Improve your time management in the workplace and you will enjoy multiple benefits.
The outcomes are worth the time and effort it takes to learn a few basic tips and techniques.
Less stress, more calm and control, greater motivation, enhanced energy and a real sense of satisfaction, not to mention admiration from colleagues (or envy?!) are all possible.
When you work, what are you trying to achieve?
Is it job satisfaction? Promotion? Are you there to make a difference, or is it about the money?
Three crucial yardsticks can be used to define successful time management in the workplace:
Whatever your reasons for doing what you do, better time management at work means you continually strive to improve your effectiveness (what you do) and your efficiency (how you do it), both of which are important to how you manage your career.
10 ways to do more of what matters at work:
1. Know your roles
Are you crystal clear about what is expected of you? This is crucial because it defines what you decide to spend time on. Not quite sure what you’re supposed to be doing?
Your choices are simple:
If you choose the first option, where will you end up? More to the point, how much time could you save if you decide to learn how to delegate work tasks effectively?
This is the cornerstone of better time management in the workplace and crucial if you want to know how to be productive at work.
2. Know your goals
Do you know what you’re aiming for, individually and collectively? Will you be able to even tell when you get there? As with roles, so with goals.
Know what you want to be, do and have, because, as the saying goes, 'if you don’t plant the seeds, you’ll end up with weeds'.
List your major work goals, and you’ll know what to spend your time on when you’re there. Everything else is a waste of your time.
3. Start well
Your day actually starts from the moment you wake up. Plan a realistic ‘pre-work routine’ that ensures you get to work as early as possible. Your routine may (actually, should) start the night before.
Why? Well, that first 30 minutes sets the tone for the hours that follow it. So, get your clothes laid out, know where your keys, phone and other personal items are, and have everything ready to go.
Your pre-work routine can be continually refined. You may even get to the point where, if you drive, you park your car to face the right way!
4. Get organized
If you’re not already, learn how to get organized today. Put it on your to-do list. It doesn’t matter how long you do it for -- just do it every day until you get to the point where you know what goes where. Eventually you'll no longer have a messy desk.
Even if you become just slightly more organized, the pay-off in terms of time saved will be significant. Your working day will flow smoothly, and you’ll reduce unnecessary stress.
This is important, whether you're starting out (by the way, check out career tips, tools and advice for newbies), or more experienced.
5. Work to limits
Busy people use to-do lists. The trouble is, most people add to their list as and when things crop up. This means the list constantly grows. The result? Many things never get done. Instead, set limits. Here’s how:
Collect all work for one day (for example, Monday). As the day goes on, put everything that doesn’t have to be done today in a single ‘next day’ tray.
That is the limit of your work for today. You know exactly what the limit of one day’s work is. Leave some ‘buffer time’, because ‘urgent’ tasks will crop up, and you'll be managing interruptions throughout the day. That’s okay though, because you've reduced the random – you planned for it.
At some point, it’s almost certainly worth conducting a more detailed workload analysis to determine the amount of work you are expected to do.
This will provide you with an accurate picture, and enable you to achieve better time management in the workplace.
6. Commit to the high pay off activities
People give themselves more work to do when they unnecessarily volunteer or agree to do something. They say ‘yes’, based on feelings such as enthusiasm for a project or a desire to impress.
It’s vital to ask yourself ‘Is the pay off worth the price?’ Are you prepared to commit your time, energy and reputation to whatever goal, project or task is on the table?
Good time management in the workplace means applying the 80-20 rule wherever possible.
7. Think ‘little and often’
Often, a huge pile of paperwork or an inbox full of emails is the signal to cherry pick whatever attracts your interest. What happens to the rest? Unless you have a system, it doesn’t get done. Hello, procrastination!
Instead, think ‘little and often’. If you have an ongoing role, goal or project, act on it every working day, however little. The teacher who checks at least one book won't procrastinate.
The same is true for the salesperson who makes one call, or the nurse who spends one minute on that paperwork pile.
The initial resistance is defeated, and more gets done.
8. Consider Covey’s Quadrants
One of the best known, but least applied tools to support good time management in the workplace is the time management matrix popularized by the late Stephen R. Covey.
Use it to help you determine the urgency or importance of everything you do at work and away from it, too.
9. End well
Unless there’s a genuine emergency, go home at a set time.
Whatever it is, if it didn’t get done, add it to your ‘next day’ actions again until it gets completed. Make it one of your daily tasks to establish a personal end of work routine. Include ‘plan the next day’.
Leave work at work as far as possible.
If you intend to work at home, it tends to linger in your mind until you finally do it - a clear case for the existence of Parkinson's Law.
The solution? Well, if it’s not at home, you can’t do it, can you? Work at work and live at home -- the world will still keep turning.
10. Stay aware
You want to maintain better time management in the workplace?
Keep your time management tools accessible. The easier they are to use, the more you will be inclined to actually use them.
Never rest on your laurels. Once you're aware of the importance of time management in the workplace, keep looking for ways to maintain and improve yours. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your motivation, satisfaction, productivity, energy and happiness.
Isn’t that the point of life?