Time Management: Tips and Tricks
Time management. I feel like this is a phrase that is constantly repeated throughout our younger years. With the goal of college in mind, time management is constantly stressed from elementary school through high school. Rightfully so, as time management skills can literally make or break your college career. Then, when we finally reach the working world our precious time management skills once again need to be adapted to a new environment. Is time really ever on our side? I’ve come to realize that effectively managing time during today’s work days will always be an ever present challenge, but with a few tips and tricks it can easily be conquered.
1. Have a plan of action – Before you shut down and leave the office for the evening, spend a few minutes to create a to-do list for the following day. By doing this the night before, you will have clearer expectations of your upcoming day before it even starts! Include any tasks that may have been pushed aside earlier and list your tasks in order of importance. I jot my to-do list down in a notebook because to me there is something so satisfying about crossing off a completed task. Not the pen and paper type? Apps like Clear and Wunderlist are great ways to stay on top of your to-do list digitally
2. Conquer your most important or time consuming task first – For whatever reason, we all have those tasks that we dread. A few years ago, my favorite blogger wrote about how she overcomes this by completing her most challenging or time consuming tasks first. As obvious as this may seem, taking on a challenge at the start of the day is definitely easier said than done. However, it makes a world of difference. Not only does this provide peace of mind knowing that your most important task for the day is completed, but it also provides a sense of accomplishment which isn’t too shabby either!
3. Set an alarm – Intervals aren’t just for the gym! Studies show that the most effective work days are broken down into periods of concentrated working followed by a rewarding break. The official name for this is the Pomodoro Method and it recommends 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break. Recently though, the Desktime tracking app published an article stating that 52 minutes of working and a 17 minute break is actually the most effective working time based on their data. I feel the length of working time boils down to availability and preference, but this is definitely my personal tried and true time management technique. In the 30 minutes – 1 hour that I am focused on working, I find that I am more productive and motivated and the break when I finish helps me to clear my head before moving on to the next task.
4. Being unavailable is ok – Yes, that’s correct. You read that right. In today’s day and age, distractions are everywhere. From instant messages at work to email notifications, phone calls, and the always present cell phone, it is so easy to let these distractions overrun your day. When your productivity needs to be on point, don’t be afraid to block out anything that may derail your focus. Turn your cell phone on silent and place it in a drawer, change your instant messenger status to Do Not Disturb, step into a private office, or even turn off your email notifications for a while. It’s ok to be unavailable for a few hours. With that being said, it’s equally important to set time aside once you leave your distraction free bubble to respond to any emails, missed phone calls, or client requests that you received during your focused time.
5. What’s important right now – We’ve all had those days where even the best plans of action are derailed in the most epic of ways. It’s just inevitable. I will never forget one particular situation that happened to me a few years ago. I followed all the necessary steps to ensure a successful end result, but due to an unforeseen freak issue, my end result was devastatingly unsuccessful. I spent the better portion of that day correcting a problem that was out of my control. So how do you get your day back on track when something like this happens? The best advice I’ve ever received was from a former manager. She said to take a step back, collect your thoughts, and ask yourself, “What’s important right now?”. Address the tasks that are the most pressing and determine if there are any that can be deferred to the following day. By reevaluating your plan of action and approaching the remainder of your day calm, cool, and collected, you can still make the most of your time.