Category : PROspective
Have you ever joked about needing more hours in the day? Although I’d love to find a way to sneak in an extra hour or two, the hard truth is that we only have 24 hours to allocate across all of the demands on our time – both personal and professional. The article below has some good tips to consider for professional time management, although I’d add that it’s also important to think about how you allocate time to both your professional and personal selves. After all, none of us only exist in our work spaces!
After you read these tips, and review my thoughts below – I’d like you to consider taking on a 30 day planning challenge: adopt one or more of these strategies and stick to them (!!) for the next 30 days. At the end of that time, evaluate the effect that it had on your productivity and determine how you will approach the next 30 days. Let us know in the comments – which tips are you planning to adopt and how do you plan to institute them?
Each Sunday, I try to sit down and plan out the “must dos” to accomplish at work the following week. I plan around the meetings that are on my calendar, and block off time to complete these tasks. This is different than simply creating a to-do list. When I don’t dedicate time for specific tasks, I notice that my weeks aren’t as productive, and I have tasks that remain unfinished.
As part of my Sunday planning, I also keep track of the ~10,374 activities that our family might have in a given week. With 3 growing boys, you can safely assume that grocery shopping tops the list of family priorities! To avoid the weekend rush, we plan around my teaching schedule (I’m looking at you, EPI 740!), and shop on a weeknight when I can get home a little early. This semester, Mondays are for grocery shopping – this means that I know not to count on having extra time on Monday evenings to catch up on work. I am protective of my time both at work and at home – I try not to let one bleed into the other, but certainly there are times when I have to make exceptions.
Last – but certainly not least – I plan time to take care of myself. After much trial and error, I realized that there is much truth in the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Whether it is exercise, reading, cooking, being in nature, or spending time with friends – find things that are truly rejuvenating for you and engage in those routinely. Personally, I love to sew – you can see a sampling of some recent projects here!
We are in the business of prevention, and yet we often work ourselves into the ground without realizing that we could have intervened and had a different outcome (hello, counterfactual!). The time that you spend caring for yourself is a worthwhile investment, and will likely amount to less time than you would need to recover after overworking yourself.
8 crucial time management tips adapted from “Jump Start Productivity,” Healthcare Executive, September/October 2010
- Learn how to say no. If you say yes to every meeting, e-mail request or project, you’ll quickly find yourself overcommitted – and overwhelmed. Take on what is essential, but try to avoid doing things outside your core job responsibilities. Say no diplomatically by offering reasonable alternatives to your participation.
- Schedule your time effectively. Your calendar can be used for more than just meetings. If you find it difficult to get uninterrupted work time, then block off time on your schedule for the most important projects. Treat that time as you would a meeting; don’t allow interruptions, and focus solely on that project.
- Knock out time wasters. Your phone, e-mail and social media can be fantastic tools – or vicious time wasters. When you really need to focus, it can help to turn those tools off for a little while. In addition, take advantage of “Do Not Disturb” and silence your notifications.
- End Procrastination. Try to determine why you are procrastinating on a particular project. If the project seems too big, then break it into smaller tasks and work on each of those individually. If it’s a project you don’t want to do, then try working on it for just 15 minutes at a time. It’s easier to get started than to let it hang over your head.
- Set realistic deadlines. When you are setting deadlines for a project completion, give yourself some flexibility by building in additional time. A good rule is to say that your project will be done in 1.5-2 times as long as you think it will actually take to complete. Then if you finish it when you originally though, you’ll actually be early. And if you run into delays, you’ll still be on time.
- Bring back the to-do list. The to-do list still has a place in the office. It can help you prioritize your tasks quickly. And checking each task off gives you a sense of accomplishment. Try using a task management app on your phone or calendar, or printing your tasks our on a brightly colored piece of paper.
- Remember to take breaks. Breaks are a great stress reliever, and they can actually make you more productive. Rather than spending the entire day overloaded with work, take the time for a quick stroll or snack between projects. And remember to schedule a vacation day from time to time as well. You’ll come back to the office refreshed and recharged.
- Delegate when you can. Good delegating is more than just dumping a project on someone else’s desk. Try to delegate tasks to staff who might enjoy or learn from the project. Make sure you are clear baou the project’s goals and requirements. And plan a way to thank staff members for their assistance when the project is complete.