If you are stressed with an ever-growing to-do list, it might be tempting to throw up your hands and surrender to the demands of your work. Some simple time management tools could help you deal with your overwhelm if you have never thought of yourself as someone who needs such a system. Fear not. You don’t need to invest in a fancy computer program, folders, or binders. Instead, you can start with some simple tricks that might give you just enough margin to get more done.
Begin with a sense of where things break down for you. Do you not know what to focus on? Do you have too many interruptions? Then, study your habits and consider asking your boss or colleagues for their observations.
Think about the times of the day that you find yourself to be most productive. Some people are most motivated to tackle complex tasks early in the morning. These are the people who get up at 5 or 6 am and are ready to get to work. Others are at their best once they get to work at 8 or 9 am. While many people feel sluggish after lunch, some prefer on their most important projects in the afternoon. Others like evenings or late nights. Unfortunately, there is no research which will tell you what time of the day is best for everyone. Each person is different.
Next, you want to guard your time like it is a valuable currency. This is especially true if you have problems with distraction. For example, suppose you spend 40 hours a week at work but find yourself spending too many hours in unnecessary meetings, handling unimportant emails, or phone calls. In that case, you are not using your precious time efficiently. Keep track of how you spend your day in a time log for a week or two and see if you can identify any patterns. Depending on how much flexibility you have, a solution to this problem might require intervention from your boss.
View the work you need to do today as a part of longer-term strategies. Often smaller tasks are crucial to the accomplishment of a larger goal or task. If your smaller tasks are ‘administrivia,’ you may need to reconsider which tasks receive the most significant amount of your attention.
Make sure you have a to-do list that you regularly update. Unfortunately, too many people trust their brains to track tasks.
Rely on your calendar to schedule your appointments and set aside time for working on important projects.
There are many ways to refine a time management system to make it work for you. But take small steps at the beginning. Once you see some progress, you will be ready to take additional steps towards being a time management guru.