Do you find yourself struggling to get more done at work? Ever had a day where you wake up and think you're going to be super-productive at work? Only to find out that by the end of the day, you didn't get much done. I can't tell you how many times I experienced it and felt frustrated. I always asked myself, “If only I had more time to get all the tasks crossed off my to-do list.” Sometimes, changing your work habits can be difficult, but can make a difference if you end up prioritizing your essential tasks over the non-important tasks.
Most individuals will struggle with managing their time at work. Especially if you work in an occupation where the workload is heavy, it can be overwhelming at times. Luckily, you can overcome the challenges by using more straightforward practices and techniques. Similar to my last post, I'm going to expand on other ways you can manage your time wisely at work. Even applying one or two new approaches can save you as little as a half-hour (or a few hours if you're sucking away more time out of your workday). In this post, I'm going to discuss five ways how you can manage your time while on the job. These include:
1.) Developing a routine the night before
2.) Evaluating how much time you spend on a task each day
3.) Avoiding distractions
4.) Taking breaks regularly
5.) Not saying “Yes” all the time- know when to say “No”
Approach # 1 Develop An Effective Routine The Night Before
In previous posts, I wrote about how to establish good routines in the morning and around bedtime. With regard to preparing the night before, it is crucial, so you know what to expect when you get into the office the next day. Of course, making sure you get a good night's sleep is essential to getting more done. Also, making a note of some reminders is helpful because even some small stuff can be important as well. For example, if you have to call a client first thing when you get into the office, write a quick reminder, such as “Call Joe Smith once I get into the office tomorrow.” Usually, you can write these reminders down right before you head out for the day. But even writing them down on a sticky note on your nightstand or your front door will help as well. Especially if it's an urgent phone call, you need to make, or following up on a significant project with a colleague will help keep the small things in mind.
For myself, this is a good practice because I know what to anticipate at the start of my workday. At the end of my workday, I'll write down one-three things I need to keep in mind when I start to work the next day. I'll bring a little sticky note back home, or I'll write another reminder right before I go to bed. You may think this sounds redundant an obsession I have, but it works for me because I don't want to get in a bad habit of forgetting the small things. Remembering the small items may be of every once in a while, but it can cost us time (as little as one hour or so) that can either make or break a workday. So doing something such as writing little reminders to ourselves is an effortless task that can help avoid headaches some days.
Approach # 2 Evaluate How Much Time You Spend On Daily Tasks
Keeping track of how long it takes for you to complete a task or two can determine whether you're getting more done on a given day. For instance, do you spend up to an hour on a task that should be done within a half-hour? Or on more complex tasks, do you end up spending an entire day devoted to a more difficult task when it should take between two-three hours? It can be quite a challenge for some individuals to complete specific tasks when they don't have precise methods of how to execute them. If your part of this tribe, you may want to start putting time limits on some tasks.
The Pomodoro Technique
One of the approaches includes the Pomodoro Technique, where people break down their tasks to 25-minute time blocks, followed by short breaks. You focus on one task for 25 minutes, take a short break, then do it again for 25 minutes, and then break again. After four 25 minute periods of work, you then take a more extended break (say 30 minutes) after doing the tasks earlier. This technique has been around for three decades, and it works when most people practice it regularly.
Another excellent approach to breaking down tasks is called timeboxing. This technique allows you to migrate your tasks into your calendar, rather than just writing out an unorganized to-do list to check off in one day. The advantage of this technique is it allows you to schedule your tasks at specific times during the day while separating your more uncomplicated and more complex tasks. For example, if you allow yourself a half-hour to checking email, schedule that half-hour in your calendar. If you need to write an analytical report that may take a couple of hours to complete, schedule those few hours into your calendar. If you think about it, timeboxing is a neat way to organize your tasks, along with having a better plan to take action on your assignments.
Approach # 3 Avoid Distractions When Possible
Distractions are inevitable in the workplace. Whether it is your co-workers or electronics (smartphones), they may not be going away anytime soon. But you can control and limit the time when those things come up. If you're working at your desk with your cell phone out, or multiple web browsers open, that may spell a disaster. If you use your phone more often than doing actual work, you need to set a limit and know when to put your phone away. Unless you work at a job that requires you to have multiple web browsers open at the same time, try to limit or close out any browsers you don't need. Browsers such as your email or the internet (Google, Firefox) can be tempting if you want to check something quickly, but end up spending twenty minutes away from actual work. So be mindful that common distractions like the ones I mentioned can take away a lot of your time if you're not disciplined and set limits on wasteful tasks.
Approach # 4 Taking Breaks Regularly
Taking breaks may sound odd as a good practice to manage your time effectively. But if you think about it, you're not allowing your mind to refresh and sharpen itself up with no breaks in between. If you work non-stop for a couple of hours, while getting distracted or feeling sluggish, you're unintentionally wasting time doing nothing productive. Your mind will wander off and daydream if it's overworking itself, in addition to being creative and think critically. Not everyone will do this, but for some who are work-alcoholics, this can take a toll on their health and productivity at the same time. If you take short breaks in between (keep the Pomodoro Technique in mind), you'll feel more focused and likely to get more done in a shorter amount of time. So remember, get away from your desk to walk around, grab some coffee, or having small chats with your co-workers, any brief breaks that involve doing no work can help you save time in the long run.
In my previous job experiences, I made sure to take breaks during my shifts. However, some days when it was busy at the office, or if I felt like in a complete working mood, I would keep going until it got closer to the end of the day. Some days, I wouldn't even go to lunch because I wanted to knock some stuff out of the way. I realize now that wasn't a good idea because I felt burned out some of those days due to not taking regular breaks. Also, I now know better than my thinking wasn't crystal clear when I needed to do tasks that required more creative thinking. As long as you're taking quick, short breaks, not longer ones, that's fine as long as you get away for a few minutes and do something that will clear up your mind.
Approach # 5 Do Not Always Say “Yes”- Know When To Say “No”
Depending on the situation presented, many people struggle whether to say yes or no to a work commitment. When you say yes to a new project your boss requests, you think that you want to keep your boss satisfied and prove you can go above and behind their expectations. This idea may sound reasonable, but if you're in a situation where you don't have time to take on a new project, you're doing yourself a disservice by taking on additional tasks that'll take up more time. Also, saying yes to other people when you're not so sure is not quite the most honest approach. If you answer yes then, but change your mind later, you don't want to put yourself in a position where you violated a term or condition with a co-worker or your boss. So if you're not sure whether to say yes, then say no if taking on a new project will take up more of your time. There will be times when saying no is necessary, but you want to be transparent and honest with how you're appropriately managing time.
In my last job, I had a co-worker who looked up to me and asked questions when he needed assistance. I was more than happy to help when needed, but it would take a lot of time away from what I needed to get done some days. It was an issue for a while. So when I brought it up to my old manager back then, I learned through our conversation that sometimes, you would have to say no when there is too much going on at one time. There were times when I experienced it, and when I had too much to do, I asked for help, and that's when other tasks or responsibilities given to someone else. You can't do everything all the time, so it's necessary to split up some work if it's too much for one person to handle. So saying no is not always a bad thing, but assuming all the time yes means you're not prioritizing what needs to get done first, along with losing even more time as well.
Well, I hope these additional tips can help you improve the way you go about your workday. Even doing something as small as writing a few reminders on a sticky note will make it less frustrating. As mentioned earlier in the article, I will write about the Pomodoro technique and timeboxing in upcoming posts, where I'll explain how they work and how it may apply to your workplace practices.
If you have any tips to share or general feedback, please comment below. Also, please share the article.
Until next time.