The great Management guru Peter Drucker once said:
“Time is the scarcest resource of the manager;
if it is not managed, nothing else can be managed.”
If this is true for managers, then it must be true for the rest of us as well.
So how can we make the best use of this valuable resource?
Here are 10 ways to better manage your time at work.
1. Figure Out Where Your Time Goes
In order to better manage your time, you first need to know where you are currently spending it. Get a journal or notebook, and keep track of your work day for a week.
It doesn’t need to be detailed — just the highlights and major activities. You might be surprised at how much time you spend on unproductive activities.
2. Drop Time Wasters
When you review your weekly time log, you can see not only where you spend your time, but where a lot of it is currently being wasted.
How many meetings did you go to last week? Did you really need to be at all of them? How much time did you spend working on somebody else’s emergency?
Remember, an emergency is when the building is on fire. Everything else is just important stuff. How important is it to you?
3. Start Your Day Off Right
Have a plan for how you would like to spend your time during the day, and review that plan before you start work in the morning. You may have to adjust along the way, but going in without a plan is like a quarterback without a play to call in football.
Without a plan for the day, other people and things will come up and you will find yourself following rather than leading. You will soon lose track of your plan for the day and your time.
4. Make Time for Interruptions
The smartest managers understand that their plans for the day will often be interrupted by problems and situations that they didn’t plan on.
Instead of constantly being dragged around by emerging and unexpected problems, they build some time into their day to be available to deal with them.
They don’t just jump up and leave their current work when these situations arise — they keep them waiting at the side of their desk until they have time, which they have scheduled, to deal with them.
5. Schedule Some Time for Yourself
In addition to scheduling some time for interruptions, it’s not a bad idea to schedule some time for yourself during the work day.
You will need a little time in the morning to plan your day, and you might need 30 minutes halfway through to check in with your own plan and priorities. If you do not put this time in your book, then it will not be available when you need it. Give yourself a little time to think and breathe.
6. Block Out Distractions
We all have things that we do that are time-wasters and distractions. We can easily limit playing computer games or checking our Facebook account. But sometimes we also need to shut off the outside world in order to focus in on the task at hand.
That’s not easy to do in a large office with cubicles and constant email and telephone calls. But we can put our phone on hold and minimize our inbox if we need an hour to finish an important project.
7. Set Priorities and Goals
In order to maximize our time at work, we also need to have priorities and goals for our work. Setting priorities and writing them down first thing in the morning as part of our plan will help us stay focused on what is really important.
Having goals will allow us to see on a daily, weekly and longer-term basis how well we are doing in achieving our priorities.
8. Organize Your Time
If you take a little bit of time at the front end to organize your time, you just might find that you spend it more wisely throughout your working day.
There are hundreds of time management tools that can be effective. Appointment books and schedulers work. To-do and not to-do lists can also help.
Look for the most organized person in your office and ask them what they do and what time-management techniques and suggestions they can offer you to become a better time manager.
9. Stick to the Routine
We are creatures of habit, and this is just as true at work as it is with the other parts of our lives.
Starting and ending each day at roughly the same time is something we are all relatively good at, but smart time users have a routine they carry out during all the hours in between as well.
Find a schedule and routine that seems to work well for you, and then stick with it. You may get knocked off from time to time, but you will also be improving your time management on a regular and consistent basis.
10. Don’t Just Wait
It is almost impossible to avoid waiting for someone or something. It seems like we are always on hold or stuck in traffic or waiting for the next event to start.
Instead of just waiting for that meeting to begin, bring your priority list with you and check in to see how you are doing. Or return a few phone calls on your hands-free device while you’re on your way home.
Always have a blank piece of paper or a notebook with you, just in case you have to wait.
Everyone approaches time management differently. What are some of your tips?
This is such an interesting post! I feel like a lot of work-life imbalances these days really emanate from not knowing how to properly manage the time one has, so thanks very much for all the tips. One thing I know helps me organise my time is to have a ‘done’ list, where I check of everything I’ve accomplished in a day to help me better understand where my time has gone. I’ve written a post on that, as well as other tips I find helpful here – bit.ly/1skfee8.