A New Year’s Resolution? How to Manage your Time More Effectively

Matthew MacLachlan

4 Jan 2017

Happy New Year! Welcome back to reality with a bump. Your inbox is starting to fill up and you are wondering how you can manage to get everything done. It’s time to manage your time!

Time Management: What Time Management? 

Some employees embrace efficiency better than others.  Others may be judged as procrastinators, or time wasters, especially if they are perceived to be disruptive to others.  On the other hand, some employees are seen to be very hard workers and may also have a reputation of being workaholics, where they are rarely seen to be taking time out for other activities.

Both procrastinators and workaholics may have a time management problem.  Ironically, workaholics may have as much difficulty with efficiency as procrastinators.  Challenges may include distraction, avoidance of an unpopular task, or the inability to prioritise urgent and less urgent tasks. How can employees manage their time more effectively?

1. Get Organised

A messy environment can be confusing and can cause you to miss important tasks because they are out of sight – sometimes literally.

2. Make Lists

This simple exercise gives you the big picture of your pending tasks.  Include both large and small jobs and keep it up to date.  It’s satisfying to be able to cross an item off your task list.

3. Prioritise

Determine which projects are urgent.  Urgency can mean meeting a tight deadline or complying with a request from senior management.  It can also mean correcting a mistake before it becomes worse.  Try to consider why some tasks are urgent and do what you can to reduce or avoid the pressure of urgency where possible.

4. Break Down Big Jobs

Do big or undesirable jobs one step at a time.  This simple technique can make big jobs seem for manageable and thus less daunting.

5. Quality Not Quantity

Give yourself permission to do fewer things better when dealing with non-urgent matters

6. Schedule Time for Breaks

Schedule time for breaks from quantifiable tasks.  This includes thinking time, planning and reflection.  Add them to your task list if necessary.  Within reason, they are achievements and not a waste of time.

7. Timing

Determine what time of day you are most productive.  Some people are morning people; others become more productive as the day wears on.  Try to do the most complicated or difficult tasks then wherever possible.

8. Use Technology Tools Wisely

Technology tools can enhance time management or they can themselves be time wasters, especially if they are complicated, elaborate and could become an additional item on your to do list.  Also, remember that technology is not always available and sometimes fails.

9. Capture Spontaneous Ideas

Have a note pad with you to write down spontaneous ideas.  Old fashioned pen and paper will do.

10. Manage Stress

Although some stress may be a positive motivation for employees, too much is counter-productive.  Find a way to manage excessive stress.  Coffee breaks or a quick walk around the office can work wonders.  Workaholics in particular should be aware that errors often increase, and productivity and efficiency can diminish if occasional breaks are not taken.

Time management in Personal Life

Finally, as with all New Year’s resolutions, revisit your commitment to improving your time management at critical points in the year

Try to apply some of the same time management skills to your personal life.  How many people simply feel like they have run out of time to do even the most basic of household errands over a weekend?  How many people feel too tired to go to a social function they have been looking forward to for a long time?  Most of the above tips will work outside of the work environment as well.

Finally, as with all New Year’s resolutions, revisit your commitment to improving your time management at critical points in the year.  How well are you doing at the end of January?  March?  Determine which techniques are working well for you and what you may need to improve.  With practice, they should become second nature. Good luck and Happy New Year!

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