Do you sometimes feel like you’ve been working all day but can’t point to one thing you’ve achieved? Or do you constantly feel stressed and overwhelmed by the load of work you have to finish everyday? Do you feel other areas of your life are suffering because of your work? You are not alone. Most people find themselves doing so many things but achieve little because they haven’t mastered the skill of time management. Each of us has got 24 hours and the success of your life is determined by what you do with every second of it. There are basically 7 areas of life; Spiritual, family, health, financial, professional, social and intellectual. Although we do not spend equal amounts of time on all these areas, depriving any of them the time it requires will negatively affect the quality of life lived. The points we’ll be discussing will help you better manage your life, especially in the area of profession, so you can make adequate time for the other areas of your life. Let’s begin!
The simple act of planning will save you a considerable amount of time you’d otherwise spend on responding to problems that arise as a result of not planning. Think of the projects or major tasks you have to accomplish and put down a detailed plan of action. Spend about two hours at the end of each week planning for the coming week. It’s very important you keep a master calendar for appointments and deadlines of projects. This will make planning for your work week a lot easier. Plan for the following day the night before and stick to your plan. Put in place measures that protect your plan and guard against procrastination. If there’s something you are tempted to put off, break it down into smaller tasks and get it done piece by piece. Make allowance in your plan for situations beyond your control that may come up. Leave about an hour or a little more free for unplanned events that may require urgent attention.
2. Write down your plan
Don’t only try to figure out what you should be doing in the coming week but put your plan down in writing. You can refer to it at any time. When the tasks you have to accomplish are off your mind and in a book, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by all there is to do. Write down your daily to-do list and keep looking at it till you’ve accomplished all you wrote down to do.
The Pareto Principle propounded by an Italian Economist, Vilfredo Pareto is an 80/20 rule that states that 20 percent of the work you do will account for 80 percent of the value of all the work you do. This means that if you are performing 10 tasks everyday, 2 of them are probably accountable for 80 percent of your achievement of your most important goals. Write down all the things you do on a daily basis and highlight the tasks that fall within this category. Focus on these tasks and complete them within the most productive hours of the day. For most people, this would be in the morning. Now after completing them, you can do the less important tasks you need to complete.
4. Deal with interruptions
According to Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, the average person gets 50 interruptions a day that takes about five minutes a piece. This means you spend 4 hours a day dealing with unplanned events. Interruptions are so common in the workplace. It may be a colleague stopping by to chitchat, emails coming in you need to reply, phone calls, files crossing your desk that need to be looked at, etc. The following tips may help you better deal with interruptions.
•Have a set time for doing repetitive tasks like reading and replying mails, making and receiving phone calls etc. Make your clients and employees or colleagues aware of this time so they can contact you within that time. Put off your phone and email notifications so you can work uninterrupted.
•Have a spot on your desk for incoming files. You can even label it so anyone bringing in a file leaves it there. Have a set time for going through all the files and put them in their respective shelves or wherever they are kept. As much as possible have a clean desk with only the items you use every now and then on top of it. Keep the rest in nearby drawers or cabinets so you have access to them when you need them. Having so many things on your desk can be overwhelming and trying to find a piece of paper among so many things is not only time wasting but frustrating.
•Have a set time employees or colleagues can pass by to leave a message and communicate that to them so they don’t keep interrupting.
•If you run your own business or you work in a flexible work environment, you can have an inbox on the wall right beside your office door for incoming mails.
5. Have a Plan B
Although you may have a plan, it’s possible someone you have an appointment with delays, or there’s a huge traffic, or something comes up that affects your plan. In that case switch to plan B; read a book, or check out your mails, or catch up with the news, or listen to an audio recording on a subject you are learning about. Whichever way, don’t let time go by without doing something useful.
6. Keep meeting times
Organizing meetings with employees or subordinates are very important, however meetings can be on top of the list of sources of wasted time. If the message can be communicated via mail, rather use that. If what you need to discuss requires a meeting, try a stand up meeting. It’ll help you run through the items for discussion faster. Also ensure that you start on time and finish on time. Have an agenda and go by it. End the meeting once the goal of the meeting is achieved. Ensure that you communicate effectively and your message is well understood.
7. Teach subordinates time management
If you are managing your time effectively but those who report to you aren’t, your efforts may be going down the drain. Help your employees and subordinates to better manage their time by sharing with them some time management tips, organizing a time management workshop for them etc. Reward subordinates who are properly managing their time so others are encouraged to do same.
8. Have a reward system
Having a reward system in place for yourself can greatly boost productivity. Reward yourself with something you really like everytime you complete a major task.
9. Take a few breaks
In their quest to get so much done, many business owners and employees start work the moment they get to the workplace and do not get up till closing time. Although it may look like they are working hard, productivity will keep reducing. Take a few breaks as your work. Walk to the dispenser and get some water or go outside for fresh air. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your energy will be replenished so you can go on with your work.
10. Delegate and Eliminate certain tasks
According to Brian Tracy, if someone can perform a task 70 percent as well as you, you should delegate that task to him. Delegate as much as you can so you can focus on what is really important to achieving your most important goals. Eliminate any task that contributes nothing to the achievement of your goals.
All these techniques will greatly help you in managing your time. However, most of the points given require behaviorial change and so don’t be hard on yourself, apply them one or two at a time till you’ve mastered it well enough before you move on to apply the others.
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