We all know that time management is extremely important in the world of business. Managing multiple projects and multiple deadlines, answering to a variety of stakeholders, and trying to create a balance between work and home life — it can be overwhelming! Time management is a skill that we need and is something that has to be fine tuned with practice. Below are eight techniques that you can use to learn to stay on top of everything.
It’s alright to say NO
Many times, it can be easier to say “yes” than say “no.” We don’t want to disappoint anyone. We want to be able to help our clients, our coworkers, our family and friends. However, when we say yes to everything, we are actually doing a disservice to ourselves and those around us. It’s impossible to complete everything if you have too much to manage. It takes a tremendous amount of self-control and self-awareness to be able to step back from an opportunity and evaluate whether or not it fits in with your schedule and goals.
It is always ok to say no to an opportunity. Turn down projects if you don’t have the time or resources. Say no to an invitation to go out for a drink if you would rather head home. Saying no doesn’t mean you are less committed to your work. Others will respect your time if you are clear on what you can and can’t do.
Structure Your Meeting Time
Ever been to a meeting that felt like a complete waste of time? When you are the meeting organizer, use your meeting time effectively and structure your meetings. Only invite the necessary stakeholders, keeping the number of attendees at a minimum. Set a purpose, goal, or agenda for your meeting as well as an end time. When the meeting is over, make sure everyone who came knows what the next steps are. Taking a little time to plan and debrief meetings can make them more productive.
If you are a meeting attendee, try to check the agenda or talk with the organizer to see if it is important for you to be there. It might turn out that you can simply receive a copy of the meeting debrief afterwards.
Make a To-Do List
The simple act of making a to-do list can help you escape the feeling of feeling overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines. Try using reminders in your calendar, programs like Todoist, or even a handful of sticky notes. Having a prioritized list can show you where you need to focus your time and attention, which will make you less likely to jump from task to task without seeing anything through to completion. When you’re able to cross a task off of your list, you’ll find yourself motivated to move on to the next item. Before you leave the office on Friday for the weekend, consider making a to-do list for the upcoming week. You may find that you feel less stressed over the weekend and on Monday morning if you are already prepared for the week ahead.
Recognize your own productivity
When do you tend to get the most done? Are you a morning person? Do you focus better after lunch? If your productivity burst is in the morning, plan your day so that you address your most challenging tasks and most pressing deadlines first thing. If afternoons are your more focused time, perhaps you can start your morning by following up on ongoing projects, responding to emails, reviewing results and investing your time in smaller projects, and then in the the afternoon, take up the projects and tasks that require your full attention and are more challenging. In this way, you’ll be able to utilize your time and productivity in the most effective way.
Develop Good Systems
Many times, our productivity suffers because we haven’t developed a good system for how to tackle obstacles we face. Sometimes a project management tool like Podio, Wrike or Trello, can help your team follow the progress of different projects while organizing project-related communication and information. Another helpful tool for internal communications is Slack. With Slack, your team can express opinions and share relevant files without the need for meetings.
Other internal communication tools can help you minimize interruptions from other team members. Sometimes using a chat messaging platform — even if you are in the same room — to check in with someone before you approach alerts them to the issue that needs to be addressed and allows them to respond at a time when they can give you their undivided attention.
Manage your Email Inbox not the other way around
When you manage a team and a variety of clients, the number of emails that you send and receive in one day can be overwhelming. Some people find that it’s helpful to close their email while they are working on other things to minimize interruptions and distractions. You might also find that if you create Inbox folders and sort your emails, you can find information that you need quickly and easily. You might consider making it a goal to have your inbox at zero every day before you leave by addressing emails that need immediate attention and then sorting and filing the others. Additionally, it always helps to unsubscribe from email lists that you don’t read or use.
Set Your Own Deadlines
When you have a time sensitive task, create your own deadline that is a day or two (or even just a few hours) before you need to deliver the items to higher management or to a client. When you’re able to complete the task before the real deadline, you provide yourself time to review and correct anything before sending it off. With your own deadlines, you will feel less stressed and find yourself less panicked trying to complete something at the last minute. Moreover, with time to take another review before delivery, you’ll be able to provide a higher quality work product.
If you are managing a team, use your team. If you have tasks that can be completed by someone else, pass them along. While it sometimes seems easier to complete a project yourself — so you can control the project quality and the time in which it gets completed — you are not using your time and resources effectively if you are performing tasks that a member of your team could have completed. Trust your team. Give them opportunities to learn and grow by taking on even challenging tasks, while freeing your own time for issues that cannot be delegated.
These are eight great strategies for managing your time and completing your tasks as efficiently as possible. It might take some time and perhaps some trial and error, but if you consistently try some of these methods of time management and organization, you will find that you are able to better keep track of and meet your deadlines. You will be less stressed and you, your team, and your clients will all be pleased with the results.