I am not someone to leave things to the last minute but I have lost count of a number of times that by the end of the week I still haven’t made it through my task list. It’s not that I procrastinate (much!) but it’s hard to get everything done. The main problem I have is that I plan my time fully and then when extra tasks come along it’s impossible to fit it all in. I still try, though!
At least I understand where I am going wrong and each week I do try to plan with a bit more flexibility so that I have some slack in the system for those urgent, unforeseen tasks. That’s one trick that I’ve learned over the years to manage my time better, and here are 7 more. So if you are in the same situation as me – too much to do and not enough time – then read on…
1. Get A System
You have to manage your project tasks and you need a system to do that. Personally, I use project management software, but a notebook and To Do list work just as well. Find something that works for you and stick to it. Record all your tasks and then you’ll know what you have to do each day. This saves me loads of time in the morning as it’s easy to see what I should be working on from the list.
2. Ditch The Clutter
My desk used to be a complete mess. But it was distracting. I’d look through one pile and think I needed to action those tasks, and then there’d be another pile of invoices and receipts to process, and another pile of articles I have torn out of magazines to read… You get the picture.
I tidied up and it has made a massive improvement to my productivity levels. Everything I need is easily accessible and I don’t get distracted by piles of papers. Clear your desk and you’ll see improvements too.
3. Don’t Schedule at 100%
You can’t work at 100% capacity, so don’t expect to. Block out time in your calendar for traveling, regular team meetings, report writing, carrying out annual performance reviews for your team and so on. These all have to be done and use up your time but by putting them on your calendar you avoid having to do the preparation for them at the last minute as you’ll see them come up and be able to plan accordingly. Don’t forget to put all your vacation days and national holidays on there too or you’ll end up trying to schedule meetings for when you are out of the office!
4. Share Your Calendar
There are several things here that have helped me. First, I make sure that my family also have access to my work calendar. After all, the split between work and home has got very blurry in many jobs over the past 10 years, and it’s important for everyone in my life to know if I am traveling for work or having to stay overnight somewhere. This helps them plan their time too.
Second, I make sure that my smartphone and laptop calendars have the same information. It’s really annoying when I’m in a meeting and someone wants to schedule a follow-up and I don’t have the complete view of hand. In the past, I have said yes and then found out I have double booked myself – not good. Sync your devices and you’ll never be without your schedule, even if you don’t have your laptop powered up.
5. Minimize interruptions
You’ve probably heard this one before but do you actually do it? When someone turns up at your desk for a chat, answer their question and then send them away! If you are busy, you don’t want to spend 20 minutes making small talk. Of course, there might be some exceptions to that if, for example, the person stopping by is the CEO, but generally you can cut out a lot of wasted time in the day by minimizing interruptions. When I’m really busy I even screen calls as unknown numbers tend to be unsolicited sales calls and these can take up a lot of time.
6. Break Those Habits
I also enlist the help of my family when it comes to working weekends and evenings. They are under strict instructions to stop me! There is no incentive to manage my time better in the week if I am in the habit of carrying on working late into the night or on the weekends. Sometimes projects do require extra hours, especially towards the end when you are implementing your new solution, but generally, you should be able to keep your work to ‘work time’.
Look at your habits and see which ones you should drop. Don’t, for example, copy the Sales Director just because she stays late every night. You don’t know the reason for that, so don’t mimic the behaviors of others if it is not appropriate for you.
7. Say No!
You don’t have to take on extra tasks in many cases. Sometimes people are just looking for someone else to dump on, so don’t volunteer for extra work unless you know you can definitely meet the commitments without overstretching yourself.
If your boss or project sponsor asks you to do something extra, ask them which of your current tasks you should drop to make time for the new work. Get them to help with prioritizing your workload so you can clearly establish where you should be spending your time.
These are tips that have worked for me – hopefully, they will do the same for you!
Another tip is to use great project management software like Touchbase. The online task lists help keep you on top of all your project work and the alert feature ensures you’ll never forget a deadline ever again! With everything in one place, you’ll save loads of time searching for documents. It really is the best way to get (and stay) organized.