19 Apr 5 insights on taking your performance to the next level
Develop valuable habits in order to make the most of your time
The minute Sarah enters the office building in the morning her secretary will approach her and hand her a stack of notes, then at least 5 of the team members she manages will come up asking for her input on their projects. By the time she has finished talking with everyone and has made it to her office, she will have been at work for 45 minutes. After taking a quick look at the new stack of paper on her desk, she will open her email, only to find 110 new messages alerting her to what feels like a million new tasks. Sarah really loves her job, but every morning she has to deal with the same chaos.
Steven is an executive working on 3 big projects, all with deadlines in 5 or 6 months. He knows that he should be working daily on the major tasks directly related to the projects so that nothing gets left to the last minute, but he always ends up getting distracted by colleagues needing help, answering emails, or working on smaller chores. With all of this distraction, he finds it very difficult to get into the momentum of his main projects.
When Josh founded his IT start-up, he understood that he would be working really long hours each day and he was more than willing to do it in order to follow his dream. 5 years later, Josh is still at the office most of the time, his company employs 50 people and is doing well. Big changes have also happened in his personal life – he has married and now he has a daughter on the way. All of a sudden he finds himself hoping that he might somehow be able to manage his tasks better and get a day off during the week to spend more time with his growing family, while still caring for the business that he has put his heart and soul into.
Something that all 3 of these people have in common is a desire to use their time in a more productive way and make the most out of their days. Whether you want to find more time for big projects, deal more effectively with multiple tasks, or adjust your work-life balance, time management habits are a vital tool. A habit can be deﬁned as the intersection of knowledge, skill and desire, and it takes time and determination to establish one. The 5 tips below are meant to support your development of more efficient habits.
1. Work toward your goals every day
Procrastination affects everyone to differing degrees, so don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult to work around. However, in order to move ahead, you have to actively concentrate on tasks that contribute to your goals each and every day. One way to help you do this may be for you to set miniature goals for yourself every day, stating what you want to accomplish before the day is over. You can write these down and keep them where you can see them. Another way to help you beat procrastination and work on crucial tasks is to a lot a certain amount of time each day to activities such as answering emails and smaller tasks. When you have decided on the amount of time you will spend doing these things, stick to it and try to spend the rest of your day on your major assignments.
2. Try to touch a piece of paper only once
There are many reasons why you may find yourself returning to letters, notes, or projects that you’ve already looked at or dealt with earlier in the day. It could be that you are unsure about how to proceed with the work you should be doing, or it could be that you need a better organizational system to deal with everything that you’ve worked on and remove it from sight. Either way, try to avoid wasting time re-reading papers or returning to finished work, as this can take up a surprising amount of your time. If you find yourself returning to notes and work because you didn’t finish dealing with them the first, second, or third time around, then you need to focus on addressing and completing these things right away. With notes or emails, either put any tasks you receive on your to-do list or answer the sender, then file them away.
3. Create a filing system that works for you
As mentioned earlier, sometimes you may find yourself returning to previous work or messages simply because they weren’t filed away. Besides helping you keep your work area uncluttered, creating a filing system organized by project, by person, or by date can help you save more time than you think when you need to look for a specific document. For people that attend many conferences and events, creating files that contain all of the material, including notes and business cards, can be a very effective method of organization. Combine a low-tech paper-based system and a high-tech digital system in a way that works for you.
4. Have a place for everything
Organization is key when it comes to saving time. For instance spending 15 minutes looking for a stapler is a serious waste of valuable time and can be easily avoided. Use labels for drawers or separate organization bins for different supplies and papers. You’ll not only free up the time it used to take you to find things, but you’ll also feel better since a clean workspace can reduce your stress, give you more energy, and help you work faster.
5. Group your phone calls, emails, etc.
Doing all of your phone calls and emails at once will help you to both keep track of the total time that you spend on them and prevent them from distracting you and interrupting the flow of your work later. Grouping tasks in this way is also a great way to create momentum. It is especially useful to make calls before lunch or in the late afternoon if you need to keep them brief, as the recipients will likely want to keep the chats shorter than they would at other times of the day. Another thing you can do to make sure your calls stay short is always stand while you are talking on the phone. If you are sitting, you may end up feeling too comfortable and settling into a long chat, but standing can help you to discipline yourself and stay focused only on the purpose of the call.
Effective time management habits can add hours onto your day and many are as straight-forward as creating a filing and organizational system that works for you. Most things, like learning to overcome procrastination, will take the development of new habits. However you decide to begin developing your time management skills and knowledge – and there are many more ways to do that than could be represented here – you will likely discover an entire reserve of time that you never knew your day had. Your may find that this newfound time creates an opportunity to focus more on things that matter.