Time… we never have enough of it!
We are always short on time. Between work, family and personal commitments days go by quickly and seem to pass before everything that needs to be done is completed. For women professionals the old adage “Time is Money” takes on an entire new meaning. How we manage our time is not only important in making money but in being succesful, feeling accomplished and balancing all of our obligations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American works 8.6 hours per day. In that period of time new demands will constantly come your way. The key is to prioritize and focus to ensure that you not only complete more tasks but complete the ones that will have the most impact. Here are some tips to ensure that you manage your time wisely have have a more productive day.
1. Make a List
Write down everything that you need to complete. Do not sort or filter during this stage. Write down everything that comes to mind.
2. Sort Items by Category
Important, Relatively Un-Important, Urgent or Relatively Leisurely
Important items are vital to day to day business. These items are necessary for you to do and a key component of your job within the organization. For example if you are a bookkeeper paying the company bills is important to your job and day to day business.
Relatively Un-Important items are things that need to be done but do not have a pressing timeline. For example organizing your desk. You should do it from time to time but there is no deadline or immediate need.
Urgent items require immediate attention and need to be dealt with quickly before becomming a “fire” that will require even more time. For example in the role of bookkeeper mentioned above, filing the company taxes is an urgent matter. It has a timeline and not meeting that timeline could have consequinces.
Relatively Leisurly items need to take place but can happen when you have a break from the Urgent and Important tasks. Something like reading the companies latest press release falls in this category. It needs to happen sometime before the next meeting but is not urgent.
3. Tackle each item on this list starting with Urgent and Important items. Check off tasks as they are completed. Tackle leisurely and un-important items only after the urgent and important ones have ben completed. This helps you stay focussed and gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
4. Shut the door. Very often in companies an “Open Door Policy” is in place. While this can be good for communicating with employees it is terrible for getting un-interupted time to do your work. Let employees and co-workers know that when your door is shut it is because you are working on something that requires your immediate and undivided attention and you are not to be interrupted unless it is equally important. I also recommend having your calls held during this time. You will get more done in a shorter period of time which in turn will free you up to answer questions and meet with people that need your time and attention.
5. Do not let communication control you! Between the office phone, cell phone, text messages, emails, facebook etc communication overload is easy to achieve. Not only do you have a million ways for people to reach you but constantly being available through all of your communication channels sucks up your time. If you are checking email every time the computer dings or answering the phone every time it rings you will have very little time to work on the list of items that must be done. Instead of being available all the time schedule when you check email and return voice mails. An easy way to do this is first thing in the morning, before lunch and an hour before you leave the office. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. There is very rarely something so urgent that you need to email every ten minutes. On the rare day that it is that item is probably on your urgent list anyway.
6. Say No. It is easy to take on additional tasks all the time but not productive. Learn when to say no. Be honest with yourself regarding what you can or can not do and how much free time you have. Taking on additional tasks that cause everything else to suffer is usually not worth it. Despite popular belief if we say no the world will still turn…
7. Finish what you start. When you have started something keep going until completed. Leaving a bunch of half done tasks floating around will only increase your stress and make you feel more overwhelmed.
8. Smile and Breathe. There will always be more to do but there is only one you to do it. Take care of yourself. Burning out because you are stressed or overloaded means that all of those tasks will take longer to complete or not happen at all. Cut yourself some slack and know that as hard as you try not to be you are still human. Do your best and when you feel it is not enough: stop, breathe, smile and remember you are doing your best and that is all anyone can ask.
Managing your time more effectively will improve your quality of life. You will be happier and more effective. Even if you are faced with what feels like an insurmountable mountain of “To Do’s” remember that you have to start somewhere and take one step at a time. Start today for a less stressful tomorrow.
” The future depends on what we do in the present.”
– Mahatma Gandhi