Time Management Tips – A Guide for Staying on Top of Your Never Ending To Do List
Most of us have now been back at work for three weeks, and some of you will attest that organising the stock pile of emails and tasks that were on your desk on the 8th of January hasn’t been easy. Some of you would even admit that your boss probably had to ask you at some point in the last 2 weeks if you finished that ‘thing’ you had to do and you had no idea what they were talking about because you forgot to write it down and schedule it in. Am I right?
Now I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, so that’s not what I am suggestion you do. However, in order for you to progress as an individual and in your professional career, it’s time you got organised, and 2018 is the year you’re going to do it!
Last year as a full-time university student, who also undertook a self-assisted online diploma whilst living out of home, commuting to my job in Mosman and working weekends at a local café, not to mention my volunteer role with Take 3 as the WHS Officer… my only choice was to adopt efficient time management skills of my own if I wanted to have a successful career, family life, save for a house and travel. Now, what I write in this blog doesn’t have to be gospel, but if my current position in life is anything to go by, it has definitely worked for me!
Declutter your desk, your inbox, your friends, your task lists… and your life for that matter. A messy desk or workspace leads to procrastination, and the perfect opportunity for you to lose important notes or documents. Start by completely clearing your work space, and only adding the things you need, keeping it very minimalist. A laptop, note pad, pen, phone and a glass of water. Organise everything else and file it away. While you’re at it, add a bit of greenery, perhaps a succulent or peace lily to clear the air and give you something to look at when you’re thinking.
Declutter that daunting inbox. Delete or archive old emails, and organise your inbox into folders. I do this by name. All my emails from Kevin go in my Kevin folder, all my Lee emails, go in my lee folder, and anything personal (bills, accommodation bookings, flights) go into my personal folder.
Declutter your friends. Yes, I said it. It’s time to reduce the time you spend with Darren, your longest friend from primary school that spends his weekends at the pub, sitting on the pokies, is married to his 3rd wife, and the only thing you have in common is the fact that you had the same teacher in year 3. It’s time to move on, and start surrounding yourself with likeminded people, or the types of people you aspire to be like. As the saying goes, “you are who you mix with”. Brutal, right? But trust me, the moment you do, it will be like a breath of fresh air.
Declutter you’re your task list. That to-do list keeps on building, and now it’s time to go through and prioritise those tasks. This is where your email calendar comes in really handy. Start using your calendar to schedule your tasks in and set timeframes, a due date and reminders for each task. What’s great about this, through shared calendars, your colleagues will be able to see where you are up to with your tasks, and can book appointments around these times so they don’t clash with your schedule. That brings me to my next point…
Plan out your day…and at the end of the day, the tasks you didn’t complete go into tomorrow’s plan. When you get into work, plan your day and stick to it. Write your to-do list and check things off as you go. A great app that I find extremely helpful for this is Trello. Here I can create notes and to-do lists, and I can also invite my team members to certain tasks or to my entire board so they can see how I am progressing.
Once you have written your list, it’s time to prioritise those tasks. In Trello, I create my to-do list, and once I have, I can then move the tasks in order of priority. I then go down the list and simply tick them off as I go. You can also set a due date for your tasks and set reminders to keep yourself on track.
4. Use your time wisely
Long hours don’t necessarily equate to maximum productivity. During the working day, you are most likely only efficient for 70% of that time. Pay attention to the times of day where you are most effective, and the times where you’re eyes start to glaze over. Once you start to see a pattern, this will help when scheduling in your tasks. I find I am most productive first thing in the morning. So, this is when I do the tasks that require focus and creativity, such as blog writing or creating and designing our social media posts. At around 4 O’clock I start to notice a drop in my energy, so this is the time when I go through my emails, do my daily training modules and plan my tasks for the following day. It is also best to schedule in business meetings during the times where you are most efficient.
5. Remove distractions
Remove distractions that are likely to lead to procrastination. We’ve all opened our phones to complete something, and 10 minutes in you’re at the bottom of Kylie Jenner’s Instagram feed and clicking on a link to download the ‘Hi Smile’ teeth whitening kit, and you’ve completely forgotten the reason you were ever on your phone in the first place. Right? So, unless you work in digital marketing, I can’t see any other reason for why you would need to profusely check social media (what a great excuse I have to always be on my phone!), so it’s time to turn off the notifications during the times you are working on your task list. If you are easily distracted (millennials, that’s you!), think about turning off email notifications and other apps such as snapchat, Facebook etc., or setting your status to ‘away’ so people can see that you are busy. If people need to get a hold of you, they will call!
6. Start batching your tasks
Batching is when you group similar tasks after the other. If you need to create multiple Instagram post designs, do them at the same time. If you need to write 2 blogs, schedule them in after the other while you’re on a creative writing role! And during these time blocks, turn off any distractions. When you batch tasks, you will get on a role, and when you do… keep going, because every time you are distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus! I also recommend batching errands, meetings, personal appointments and chores together.
I hope that helps you get on track for 2018.