, week, and month gives you a greater feeling of control and will help increase productivity throughout your day. You’ll feel in charge of your life. It actually increases your self-esteem and improves your sense of personal power.”
Kathryn McKinnon, time management expert at McKinnon & Company and author of “Triple Your Time Today! 10 Proven Time Management Strategies to Create & Save More Time,” developed a solution to handle the rabbit hole of email correspondence. Block out specific time to check communications instead of doing so throughout the day.
“I want to highlight a client of mine: He was so bogged down with email that he couldn’t get his best work done. He was spending 4-5 hours a day on email, which was a lot of time. We did an analysis and discovered that 60% of the email he was working on weren’t even related to his priorities or his true work,” says McKinnon.
“So, I taught him my email system to help him with email and accomplish his most important work, so he could work on email, but not all day long. I had him scan his email early in the morning (six o’clock), at lunchtime (noon) and then again at the end of the day (six o’clock p.m.). He scheduled time to work on email, but not all day long.”
McKinnon adds, that the client “went through his email and picked out the ones related to his highest priorities; the other email he had someone else handle, filed or pushed off to another scheduled time or day. So, I recommend you designate time to work on email. You also need to delete non-essential email, don’t respond to every email, unsubscribe from unessential news and categorize or file your email to access work easily.”
- You make a list before each workday
- Note in all the tasks, ideas and habits you’ll aim NOT to do, or think about
- This can be distractions, overly ambitious ideas you objectively have no time to work on or bad habits you want to quit
- Include the word “Don’t” in front of each listed item
- Cross over each item at the end of the day if you’ve managed to avoid it
- By listing all the activities you’ll no longer focus on, you’ll mentally let go of them, and free more time for important matters
- Keeps you in check regarding your bad habits, such as spending time on Social Media when you should be working
- Makes delegating tasks easier, as you’ll be able to identify what tasks you perform, but should delegate instead
- Gives no specifications on the tasks you should do
You set a specific time period, between 10-90 minutes, and use it as an experimental timeframe for your work. If you find that you can focus after the time period has expired, you continue working. If you find you cannot focus anymore, take a break.
Flowtime technique stems from the Pomodoro technique, but it’s less rigid in terms of time for work sessions and breaks. It’s also similar to the Timeboxing technique, only you’re encouraged to consider whether you’ll continue working once the time has expired, not forced to stop.