Practice firm time management for a more productive day

Do you ever get the feeling that you can’t get caught up at work? Are you constantly working longer days–-as well as nights and weekends–-yet still behind?

While part of that may be caused by an increased work load, some is also the result of poor time management. Work more efficiently, and you will be amazed at what you accomplish. And how much free time you suddenly have later.

The key is to recognize how easily it is to waste snippets of time through-out your day, then put those to work for you. Successful time management requires discipline, as you shall see.

For example, let’s say you spend two minutes at the coffee pot each morning talking with coworkers about a TV program. Over the course of a work week, you will spend 10 minutes doing that. If you’re a typical employee you take two weeks of vacation each year. That leaves 50 work weeks. Ten minutes per week over 50 weeks equals 500 minutes.

Now, consider that there are 480 minutes in an eight-hour work day. In the above example, over the course of a year, you spend the equivalent of one day yakking about the latest hit on TV. Should you stop socializing? Not necessarily. Just be mindful of how easy it is to burn valuable time.

Develop and maintain a to-do list to ensure an orderly work day

Salespeople understand the value of daily to-do lists. Those lists are equally valuable to workers in non-sales positions, as well.

To-do lists keep you focused throughout your day. It’s easy to ignore or forget tasks that aren’t written down. Much like goals, tasks are more likely to be completed if you keep a list of them handy. Often tasks are prioritized. That’s fine, as long as you don’t ignore those responsibilities lower on your list. Make use of the time management technique discussed above.

An added benefit is the sense of accomplishment you feel as you check off your projects. What in the morning seemed like an insurmountable list is reduced to just a handful, if any, remaining duties by end of day. Take care of any leftover tasks immediately the next day. Otherwise you’ll find yourself constantly carrying over projects, and never clearing your list.

Picture the other blocks of free time that crop up during your day. These can range anywhere from five to 15 minutes (sometimes more), and occur when your schedule changes suddenly. Perhaps a meeting wraps up early. Another one doesn’t start on time. Or you finish a project early.

Do you make good use of the extra moments, or do you sit at your desk and mindlessly idle away the time?

I call those little blocks of time, “Catch-up Time.” They allow you to catch up on all the tasks you’ve been putting off because, well, you convinced yourself you didn’t have time for them. In fact, you do.

A to-do list is really helpful now. Scanning your list you will find a number of things you can do, such as:

  • Placing a phone call

  • Answering an e-mail

  • Archiving your files

  • Rehearsing your presentation

This isn’t the time for busy work. While some tasks are of a lower priority, all must get done.

Spend a few moments analyzing your work day. Did you experience any “Catch-up Time”? Make a mental note to take advantage of this valuable time when it next appears.

Much like an exercise program, this process will soon become habit. Whenever a block of time opens up, you will use it to knock off some tasks. The result? A more efficient and productive day, and more free time outside of work. And all because you followed a sound, disciplined time management program.

For another tip on how to manage your time, see “Time management tip: use an agenda.”

What techniques do you use to get a handle on your day? Feel free to share them with my readers by commenting below. And if you liked this column, could I ask you to share it with others? Just select from the buttons below. Thanks!

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Tom Fuszard, content writer, blog writing, pr writing, web copy



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