Time Management. It’s that ever elusive construct that each of us strive to “be better at,” particularly at the start of a new year. Few will admit they’ve mastered it, yet fewer still will openly admit that they need help. In honor of February being Time Management Month, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to help make your days a little more productive.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Perhaps you’ve heard, “anything worth doing is worth doing right,” and that’s because if you do something sloppily or half-way, you’ll likely spend even more time trying to fix it later. By taking the time to “measure” twice, double-checking anything that could go wrong, you’ll save yourself time, effort, and resources later.
Turn Off Notifications
The constant barrage of email and text notifications on our computers and phones can test even the most focused of workers. Unless you’re in sales, or something of similar urgency, there’s no reason why you can’t unplug so that you can better focus. Some people take it a step further and have pre-set times during the day for reading and responding to emails. Just think how many times that little notification has popped up on your computer and pulled you away from the task at hand? Similarly, just because your phone rings doesn’t mean that you have to answer it. Many phones, both office and cell, now feature “Do Not Disturb” settings that will send the caller straight to voicemail and when you have a break in tasks you can return calls as needed.
Meetings and conference calls can eat up your day in a hurry. There’s a lot of waiting for people to join, there’s the obligatory small talk and niceties, and often, there’s travel time involved. Plop that right in the middle of day when you’re jamming along knocking things off of your to-do list, and they can often derail your day. The solution? Allocate certain days as meeting-free days, or vice-versa so that they no longer cut into the middle of your work-flow.
No Agenda, No Attend(a)
Superfluous meetings are one of the biggest time sucks. If you feel like you’re being pulled into too many meetings that you really don’t need to participate in, or that don’t even need to be held, start requesting agendas from meeting organizers in advance. The agendas will help keep the meetings on track while also letting you see if your presence is really warranted – perhaps they just need some information you could easily email. Likewise, if you do choose to attend, be sure to take five minutes before each meeting to review any notes and focus on what you really hope to get out of the time.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
It’s easy to get hung up on details, particularly with tasks like writing and design, but it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. Everyone has opinions but it doesn’t always mean that one way is better than the other, it’s subjective. Ask yourself if it will really matter in the long run and then keep moving forward.
Finding your own peak performance schedule can often take some tweaking, particularly for traditional 9-5ers with little flexibility. If you do your best thinking after you’ve had a full pot of coffee and some lunch, plan your schedule accordingly. Use the mornings for more “housekeeping” type tasks and use the afternoons for your heavier tasks. Stop trying to force yourself to fit into a mold of what a “typical” successful person’s schedule looks like (we’re not all morning people!) and maximize your efforts by playing to your natural inclinations.