We’ve all experienced the stress of looming deadlines and tasks at the office with no end in sight. A glance at the clock shows that two hours have flown by when you’ve only finished half of what you needed to. You need to leave in 10 minutes, and your manager ducks her head in to ask for just one more task. “It shouldn’t take long,” she says. Famous last words.
In trying situations like this, personal time management is the one skill that will keep things from going off the rails. It becomes essential in the workplace, not only to help you avoid an ever-growing pile of work but also to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Here are 5 helpful tips on time management in the workplace to get you started:
1. Know where your time is going.
Have you ever actually tracked your time? Do you know what you did in the past hour?
If you haven’t already, start by keeping an hour-by-hour log of exactly what you do during the workday for at least two weeks. You’ll likely notice a pattern of when you’re most productive and when you might be wasting time.
2. Plan ahead.
Planning is essential to managing your time well. Pick a time to plan for the week ahead, day-by-day. Plan your schedule, write it down, and put it somewhere where you can see it. Include personal activities, too! Make sure to schedule date night, doctors’ appointments, and even break time.
Once you’ve tracked your time and dissected your activities, prioritize them. Figure out which tasks you can eliminate completely, then organize the rest by importance.
An easy way to think of this is by identifying “rocks” and “pebbles.” Rocks are your big, must-do tasks. Put these first. If possible, batch them, or schedule like activities together. Then, add your pebbles. These are smaller tasks that still need to get done, but aren’t quite as important as your rocks. Try your best not to multitask as it actually causes you to lose time and productivity because you’re switching from one task to another instead of focusing on your schedule.
After planning your schedule, see if there are any tasks that you can delegate to other team members or an assistant. If you don’t have an assistant, figure out if it would be feasible or worth it to hire one.
5. Remove distractions.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but some distractions disguise themselves. If you work from home, is there a television close by? Is your desk near the refrigerator? Do you keep your cell phone in arm’s reach? Social media browsing and text messages, or even the lure of leftovers can interrupt your schedule. It’s important to be proactive about limiting distractions. Turn your message notifications off and shut the door to your office so you’re not tempted.
Ultimately, time management is the key to working smarter, not harder. Follow these tips and soon, your productivity will be off the charts.