Without a clear plan for the day ahead, it’s easy to lose focus and become preoccupied with less important, more time-consuming tasks. We’ve all had days where we stray from our To-Do Lists, but when this becomes habitual, it can impact our productivity in ways we might not even be aware of.
If you’re constantly asking yourself ‘who stole my day?’, the chances are your time management skills need improving. Instead of working into the evenings to complete tasks, learning to make the most of your time is a much healthier approach.
Although you may already practice list-making and goal setting, there’s a lot more to time management than simply ticking boxes. You need to make use of all the tools at your disposal to ensure you leave work on time and feeling good about how the day has gone.
Once you learn to master the art of effective time management, you’ll find your working and personal life remain separate, giving you more time to enjoy family activities, without unwanted distractions.
Start the day strong
Before starting work for the day, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what tasks you ‘must complete’ and which tasks are ‘to do if possible’.
Making a clear distinction between these two categories will help you remain focussed on the ‘high-payoff’ activities, rather than the smaller jobs that aren’t time-sensitive.
Instead of spending the first hour of your day responding to emails or engaging in workplace chat, it’ll give you clarity and structure if you first plan the day’s activities. Once you have established what needs to be done, you can designate your resources appropriately.
For some people, these lists may include a rough time estimate of how long each job will take, allowing you to plan your day better. However, it’s important not to be too ambitious in your estimations, as it can be demotivating if tasks take longer than expected.
The old cliché ‘if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail’ rings true when it comes to effective time management, as without a clear plan, you risk losing crucial hours of the day undertaking small and less important tasks.
Manage your distractions
The modern workplace often places unrealistic expectations on employees, with many people feeling pressured into responding quickly to emails or stopping mid-task to attend meetings or assist colleagues.
Although some of these situations are unavoidable and perhaps deserving of your immediate attention, the chances are many of them can wait until you’ve finished what you’re currently working on.
Once you have committed a set period of your day to completing a high-payoff activity, it’s important that you stick to this and don’t become distracted midway through the process, as this will be counter-productive and disrupt your schedule.
This also applies to email correspondence. Not every email you receive requires an immediate response and the sender won’t necessarily expect this either. Instead, dedicating an hour of your
day, either in the morning or afternoon, to reply to emails will help you practice better time management.
Uninterrupted time has been found to be around four times more productive than broken time, making the habit of focus and concentration hugely valuable when it comes to working on your top priorities.
These important time management practices will help you work smarter, not harder, allowing you to become more productive and feeling more fulfilled come the end of the day.