Somehow, seasons seem to fly by before we know it. Memorial Day arrives and in the blink of an eye it is Labor Day. The leaves change one day and what feels like a week later, there will be snow on the ground. This leaves us with the question: where does the time go? Time flies by, so it is important to maximize every second of every day. Here are a few tips to ensure effective and efficient time management:
1. Schedule your entire day. At the end of every day, make your hour-by-hour game plan for the following day. Include appointments, tasks, time for e-mail/voicemail, lunch, and breaks. Schedule small tasks in your time windows between appointments, and group common activities together. Having your day laid out in front of you will illustrate how important it is to stick to your schedule.
2. Turn off your e-mail notification. This distracting feature causes employees to salivate like a Pavlov dog. With one little ring, we easily lose our train of thought and get roped right back into the world of e-mail. Considering the average person receives 100+ e-mails a day, this is a serious distraction. Set certain times to check your e-mail and stick to it. If it is urgent, they will call.
3. Set office hours. Many proclaim to have an “open door policy”, but having visitors throughout the day can be distracting. If you are working on an important project, shut your door. If you don’t have a door, politely make it known that you are focusing and can’t take interruptions until you are finished.
4. Reward yourself. If there is a task on your agenda that you are really dreading, reward yourself for tackling it head on. For example, after you finish that dreaded expense report, treat yourself to a few minutes of working on that fun project you’ve been wanting to tackle.
5. Have an agenda. Do not schedule a meeting unless you can produce an agenda 24 hours ahead of time. If you are invited to a meeting and there is no agenda, politely request one.
6. Have a standing meeting. In an effort to keep meetings from lasting an eternity, remove the chairs and have a standing meeting. It will be the most efficient meeting of your life!
7. Make an action plan. When you are assigned a big project with a final due date, break it down to ensure that you stay on track. Set checkmarks for yourself and make periodic due dates for different sections to make the project less overwhelming.
8. Under promise, over deliver. This philosophy is true of customer service, and it is true of individuals on a team. If your plate is overloaded, don’t take on more tasks. It is always better to complete something well than to complete something quickly and sub par. Ask for help when you need it, and speak up when you are overwhelmed.
9. Come in an hour early, or stay an hour late. Using these distraction-free hours to focus on projects is a great way to be productive. Often, the office is quieter. Don’t check your e-mail or voicemail during this time; just focus on the task at hand.
10. Avoid time wasters. Identify exactly what is eating up your time and hindering you from being productive, and combat these time wasters. If you are the office social butterfly, shut your door. If you are a Facebook fanatic, disable the internet. Make a plan that works for you.