Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Manage Your Time Better!

Take a moment and think about your typical workday, think about the tasks that you do on a daily basis. If someone were to stop and ask you right now how much time it took you to do each task, would you have a good grasp at it? Do you ever feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day for what you have to accomplish? Do you find that you're completing tasks JUST before they are due and stressing out that you may miss deadlines? In my past days of management, I noticed that many people pride themselves on how busy they appear to be. When somebody tries to offer them solutions or ways to try to manage their time better, they tend to brush them off. Sometimes people will even get downright defensive or insulted. It's almost as if they think that the busier they appear, the more important they are. They may feel threatened that if they don't seem busy all the time that their job would be on the line. Or they may be insulted because they think that you're implying that they're not working hard enough or fast enough (definitely not the case). If any of these examples apply to you, I'm here to change your theory and give you more peace of mind at the end of the day. If this does not apply to you, then still continue to read and get great tips on how to manage your time better.

I will be the first to admit that many years ago I fell into that first category of people. I would rush around all day long, unwilling to ask for help, ending my day in a stressed frenzy claiming that I simply had too much to do and not enough time in the day to do it. Now, let me clarify, I really BELIEVED that I had too much to do and not enough time in the day to do it. I never thought that I was doing anything wrong or that there was anything I could do to change that. The day came when I had finally had enough. I stepped back and analyzed my day, the approach I was taking to the tasks I was completing and the order in which I was completing them. I asked coworkers for an unbiased opinion as to how I was going about things. Asked them for any suggested shortcuts that they used on any programs, processes or procedures that we both used in our daily tasks. I took all of this information and restructured, reorganized and refocused with a clearer vision. I realized that if I made a few adjustments to my day, it might just give me some breathing room. Best. Decision. EVER! Now I jump on the opportunity to meet with someone that says they can help me better manage my time. I will no longer be the person so unwilling to seek out advice from someone else. Let's face it, if you can shave even 15 minutes off of your workload, it's still worth it! After all, you're "so busy you can't even breathe until the work day is over"…so 15 minutes would be fantastic, am I right?!

Are you sitting here right now rolling your eyes and thinking that you're so impossibly busy that you can't take time out of your day to revamp your functional system that you have worked out? I thought maybe you might be…just keep reading. I recommend for you to start keeping a journal, spreadsheet or other document and record your day. I'm sure you've heard of food journals, or dream journals. This will be your work journal. Start out by listing your goals for the day to keep yourself on task. As the day progresses, try to note how much time you spent on each goal and add in anything else you spent time on during the day. I would recommend trying to break things out into 15 minute increments so it doesn't get TOO specific (you don't need to notate that you took a break to get a glass of water).

Sidebar: Those of you that follow our blog posts regularly know about my list obsession. You can read more about writing an effective to-do list (the list of threes) in our blog article here.

Take things into consideration that take time away from your goals (personal social networking, playing games, reading articles online, chatting with friends, etc.). Now start practicing restraint with those procrastination tactics. On the other hand, some of the things that take time away from your goals are things that are unavoidable (sleeping, eating, driving to and from appointments). You can still try to plan your day out even better to make the most of that unavoidable time. For instance, if you find yourself in the waiting room of your physician's office (and, like many people today, you have a smart phone), take a few minutes to check your business social media sites or answer a few business emails.

Beware of the stealthy productivity killers! Do you sometimes take your laptop into a family area to work comfortably from your couch? Do you then think "Oh, I'll just turn on the TV for background noise"? Do you then realize that hours have gone by and you've been watching a marathon of some show that you would normally never watch if the TV wasn't on merely for "background noise"? The same can be said for streaming music onto your computer. You turn it on for background noise and before you know it you're downloading new music, setting up a playlist or searching out the history of a particular artist. Now, I'm not saying that you should work in complete silence, just make sure that you're staying focused on your work and not searching out lyrics for a song you just heard!

Take advantage of your computer's multitasking abilities! I've walked by many-a-desk in my time to see people staring at their computer screen and tapping their fingers as a large file saves or as their email loads and wondered "why?!". Your computer is a powerful machine, so don't sit there and stare at it as it works, continue working. Update your to-do list as that large file saves. Update your business social media sites as your email loads for the day. Take the time during a computer reboots to get your work station organized or make an important phone call.

Once you use these tips and analyze your workday, I hope that you'll be able to free up time! Changes begin small, so even if you manage to free up 10 or 20 minutes in your day, it's still a step in the right direction. Don't stop looking for ways to free up even more time by multi-tasking or restructuring your day. If you're constantly looking for ways to manage your time better, you'll always be working toward the most productive workday you could have!

Now that you've freed up a bit of time, don't make the mistake to then turn around, take that free time and pile on loads of additional work. That will just bring you right back to where you started. The whole point of managing your time is to be able to handle your workload with less stress. Don't end up overextending yourself back to the point where you were originally.

When all else fails, if you just keep struggling to manage your time, I would sincerely consider hiring a professional consultant. Now, of course, this all depends on your budget. I firmly believe that having a professional unbiased opinion about your workflow is a great way to analyze your workday. Don't fall back into the routine of being defensive about how busy you are. After all, you're the ONLY one that's suffering in that equation! A professional will typically monitor your work day for a few days, sitting by as you work and have an open conversation about your daily tasks, the time you spend on them, what your priorities are in your day and what tasks you always find that you aren't making time for when the day is over. They will take notes and then analyze areas where you could save time by either implementing different programs or procedures to help. I've worked with about two or three different time management consultants and I've found that they are definitely worth the money to have a little peace of mind at the end of the day!

What methods have you used to manage your time in the past? What has been your most effective time-management method to date? Have you ever hired a consultant to help you prioritize your workday? We'd love to hear your stories and experiences!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

1 comment:

  1. I have a computer. My wife has a time waster. She's a "link jumper". She'll start out with good intentions of getting a few things accomplished, but ends up jumping from one interesting link to another. At the end of two hours, she wonders where the time went and why she didn't finish the tasks she started out to do in the first place.
    It's a matter of staying focused.
    (Rita, I love you...really!)