No matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in a day; 168 hours in a week. Between work, family and sleep, there is precious little time for other pursuits. Time management is an essential skill to successfully plot a course through the numerous items on your daily to-do list.
Here are 8 timely tips for improving time management and making the most out of your work day.
1 Is a meeting really necessary? Pointless meetings are high on the list of time wasters. With the number of meetings that tend to get scheduled, its amazing there is any time left for work. Limiting the number of meetings to only the most essential will save huge amounts of time.
Determine if a meeting is really necessary or can most of the details be worked out via e-mail or a quick telephone call. If a meeting is crucial, prepare the agenda ahead of time and stick to it. Start on time and end on time. Assign a timekeeper to make sure the meeting ends at the appointed time.
2 Keep one notebook for your to-do list. Dont waste valuable time writing lists on single scraps of paper. The problem is when you really need the list, it has disappeared and you will spend wasted time hunting for the piece of paper. A notebook will allow you to keep a record of your daily lists all in one place so you can see a pattern of your activities.
3 Use your previous to-do lists to scrutinize how you spend your time. The most critical 20 percent of your work should produce 80 percent of your results. Analyzing your work will help you to identify time wasters to eliminate from your day.
4 When do you do your best work? Are you most alert in the morning? Do you do your best work late in the day? For optimum results, schedule your most complex tasks during your most productive time of day.
5 Once you understand the time you work best, prioritize your tasks to work on the most important items first. Remember, however, the urgency of a task can often be subjective to the originator (your boss).
6 Aim to complete at least one task every day. With hundreds of tasks, multi-tasking is important, but still strive to complete at least one or more tasks each day. Bringing closure to at least one task provides a sense of accomplishment, reduces stress and provides motivation that you can do it.
7 Tame your e-mail. While this may seem contradictory to #1 above, its not. Customer service is important but do you really need to check your e-mail every 15 minutes? Set aside a specific time of day to read and respond to e-mails. Reducing your e-mail checking will still allow you to respond to important correspondence within 24 hours.
8 Catch up on the gossip during the break. In many offices, the bulk of the work is completed Tuesday to Thursday. Why? Co-workers spend Friday sharing what they plan to do over the weekend. Monday is spent catching up on what actually did happen over the weekend. The problem is anyone not participating in the gap fest is considered to be unsociable. Let your co-workers know that you would love to share, but will have to wait until lunch time. Removing yourself from conversation will save at least 120 minutes a week.
No matter how you schedule it, there are only 24 hours in a day. Incorporating a few rules into your daily routine will help you to feel in control of your own time and improve your time management.