Developing time management skills in the workplace is a journey
that needs practice and guidance along the way.
Blocks of time and breaks
As your work day begins and your schedule/calendar is set, develop and plan for, blocks of project time in a typical week. Blocks ideally are around 50 minutes, but perhaps you become restless after only 30 minutes? Some difficult material may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your blocks if necessary—but don’t forget to return to the task at hand! What you do during your break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. For example, place blocks of time during your day when you are most productive: are you more likely to have heightened focus early or late in your workday?
Minimize distractions under your control
Where possible, control over your immediate work environment
can be crucial, effective and productive.
Clutter: A cluttered office can increase stress and be the result of delayed decision making.
Determine a place free from distraction (no cell phone or text messaging!) where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that friends or hobbies can bring!
You should also have a back-up space that you can escape to, like a library, departmental study center, even a coffee shop where you can be anonymous. A change of venue may also bring extra resources.
What is the best work space you can think of? What is another?
Weekly reviews and updates are also an important strategy. Each week, review your assignments, your notes, your calendar. Be mindful that as deadlines approach, your weekly routine must adapt to them!
What is the best time in a week you can review?
Prioritize your assignments
When beginning your workday, get in the habit of starting with the most difficult subject or task. You’ll be fresh, and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. Colleagues, clients and customers (even bosses!) are also less likely to interrupt you at the beginning of your workday.
For more challenging projects, try to be flexible: for example, build in “reaction time” when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.
What topic or procedure has always caused you problems?
Achieve “stage one”–get something done!
The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process.
Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment.
Another adage is that “perfection is the enemy of good”, especially when it prevents you from starting! Given that you build in review, roughly draft your idea and get going!
You will have time to edit and develop later.
What is a first step you can identify for an assignment to get yourself started?
Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!
Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until a project stage is finished!
This can be the most difficult challenge of time management.
Learn to say “later”…
As workers we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of a deadline, meeting, or review, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying “no” learn to say “later”.
What is one distraction that interferes with your work flow? How can you effectively manage it?
If possible and permitted, minimize external distractions and improve concentration by relocating to an empty meeting room, closing a door, using headsets, ignoring in-coming telephone calls and email, etc. In your workspace, if colleagues interrupt, deal with the matter courteously and efficiently and excuse yourself to return to your task at hand. If in a meeting, it is crucial and respectful to stop any extraneous computing, reading, emailing, etc.
Identify resources to help you
Are there colleagues with special expertise?
How experienced is your supervisor?
What does the Internet provide? Are there specialists in the library that can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve problems.
Write down three examples for that difficult subject above?
Be as specific as possible.
Use your “free time” wisely
Think of times when you can accomplish “bits” as when going to a meeting, waiting on an associate, etc. Perhaps you’ve got notes to review?
Review notes and readings just before meetings
This may prompt a question or two about something you don’t quite understand, to ask about, or after. It also demonstrates that you are interested and have prepared.
Review meeting notes just after
The first 24 hours are critical. Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review!
How would you do this?
Create a simple “To Do” list
This simple program will help you identify a few items, the reason for doing them, a timeline for getting them done, and then printing this simple list and posting it for reminders.
Write down appointments, meetings and deadlines on a chronological log book or chart.
If you are more visual, sketch out your schedule
First thing in the morning, check what’s ahead for the day
always go to sleep knowing you’re prepared for tomorrow
Long term planner
Use a monthly chart so that you can plan ahead.
Long term planners will also serve as a reminder to constructively plan time for yourself