Simple Time Management Skills For The Office Guaranteed To Save You Hours, Reduce Your Stress, And Enhance Your Efficiency
Effective time management at work is about working smarter, not harder – even though managers and bosses would prefer their workers to clock longer hours in the office. These simple but effective methods can save you precious hours and reduce stress at work, while helping you get more things done.
Time management at work is often taken to mean how to squeeze the most out of your 8 hours in the office. That’s certainly being efficient – but not necessarily more effective.
Greater effectiveness comes from working smarter rather than harder. It’s often true that top performers are the ones who appear ‘lazy’. They seem to have more than enough time to get things done, appearing relaxed and stress-free most of the time.
What’s their secret? How do they manage to achive so much without working hard?
Let’s look at their secrets, and learn to adapt them to develop your skills in time management at work, so that you not only have a job – you also have a life!
Make Your To-Do List
There’s no question about it. Making lists is helpful in managing your time better. The difficult part is to create your list the right way. Two issues are important –
- when do you make your list?
- what gets on it?
When To Make Your List?
You may prefer to write your list at the beginning of your work day, as the first task. Or you might like to get it done just before leaving the office, as your final activity of the day… so that you’ll feel more relaxed at home, and can start work next morning without any delay.
Written lists are better than ones committed to memory because you won’t stress over forgetting something important. Leaving your list somewhere visible where you can refer back to it often is helpful in keeping you on track.
Making your list in a diary or daily planner can be a good idea, as it can accompany you everywhere and you’ll be able to modify it as other tasks and committments arise.
Your to-do list is a living document. It isn’t static, but keeps changing over the course of the day.
What Gets On Your List?
It is tempting to dump every task that demands your attention into your list of things to get done. But that’s of little help if your list is too long to manage.
1. Be realistic
Include only tasks that you can reasonably expect to complete during your work day. If something is important enough, but can’t be finished that day, move it to the next day’s list – or another suitable time in your schedule.
2. Set Priorities
Prioritize your list by importance. Review each item on the list and assign it a rank or number depending upon how important it is. Some efficient time managers like the idea of categorizing to-do list items as ‘A’ list (which is urgent and important), ‘B’ list (which is important, even if not urgent) and ‘C’ list (which includes most other activities).
The idea behind prioritizing your list is that you get the ‘A’ list items done before you begin working on the ‘B’ list, and likewise for the ‘C’ list entries. This ensures that your focus is on the right things and you won’t waste time on trivia.
Record Things in a Notebook
It is tempting to take notes on scraps of paper, on the back of an envelope, or on the ubiquitous sticky Post-It note. The trouble comes later on, when you try to find an older note – and waste precious hours hunting for it.
Instead, keep a notebook. An inexpensive spiral bound note will work just fine. It will help you keep track of the multiple activities you’re engaged in. Jot down everything of importance – a meeting, a conversation, a plan or idea you had, an appointment, a phone number.
A notebook will help you focus on the work at hand, and serves as a handy reminder of things that happened earlier, while saving time wasted on searching for information. Keeping your notes organized can be a powerful tool for time management at work.
Take Control of Your Telephone
Distracting phone calls are the bane of every office worker. It always seems that when a deadline looms or you need to focus intently on a project, the phone keeps ringing off the hook.
You can take charge by setting your answering machine to respond to calls with:
“Hi, John Adams here. I’m not available to take your call, but if you leave a message explaining what it’s about, and the best time to call you back, I’ll get in touch soon.”
If you have someone to handle your calls, they can use a similar script to deal with callers. Asking what the call is about will save you time by letting you assemble all necessary information before calling back. You’ll be more effective in dealing with callers and get more things done at work.
Simplicity Is Key
Time management at work can quickly become complex and involved. Avoid the temptation to make it so. The simpler your time management systems are, the more likely it is that you will continue using them. Remember that your systems should help you work smarter, not harder.
There’s much more to time management at work, and we’ll explore these elements in other sections of this website, as well as in the series of guides at Ming Vase Time Management. You can also receive updates by email when you sign up to our “Time Taozine” email newsletter by filling in the form below.