“Time management” and “efficiency” have always been hot words in the workplace, but in recent years our definitions of these words and the ways we work have begun to evolve. With an emphasis on everything from ensuring meetings are effective to properly delegating tasks to get the best out of each employee, every aspect of time in the workplace is being evaluated.
Sometimes we are able to keep up with our job’s demands quite easily, while at other times it can feel like a struggle. For those times when it just feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s important to make sure you’re making the best use of the time that’s available to you. Here are our top 5 tips for effectively managing your time at work:
1. Manage Your Workload
For those who are not working at management level, your workload is not something you can usually dictate yourself, as it’s typically controlled by a line manager. But there are still a number of ways you can speak up and help manage your workload.
The first and most important aspect of managing your workload is to be open and communicate with your manager, making them aware of what tasks are taking up considerable amounts of your time and where you may require support. Managers are usually happy to be helpful on these matters, as it’s in their best interest to ensure that you are able to work to your best ability.
Another key factor in managing your workload is knowing when to say no. When the work is piling up or you’re up against a tight deadline, it’s important to turn down extra work that may slightly fall out of your remit, politely explaining why you’re not able to take on the extra tasks at that time.
2. Get Organised
Organisation almost always appears in lists of the most important skills that employers look for in an employee. An organised employee is better able to tackle anything thrown their way, especially during busy periods.
One effective way to keep yourself organised is list making. Whether it’s a list of people you need to call or projects that need completing, lists are very effective at keeping you organised. Keeping a notepad on your desk and jotting down tasks as they are relayed to you or as they come to mind is a very helpful way to keep on top of everything you need to complete, and reduces the risk of forgetting important jobs.
It’s also important to set yourself specific timeframes in which to complete items on your list. This is a helpful way to stay focused on one task at a time, because you know you have scheduled yourself time to tackle the next item on your agenda, which can help you feel more in control at chaotic times.
Unfortunately, sometimes our lists can get rather long, and at times you may have more than one list going for different aspects of your role. At times like this, it’s important to prioritise. Marking the most important items on your list with a numbering system or simply a highlighter is very helpful as a visual reminder of what tasks are really demanding your attention.
If you’re struggling to determine which tasks you should prioritise, speak to your manager, who will be likely to help you determine which assignments you should dedicate the bulk of your time to, and may even be happy to pass the less important items along to another member of the team.
If prioritising is an area in which you tend to struggle, you may find online project management systems to be very helpful. Different systems offer solutions such as timesheets so that you can monitor how much time you’re spending on each task. Other systems, like Trello, allow you to organise projects and tasks onto boards. This is particularly helpful for projects, especially when you have multiple individuals involved, or need to see what work has been assigned to you.
When you’re working under pressure, outside interruptions like emails and phone calls can be very distracting. Sometimes it’s necessary to tune these out, even if just for an hour at a time. Start by putting away your personal phone and switching off personal emails.
If possible, shut down your work emails and check a few times a day rather than checking every email as it comes in. If your office has a separate and quiet area where you can work, such as a meeting room, try taking advantage of this in order to get away from distractions that can slow you down.
5. Take Regular Breaks
This may seem contradictory, but taking breaks is actually a very important part of managing your time at work. Stepping away from your desk for just a few minutes throughout the day will actually boost your productivity and will help to keep you focused.
If you work in front of a computer for the majority of the day, taking regular short breaks to get away from the screen can help reduce eye strain and headaches. Even just getting up to make a cup of tea or refill your water bottle can offer a small break, and staying hydrated is also important to keeping your brain firing and staying productive. It’s also worth utilising these short breaks to snack on healthy foods throughout the day that promote brain power.