Do you feel like time is slipping away at work? Too many distractions, meetings, social media networks, and coworkers craving your attention? You’re not alone. Only 12.4% of people feel productive for more than six hours during a workday.
If you can’t change your workplace or the people around you, focus on something else you can influence - how you spend your time. All you need is a great time management plan for work, and today, we’ll help you create one with some great tips!
Track your time diligently
How do you even know how you spend time at work? What gets measured gets improved.
The first step to becoming more aware of your time at work is to measure how you spend it. With a time tracker like Timely, it’s easy to track where and how you spend your time at work, no matter what you do. Mobile, tablet, PC, you name it.
The biggest benefit to time tracking is finding out your time suckers. You may believe that you’re super efficient and clearing out your task list every day, but you can see that a certain type of task is draining your time.
The second advantage is that when you know the average time it takes to complete a task, you can create a better plan for the future. You can structure your schedule with the time blocks allotted for different task types without worrying about blowing through your deadlines.
Create a plan and stick to it
Calendars can feel very restrictive, especially if you do not have a habit of creating them. However, it can feel very liberating to put all your meetings and obligations in one place. For one, you’ll have a clear overview of what’s ahead, and you’ll feel less stressed.
You can use your preferred calendar app, such as Google Calendar. Besides the meeting, create time slots for your most important tasks during the week while leaving some buffer room for rest periods and the occasional meeting that takes more than planned.
This is important for another time management concept — time blocking. With a plan in place, you can block and defend your time whenever someone asks you for a meeting or pulls you in a different direction. Use your plan to protect your time against unwanted meetings, tasks, and distractions.
Eat the frog as your first thing in the morning
It’s hard to track who the first person was to say this (some sources date it back to Mark Twain), but the message remains the same. If you have to eat a live frog, do it as your first task every morning. After that, everything else will seem easier in comparison.
Naturally, there aren’t many people who eat live frogs, or I would hope so. A live frog represents your toughest, biggest, meanest task, whatever that may be. Talking to your manager, delegating the tasks for the day, creating a report, or something else.
Once you finish your biggest scare for the day, everything else will feel easier and tamer in comparison. What your frog may be depends entirely on you.
Use the Pomodoro method
One of the best-known productivity hacks for time management is the Pomodoro technique. It implies using 25-minute blocks of deep work, followed by a 5-minute break from work. The idea is to set aside 25 minutes where you are completely free of any distractions, and once you’ve completed that block, you reward yourself with a 5-minute break. After a couple of Pomorodos, you take a longer break.
One thing to keep in mind is that Pomodoro has been around since the 1980s, and needless to say, many things have changed since. We have shorter time spans, with some scientists claiming that even goldfish are better in this department than u
In other words, adjust your Pomodoro time blocks to the length that suits you, be it 10, 15 or 25 minutes, followed by a break. You can set your Pomodoro timer in Timely and track your time effortlessly. You can even choose the number of Pomodoros to complete a larger task.
Not everything you do will have a groundbreaking impact on your job, the future of your team, or your company. This is why it’s essential to devote your time to those tasks that really move the needle while pushing aside everything that is not substantial.
However, determining what really matters in the workplace can be a chore. If you’re not careful, prioritization can take just as long as the tasks themselves.
That’s why it’s a good idea to use a prioritization framework. There are plenty to choose from but for one that’s simple and easy to use, look into the Eisenhower matrix. According to this framework, all tasks are classified into one of the four possible groups:
- Urgent and important
- Urgent and not important
- Not urgent and important
- Not urgent and not important
Whatever you have on your plate should be sorted into one of these four buckets. If it’s urgent and important, get on it right away. Urgent and not important? Save it for a bit later. If it’s not urgent and can wait, think about delegating it to someone else. This brings us to our next talking point.
Delegate (if you have the option)
There are many curses of being in a middle management position. Besides juggling between upper management and employees you need to manage, you need to determine who does what. And a common trap is putting too much on your plate, believing that you’re the best person for the job instead of delegating the work to someone who works for you.
Once you’ve prioritized your tasks properly, as explained in the step above, think about the things that make the most impact. One of the clear signs it’s time to delegate is if you realize that you’re spending too much time on low-impact tasks so you have no time left for the things that matter.
Before delegating, make sure to provide a clear set of instructions, set your expectations, explain the goals and timelines clearly and let the person do their job without micromanaging.
Use the Pareto principle
If you’ve been online for more than five minutes, you’re aware of the 80:20 rule, or the Pareto principle. The rule states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work you do. In other words, only a small portion of the total work that you produce drives the overall sum of your results.
The most important thing? To find out what the 20% is.
For example, you could find out that most of your business results come from referrals. Once you know this, you can focus on reaching out to your existing network and asking for referrals from them so they can reach out to friends and business partners.
While this isn’t a time management tip per se, it’s one that can save you a ton of time and effort because it allows you to focus on things that matter rather than splintering out in countless directions with no tangible results.
Focus on one task at a time
Multitasking is a great idea, in theory. You do multiple things at once, saving time and effort and you get to accomplish several things instead of just one. In practice though, it turns out that humans aren’t built for multitasking.
In fact, research shows that when we multitask, we switch contexts. And especially if we do several complex things at once, we just end up doing multiple things poorly at once rather than doing one thing properly.
So, instead of trying to write emails as you listen to a new podcast or handling your calendar as you’re in a team meeting, slow it down and do things one at a time. You may appear less productive in front of your coworkers, but the work will be done to a higher standard.
Create a daily or a weekly plan
One of the places where I worked had us map out our workload for the month ahead. An admirable goal, but in reality, things rarely played out the way we envisioned them. A month is a long time and many things can happen that make you switch your focus. The worst of all is that you’ll set goals and deadlines that you’ll end up missing.
This is why creating daily and weekly plans makes more sense. Set short-term targets within reasonable time frames and you’re more likely to be realistic with your predictions. Even more importantly, you’re more likely to crush your goals.
It’s a good idea to create these plans at the end of the week or a workday. As a new day starts, you may be swamped with emails and calls and you won’t have time to choose the goals that matter. Instead, take time at the end of a workday to reflect on what you’ve done and what you could do in the week or the day ahead of you.
Learn from Parkinson’s law
Parkinson's law states that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion." In practical terms, that means that you should be careful about setting deadlines. If you have a goal to complete (let’s say, finishing an article), the deadline that you set will be the time it takes to complete this
So, if I set a goal for myself to write this article in 8 hours, that’s exactly how long it’s going to take me to complete it. On the other hand, if I set my goal for 4 hours, I’ll still do it within the allotted time frame, albeit with fewer coffee breaks.
In short, make sure that the deadlines you set for yourself are more strict than liberal and that you give yourself a reasonable (but not overly generous) time frame to complete the work ahead of you.
Getting a grip on how you spend your time at work can massively impact not just your current workload and job, but also your career. Even if you’re exceptional at your job, it won’t matter much if you can’t manage how you spend your time. And the better you are at what you do, the more valuable your time is.
Tracking your time is the first and most crucial step towards managing it in a better way.