Time management is one of those skills no one teaches you in school but you have to learn. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you can’t organize information well enough to take it in. And it doesn’t matter how skilled you are if procrastination keeps you from getting your work done.
In today’s workplace environment, you can differentiate yourself by your ability to handle information and manage your time. “Careers are made or broken by the soft skills that make you able to handle a very large workload.” So here are some key 10 tips to make you better at managing your work:
1. Don’t leave email sitting in your inbox: “The ability to quickly process and synthesize information and turn it into actions is one of the most emergent skills of the professional world today”. Organize email in file folders.
If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If it is for reference, print it out. If it is a meeting, move it to your calendar. “One thing young people are really good at is only touching things once.
You don’t see young people scrolling up and down their email pretending to work”. Take action on an email as soon as you read it.
2. Admit multitasking is bad: For people who didn’t grow up watching TV, typing out instant messages and doing homework all at the same time, multitasking is deadly.
But it decreases everyone’s productivity, no matter who they are. “A 20-year-old is less likely to feel overwhelmed by demands to multitask, but young people still have a loss of productivity from multitasking”.
3. Do the most important thing first: This is often called “running a morning dash”. When one sits down to work in the morning, before she/he checks any email, she/he spends an hour on the most important thing on her/his to-do list.
This is a great idea because even if you can’t get the whole thing done in an hour, you will be much more likely to go back to it once you’ve gotten it started. She/he points out that this dash works best if you organize the night before so when you sit down to work you already know what your most important task of the day is.
4. Check your email on a schedule: “It is not effective to read and answer every email as it arrives. Just because someone can contact you immediately does not mean that you have to respond to them immediately”.
People want a predictable response, not an immediate response.” So as long as people know how long to expect an answer to take and they know how to reach you in an emergency, you can answer most types of email just a few times a day.
5. Keep website addresses organized: Use book marking services like delicious to keep track of websites. Instead of having random notes about places you want to check out, places you want to keep as a reference, etc., you can save them all in one place, and you can search and share your list easily.
6. Know when you work best: Industrial designers do consulting work, so they can do it any time of day. But, most he says, “they try to schedule things so that they work in the morning, when they are the most productive.” Each person has a best time.
You can discover yours by monitoring your productivity over a period of time. Then you need to manage your schedule to keep your best time free for your most important work.
7. Think about key strokes: If you are on a computer all day, keystrokes matter because efficiency matters. “On any given day, an information worker will do at least a dozen Google searchers”. “How many keystrokes does it take? Can you reduce it to three? You might save ten seconds, but over time, that builds up.”
8. Make it easy to get started: We don’t have problems finishing projects, we have problems starting them. Experts recommend you “make a shallow on-ramp.” Better we know the key creating this on ramp: “We try to break our own projects into chunks, so we are not overwhelmed by them.”
9. Organize your to-do list every day: If you don’t know what you should be doing, how can you manage your time to do it? Some people like writing this list out by hand because it shows commitment to each item if you are willing to rewrite it each day until it gets done.
Other people like software that can slice and dice their to-do list into manageable, relevant chunks. For example, Beene uses a because when he goes to a client site the task toy shows him only his to do items for that client, and not all his other projects.
10. Dare to be slow: Remember that a good time manager actually responds to some things more slowly than a bad time manager would. For example, someone who is doing the highest priority task is probably not answering incoming emails while they are doing it.
As experts often say and write: “Obviously there are more important tasks than processing email. Intuitively, we all know this. What we need to do now is recognize that processing one’s work (evaluating what has come in and how to handle it) and planning one’s work are also mission-critical tasks.”