It may sound simplistic to say so, but most work-related productivity problems arise from poor time management. In a world of constant distractions, managing time has become an even greater challenge.
Changing work habits takes time, but the benefits are real. Improved productivity, higher quality work and less stress are just some results you can expect. We talk a lot about work-life balance. If you work ineffectively you’ll never achieve that balance. Here are some simple rules to help you better manage your time.
Don’t procrastinate – Procrastination is a very natural thing. Acknowledge it and move on. When you manage your time properly, you’ll find you’re less likely to put things off.
Manage distractions – Don’t let email, Facebook or the stock market interrupt your work. Turn off email, or schedule five minutes per hour to check it. Interruptions and distractions are your worst time-management enemies.
“To do” lists work – I’ve heard many people over the years boast about how they don’t need to write things down. While you may have a good memory, the more work you take on, the more likely you are to forget an important deadline or a crucial personal commitment. Memory is weakened by stress. Write it down and enjoy crossing it off when it’s done.
Prioritize and schedule – And while you’re writing it down, assign it a level of importance. Give it a 1 if there’s a hard deadline, a 2 if there’s some flexibility, then assign it a deadline. Give it a 3 if it’s something that can wait. Each day review and update your list. As time allows, move level 3 items up and assign deadlines.
Delegate – If you have access to reliable resources you should be delegating. Managing resources properly will give you time to focus on number one priorities. Schedule brief daily meetings to monitor progress, and answer any questions that arise. By scheduling update meetings you’ll avoid interruptions and minimize the stress of worrying whether or not work is getting done.
Stick to your deadlines – Sure things come up. That’s what your daily review is for, but if you don’t hit deadlines your whole system falls apart. There really is nothing like crossing something off your to do list. The more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it.
Focus, don’t multi-task, and schedule breaks – The science is in: human beings do not multi-task well. Concentrated effort on one thing at a time will give you the results you’re looking for, while fixed breaks of five or ten minutes each hour to get up and walk around will help you recharge.
Just Say No – One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is taking on more work than we can handle. If you can’t say no, determine where this task fits in your list of priorities and share this information. Clarifying your work situation with the requestor will help determine just how important his or her request is.
Celebrate success – If crossing something off your to do list isn’t satisfying enough, celebrate.
There are any number ways to go about organizing your time. Some people prefer a legal pad or notebooks, others seek to automate work using apps. Whatever works for you is what’s best. Time management is about getting in the groove. You can’t be creative if you’re always stressed. You can’t be productive if you’re always being interrupted by emails. Time management is ultimately about self-discipline. It’s that simple.