Entire sections of book stores are dedicated to the art of time management. When you type “time management” into Google, the search engine spits out “about 93,100,000 results”. I’m sure we don’t need to explain the intense interest in this topic. Even the most organized among us seem to fail at making it through their to-do list each day.
There are theories regarding personal productivity suggesting “only check your email once a day” or “meticulously schedule each hour of your day before it starts”. That sounds great. Sign us up –right? The problem with some of these suggestions is they don’t seem to take into consideration the uncertainty involved in everyday life. Meetings are called last minute. Problems arise. Fires need to be put out as soon as possible. Some things just can’t wait for a “daily email check”.
The reality is that many of us are REQUIRED to be flexible. There are many aspects of the office that wouldn’t function correctly if we stuck to a stringent schedule. We ebb and flow with whatever is asked of us by our superiors. We are metaphorically chained to our inboxes, and there is simply no way around our volatile schedules.
This doesn’t mean better time management skills aren’t attainable. It just requires A LOT of organization and A LOT of self-discipline. We assume since you are searching for answers to your time management questions, you don’t have a lot of free time to browse through self-help books or explore Google’s ninety million search results. So, we picked a few of our favorite tips to share with you.
Even when someone casually says “oh, just get that to me whenever”, don’t listen. Give yourself a deadline. Most people tend to work best under pressure. Make sure every task has a due date, especially the tasks you’re likely to procrastinate.
TACKLE THE HARDEST STUFF FIRST
Speaking of procrastinating…go ahead and knock out that task you’re dreading. Make that particular task the very first thing you do when you arrive at the office. Otherwise, the task is pushed to late morning, then after lunch, then late afternoon. Before you know it, the day is over and you’re left with that same task on your to-do list tomorrow.
KNOW WHEN YOU’RE AT YOUR BEST
You know when you’re in the zone—capitalize on that valuable time. That way, when you’re in a slump, it’s ok to slow down. For instance, if you know immediately following lunch you’re productivity typically crashes, get the big stuff done in the morning.
RESPECT YOUR TIME
There are only twenty-four hours in a day. Eight (probably more) are dedicated to work. If you respect your own time and treat it as valuable, others will get the picture. This means learning when to say “no” to coworkers trying to drag you into an unnecessary conference call. This means learning what issues call for a sit-down meeting and what issues can be solved via email or telephone.
This is counterintuitive for many. Studies show some of the most productive professionals maintain a healthy balance between their personal lives and careers. You are useless to your superiors and to your company if you burn out. It’s almost impossible in today’s hyper-connected world, but we all need to create time for ourselves by shutting our phones off or focusing on something we enjoy—even if it’s only for a few minutes.
There is an abundance of information on time management out there. Just look here, and here. Time management is a skill, and just like any other skill, it takes work. Don’t give up on this goal – it’s attainable! Stay tuned for more from The Source on this topic.