As life gets faster and faster, workloads get bigger and longer. Many professionals – whether they work for an employer or for themselves – are finding that there are too many projects to do and not enough time to complete it all. Feeling the time crunch and not accomplishing everything that you want to leads to working longer hours, working weekends, and skipping lunch breaks. This in turn leads to stress, anxiety, fatigue and decreased productivity at the office.
There are, however, things you can do to take control of your time and your schedule, and create more productive and efficient workdays.
Create a To-Do List that Works for You:
Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper or computer screen is an essential element to good time management at work. Many of us use this tool regularly – creating a list of tasks and projects that we want to accomplish each day.
You can add a few easy elements to your list in order to increase productivity and be more clear on what you can accomplish on a given day.
- Update Your To-Do List Daily: I love making lists, so I admit that it might sound crazy to update your To-Do list on a daily basis. However, it need only take 5-10 minutes each day, and it will help you track the status of your projects as well as provide clarity on what needs to get done.
- Break down each project into sub-actions: For example, if you need to send out a marketing email, break that up into: a)Write email draft, b)edit email text, c)layout email, and d)send. When you break down projects into smaller tasks, they become more manageable, and you can allot a realistic time frame for getting the project completed.
- Cross completed tasks off your list: There are few things more satisfying than crossing a completed task off your list. This will help you stay organized as well as give you an opportunity to acknowledge yourself for the hard work you’ve done (acknowledging yourself is another great tool to stay time-efficient and motivated!).
Know Your Priorities:
Often, we are unclear on what our priorities for the day are, and as a result, do the less important things first before completing what absolutely needs to get done. Taking just a few moments each day to remember what is most important to accomplish will help you have a clear plan of action and get the most crucial things done right away. I recommend numbering your To-Do list in order of importance and executing each task based on your list.
Estimate How Much Time You Need:
If you don’t know how much time a particular project or task will take you, then it becomes difficult to know how much you can really accomplish in a day. Once you break your projects down into sub-actions (see above), you can estimate how much each sub-action or task will take. This is an easy tool to help you figure out how much you can take on at any given time and also when to stop working on something and let it be. I like to add a 20% contingency onto any time I estimate. For example, if I think that writing a newsletter article will take me about 2 hours, I allot myself 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Manage Your Email Usage
Email is a fantastic tool that at it’s best helps us communicate quickly and efficiently. However, often we get stuck in a habit of incessantly checking our emails or using email for personal instead of professional use at the office. This can add minutes if not hours onto our work days.
- Eliminate Personal Emails from Your Work Day: Send all personal emails to a separate personal email account that you check either outside of work hours or once during the day.
- Limit Your Professional Email Usage: Instead of checking your email each time a new message appears in your inbox, set aside certain times during the day that you read and respond to emails. You’ll be surprised at how much time you gain!
Take a Lunch Break
When we have a lot to do, it sometimes seems we should just skip lunch and keep on working. In actuality, this strategy works against us. Without taking proper breaks from our work and our computer screens, we lose a lot of energy throughout the course of the day. By taking that hour for ourselves, we have a chance to re-charge and then return to our projects with more energy and enthusiasm. I highly recommend eating lunch away from your desk and taking a few minutes during your break to stretch your legs or even better – take a walk outside.