As we welcome the autumn season, it may be time for you to “fall back” into better time management practices. Let’s use a little fall imagery. Think of a child playing in the leaves. The crunchy leaves are raked into a nice, tall pile, only to be scattered in all directions as the child leaps and laughs. Now think of those leaves as your to-do list at work. Have you assembled a nice, tall list of tasks to accomplish, just to see them scattered by the end of the day?
Time management in the workplace is a constant challenge. Disruptions, distractions and deadlines can keep your to-do list growing while leaving you feeling overwhelmed by failure.
Here are five time management tips to help you “fall back” into productivity at the office:
1. PRIORITIZE: It’s easy to get caught up in routine tasks and busywork. Before you know it, hours have ticked by. Constantly ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time at this minute?” Know what your big picture goals are and prioritize thoughts, conversations and activities which will have the greatest payoff. Make sure your goals are clearly defined, and devote the bulk of your time to work which produces results.
2. CLEAR THE CLUTTER: Don’t waste time looking for lost papers. Sort paperwork as soon as it comes in, with several different files designating the next action which needs to be taken. For example, you might have folders labeled: “To Read,” “To File,” “To Contact,” etc. Piles of paperwork are not only depressing, they may be distracting you from maintaining focus. Clear the clutter off your workspace so you can give the task at hand your full attention.
3. GIVE TECHNOLOGY A TIME-OUT: This is a tough one in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven marketplace. You may think you need to respond to business emails the minute they come in. However, research has proven that electronic interruptions make us less productive. Turn your email alerts off, and let voicemail answer your calls. Experts recommend checking your messages just three times a day: first thing in the morning, right after lunch and before you head home for the evening. This will allow you to respond in a timely manner to pressing issues, yet avoid wasting time on off-task communications.
4. MAKE A RECORD: For one week, write down how much time you spend on each task at work. Record all your thoughts, conversations and activities so you can understand where your time goes. You might be surprised to note how much time is wasted on unproductive tasks and conversations. This awareness will automatically make your more industrious.
5. ROCK YOUR ROUTINE: Once you’ve analyzed your time wasting habits, establish a new routine that prioritizes productivity. Create a daily schedule which assigns specific times to the tasks that will help you achieve your goals. Take the first 30 minutes of each day to plan your schedule, and set calendar alerts to remind you of your allotted time for each task. Build in solitary time, with the office door closed, designated for high-priority work. Set “office hours” for spontaneous demands, and make sure you build in time to tackle your to-do list so the mundane tasks stay manageable.
Let the colorful, falling leaves of autumn serve as a reminder. All of those minutes wasted throughout your workday will mound into a pile of unproductiveness. By making a conscious effort to prioritize your daily schedule, you will fall back into time management and out of despair!