Managing time better is key to having more of it in a world where everyone is gifted with the same amount of minutes and hours in the day. It’s about how you use it, how clearly focused you are, and how capable you are of finishing important tasks in a timely manner. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Prioritize Tasks
Contrary to what some bosses may assert, not everything can take the highest priority. Some things must be ranked, like your to-do list. One way to increase working efficiency is to prioritize the really important things, so they can be done first. If you’ve never done this before, take a few minutes to review what needs to be done for the workday or week.
Some tasks have a high priority. When assessing your list, put these at the top so they can be done immediately. Because most jobs involve working with a team, this might be a somewhat random collection of tasks that involve other people’s input, which should be considered. Next, place the items that are important, but not urgent. Tackle these jobs after the urgent material has left your desk. Continue to check jobs off your list in this order, with descending priority.
2. Time Limits and Realistic Rest
This is a two-fold step, but both parts are important. Setting an attainable time limit on how long you spend on a task will help those with a certain bent for perfectionism. It’s not that being accurate is bad, it’s that it’s a form of delay or procrastination to focus on details for an inordinate time. Think about how long a job should take—more time for more detailed work, less time for ordinary work you’ve done many times. Then, set flexible limits.
Once you’ve assigned time limits, decide where you can take breaks. First, sitting for longer than a single hour compresses nerves and decreases blood flow in your lower body and legs. This impacts your concentration and your ability to think in a linear way. So, that means getting up and taking stretching breaks at the very least, even in the middle of a longer piece of work. At other times, it’s beneficial to break from the workflow. You should go look at something else, talk to a pet, or go outside. This helps to reset your brain and keep you from exhaustion, which enhances your productivity.
3. Organize and Plan
Chefs have an approach that would benefit everyone called Mise en Place. This is a French term that means Everything in Place. Essentially, it means every aspect needed for action is ready to hand; everything is organized and prepared for the main action. You can take a page from professional chefs and prepare your workspace in this way. It is both an organizational system and a daily routine.
Think of your office as a kitchen—how is it organized for action and what could be altered? Play around with the arrangement of furniture, the materials you need to complete work, even down to paper clips or pencils. Once you’ve found a system that works for you, you’ll do daily upkeep—what’s on your agenda? What are the materials you require to complete these tasks efficiently? Each day, when you prepare your list of prioritized actions, think about Mise en Place and set up your workstation or prepare the “ingredients” you’ll need for success. Getting calendar templates can be helpful when trying to organize your days or weeks or months.
4. Block It Out
Calendars are a part of the workplace. Many companies have public, electronic calendars where everyone’s schedule is plotted, so meetings can be arranged without conflicts. However, having a personal calendar can help you manage your day-to-day tasks and priorities, for work, family, or finances. Templates for Excel and Adobe can help you utilize the tools you’re accustomed to using for work to map out your time.
There are also school calendars that can be customized to fit the schedule of your child’s particular school district and Julian calendars available to download for social engagements. Having a calendar that is yours and not a public or work item can also help you to visualize your productivity and schedule as a whole. It isn’t just about work, but a work-life balance.
5. Keep Yourself Limber
While that may remind you to exercise, it refers to your mindset as well. Taking time to de-stress and enjoy your life is a huge part of productivity while at work. Remember that work is a constant. Make time to share fun pursuits with family and friends, to be present for important engagements mentally and physically, and to participate in your life as a whole. This will help you to focus more clearly, to be less stressed about deadlines, and to prioritize important tasks more clearly.
Remember, everyone has the same amount of time, but how you use it can be drastically improved. And yes, it can improve your quality of life and your health as well as your track record at work. Time management is, after all, about completing the work with less fuss and stress.
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