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4 Steps to Manage Time Effectively at Work
Your time is a valuable asset, even more so than money or talent.
You need time to realize your personal and career goals and build relationships. You need time to live the life you want.
Unfortunately, unlike money or skills, you can not earn or build time. You do not really know how many hours or days you will have in your life. The only power you have is to choose how you spend every second that you do have.
People often have the same problem though: they always feel like they are running out of time or time seems to fly too quickly. Even though they feel they are always busy, they can not seem to accomplish much.
Maura Thomas, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, suggests another problem of time management. He feels that it is not just distraction from work which is the problem, it is also the distraction “from important work by other work.”
Traditional Time Management Tips Are No Longer Effective
Are you one of those people who always make a to-do list before you start your day and find yourself not being able to accomplish everything? Do not be surprised. This time management strategy no longer works on its own.
It’s very common to find ourselves being pulled away by the distractions of a highly mobile and digital workplace from the work we have planned.
With lot of things competing for our attention, we do not only get distracted, we get confused and overwhelmed. It becomes harder for us to remember what we need to do, and planned tasks that pile up creates stress.
We are also more likely to multi-task, which increases the chances of making errors and missing important information. And, according to Harvard Health Publishing, it also hinders problem-solving and creativity,.
Instead of being proactive, we are becoming reactive. We respond to requests and distractions from all directions, and we fail to work on tasks that really matter.
Four Things You Need to Manage Your Time Effectively
Time management strategies should consider the demands of today’s data-driven, hyper-connected workplace, and adopt to the changes and developments on how we work today.
To update your time management strategy, you need these four things:
- Clarify your role
- Energy management
- Skills for managing one’s attention (not just time)
- A system for managing workflow
How to Put Your New Time Management Strategy Into Practice
1. Decide what your priorities are
Knowing what your priorities are will clarify your role. This tip is especially helpful if you are getting lots of requests from clients and colleagues. This is one of the keys to becoming more proactive than reactive.
To help you clarify your priorities, ask yourself:
- What are my long-term and short-term priorities? What are my priorities this year/this month/this day?
- What actions will help me accomplish my priorities?
- What can I refuse or what can I not refuse in relation to my priorities?
- What are the consequences of not responding to requests or interruptions?
2. Manage your energy
With lot of responsibilities and tasks on your plate, the usual response is to put in more hours at work and give up rest, exercise, or recreation time. This results in higher levels of stress, health problems, and loss of focus.
Take a break, follow a healthy diet and find time to exercise in order to fight fatigue, to boost energy, to enhance memory, improve concentration, and maintain a healthy brain.
3. Manage your attention
It is difficult to really manage time. You can manage, however, your attention and your ability to focus by removing distractions that rob you of your time.
How much attention goes to activities that are not really contributing to your goals and priorities? Do you have a workplace that encourages you to focus on your work, or are you surrounded by distractions such as desk clutter, smartphones and access to social media?
4. Divide your work day into segments
Work for 50 minutes to an hour then schedule 20 minutes in between to recharge your mental energy.
Time is an important but limited resource. Whichever way you choose to spend it now will affect your future. Invest your time wisely by practicing time management strategies that work in today’s digital environment.