5 Ways to Manage Your Time Better at Work
Have you ever woken up with the determination to accomplish many things, only to fall miserably short of your goals?
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Many of us have been there at some point in our lives. Maybe you’ve been putting off that gym session for the longest time, or have not had the time to spend with your loved ones or make a home-cooked meal. You have a million things to do but somehow, time just flies by before you can complete it.
As British author, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, wrote in an essay for the Economist in 1955, “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” (BBC, 2020) Rather than spending long hours on that report due in a few weeks, or rushing to clutch it just before your deadline, completing your work more efficiently can help to free up more personal time while ensuring quality and consistency. Here are five ways to manage your time better at work!
1. Track Your Time
If you find yourself wondering where your time went, you can start by keeping track of how you spend your time. You may realise that you are spending more time than you need to on polishing your presentation slides. Or, after taking into account all the informal meetings that take place throughout the day, you do not have as much time to complete your work as you imagined. Tracking your time can help you to identify areas where you can cut down the time spent on completing tasks, as well as to work better with the available time you have.
Try logging your time diligently for at least a week by tracking your daily activities, and you might notice some trends and patterns which you can change or adjust. You can also use free online apps like Toggl or Clockify to help you track your time on the computer. For some, nothing can beat the good old pen and paper, which you can personalise or design with your own creativity!
2. Create a Realistic Schedule
Scheduling can give you a clear view of how to allocate your time. Although it takes time to plan out your day, it often saves you time later on. It is important to create a realistic schedule so that you can stick to it. If you are unsure how long you take to complete a task, you can time yourself during your daily work.
It is tempting to pack your schedule to the brim, but sometimes we forget that it is not feasible to perform at maximum productivity all the time, especially when there are emails popping up intermittently. Schedule breaks or buffer time to give yourself time to breathe after completing a task, because no one can work like clockwork.
3. Work Efficiently
As the old adage goes, you must not only work hard but work smart. Grouping similar tasks together can prevent task-switching and save cognitive energy. For example, you can focus on filing and paperwork in one block of time, and those requiring computer research in another block of time. Additionally, you can allocate a block of time to answer emails and phone calls, and turn off your notifications later so that you can focus on completing your daily work.
Another way to optimise your workflow is to prioritise tasks, either by urgency or importance. A helpful tool is the priority matrix which helps you to visualise which are the more important tasks.
4. Set a Time Limit
To-do lists are brilliant, but sometimes your tasks never get checked within the day. Setting a time limit can help you to ensure that you are not spending too much time on a task, while ensuring a reasonable quality of work. This is similar to the concept of optimal efficiency in economics, where the least resources (time) are used for the maximum benefits (results).
Besides ensuring that you remain on track, time limits can make distractions less tempting. By sticking to your time limits, you can complete more within a shorter period of time, and maybe even have some time for yourself to catch a break!
5. Learn to Say No
When working on a project with clients, you may want to do your best for them and tend to accede to their requests. Some may also take on more work to maintain a favourable image in front of their bosses in hopes of bettering their career progression. However, these may result in scope creep where you take on more tasks than was initially expected. If the workload is not managed well, the sleepless nights can impact the quality of your work, which defeats the original intention.
Rather than biting off more than you can chew, it is important to know your limits and learn to say no. Besides managing your workload, you should also say no to distractions like social media which can sap your time unknowingly.
Before you know it, four minutes have passed since you started reading this article. But we hope that these ten minutes can save you hours of agony trying to complete that endless to-do list. Maybe you can finally spend more time with your loved ones too!
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