You cannot manage time. Unless you’re Stephen Hawking of course. But the odds are you’re not. What you can do is plan the way you use the time available to you. Way too many people, including me, fill their calendars with meetings all the way up. When this happens there is not enough time to complete the tasks you have for the day or the pressing issues that will come up that very day.
There are a couple of things that need addressing at the office:
- Tasks for the day
- Unexpected pressing assignments also known as fire hazards
- General socializing and email
Face it, all of these are important in the office space. The best you can do work and time wise is to set boundaries for the first two items as they’re things you can control, to some extent at least.
If possible, start the most important tasks immediately in the morning and get it out of the way. This way you’re ahead of everybody else who are still reading their emails when you’ve already finished the most important task of the day. Many people start their day by reading their emails. Just don’t. For the same reason avoid having meetings first thing in the morning.
Another thing to remember is to leave enough time in-between the meetings so you can recap and see what you actually need to do. If you absolutely have to start your day with meetings then make sure you have enough time to finish the tasks before you head home.
In most office environments your calendar can be seen by others (Outlook calendars for example). If you have a scheduled a meeting for doing tasks (be it only by yourself) it’s less likely that you will get overwhelmed with so many meetings that you won’t be able to finish anything else that day.
Having said that the most important thing about time management is this. Schedule time for yourself to check off the tasks for the day. And after that leave enough room for mingling. You’ll do that anyway.
So stop trying to manage time. Instead plan your time to work effectively.Tweet
Productivity is ultimately a mindset. You can accomplish a lot by learning various tricks and methods but never really get there. And mind you, there is no shortcut to a mindset. You have to take the time off to really assess what you are doing and why. After you know why you need to do something it’s a lot easier to separate your actions to ones that can make a difference and ones that don’t.
When you’re buried under enormous stress and high workload it might be impossible to see what is important. That is the perfect time to take a step back and assess what you’re doing or you won’t get out of that mess.
Think of it as being lost in the wilderness. Remember the good old acronym STOP? Whether you’re lost in the wilderness or in the office it might just save your day (or life, depending).
Stop – Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing for a moment and calm down.
Think – Think what needs to be done first and what things are really important to get done today.
Observe – Can you see the big picture? Ask for guidance from the outside, what do your colleagues do to handle it?
Plan – Make a game plan to get yourself out of this mess.
When you’re out of the deep waters take a moment to reflect back. What got you into this mess and how can you prevent it from happening again?
Is there a mess you’ve successfully pulled yourself out of? How did you do it?Tweet
*Bling*, email, need to check. I will quit everything I’m doing right now to see what that email is all about. I have to do it now, RIGHT NOW, IT MIGHT BE VERY IMPORANT!
We’ve all been there. It is the biggest time waster of all time in a working environment. Just by getting interrupted on a task might take as long as 45 minutes to get you back on track. Just for two minutes’ quickie. It’s not worth it.
I noticed it about three years ago that a lot of my time was going to emails and I actually wasn’t getting anything done except email. I disabled all the audible alerts, visual alerts and auto send/receive and started to check email after I had finished my first big task of the day. Then I’d check it every 30 minutes. This already had a huge impact - not checking it first thing in the morning. And after that I had 30 minutes of uninterrupted time (if nothing else came between) to clear my to do list in between the times. Huge improvement.
Next I made it every hour. I got even more done. I could now do the tasks that used to feel impossible because they would take more than 20 minutes to complete and would require concentration. Eventually I got to two times daily. Before lunch and before leaving office. I worked with that for a long time and it worked perfectly.
Now, I’m down to once daily. And believe me, none of my colleagues dare do the same. For them it’s too important. It’s not. It’s a culture shift to being more productive and people know that. They just don’t dare to take the bold step towards efficiency and effectiveness.
Take the first step, don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Do your big task first thing in the morning and then if you get nothing else done you’ve accomplished at least something. Not a bad day’s work.Tweet