Do you manage your time, or does it manage you?
By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | December 08, 2016
You’ve heard it before, but it’s so important, it bears repeating: By managing your time more effectively, you can get more done without all the stress. The trick is making the most of the time available. Here’s how:
- Set clear goals. Set both short- and long-term goals. Don’t forget to review and update them whenever circumstances change.
- Establish priorities. Not every task is equally important or urgent. By prioritizing you can impose order (and calm) on a hectic schedule.
- Generate a game plan. Spend 15 minutes at the beginning of each day planning your workload for the day (or do it the last 15 minutes of each day for the next day).
- Learn to live with interruptions. Keep focused on your priorities despite the phone calls, visitors, or unexpected meetings.
- Keep your cool. If you start to fall behind or when you have too much to do, don’t panic. Take a moment to review what you must do, prioritize tasks, and get back to work, taking things one step at a time. If you’re overwhelmed, talk to your supervisor and ask for help.
- Be flexible. It’s important to plan your time, but don’t become a slave to your plan. When circumstances change, be prepared to adjust your plan accordingly. For example, if your supervisor comes to you with a rush job and tells you to put everything else aside, you’re going to have to juggle your schedule to fit in the unexpected job.
- Pay attention to your energy cycle. Do the most difficult and important tasks when you are alert and have the most energy. Save the more routine chores for the times when your energy level is low.
- Maintain a realistic pace. Be realistic about what you can accomplish each day. Don’t expect to always finish everything on your To Do list.
- Manage procrastination. Don’t avoid large or complicated projects. Try dividing big jobs into more manageable parts and tackling them one at a time.
Parkinson’s Law says work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The first step in gaining control of your time is to repeal Parkinson’s Law and schedule your work to fit the available time. Here are more time management tips:
- Focus on one task at a time. Of course, you need to plan your work schedule for the day, the week, and even the month ahead. But while you’re performing each task, think of it as the only job you must do. Without worrying about everything else you have to do; you’ll work more efficiently.
- Don’t waste a minute. Squeeze small jobs into the little blocks of waiting time or downtime that open here and there during the day between major tasks.
- Be optimistic. Believe in your ability to solve work problems and stay on schedule. (By the way, March is Optimism Month.)
- Work carefully but keep a steady pace. You’ll feel more energized and work more efficiently.
- Take a break. When you start to feel drained, take a minute or two to refresh yourself.
- Stand up from time to time. According to a University of Southern California study, your brain processes information faster when you’re standing than when you’re sitting. So, stand up while you’re on the phone or when you’re making a To Do list.