Time-Management Tips to Boost Your Productivity
Learn how to manage your time at work and meet your deadlines.
Feel in over your head with your to-do list? Learning some valuable time-management tips can save you a headache (and missed deadlines) in the long run. For many people, managing a slew of tasks is just part of the typical workday. But happens when a coworker calls out sick and you're asked to pick up the slack? What about urgent assignments suddenly put in your queue? You're already striving to meet tight deadlines!
Time-management is the process of prioritizing your tasks and efficiently dividing your time among them. It's not about working harder, it's about working smarter. When you learn how to manage your time—and it is a skill you can learn—you might find that it's easier to meet deadlines, provide higher-quality output, and feel more in control of your work.
7 Actionable Time-Management Tips
You never know when the unexpected will occur at work, but try testing some of the below time-management tips when you're not overwhelmed so you can really practice them, discover where you need improvement, and find which strategies work for you. This can help you build effective time-management habits that can increase your productivity during a crunch.
1. Evaluate How You Currently Spend Your Time
Your time-management plan should always start with an audit. To find out where your time is going, try keeping a log of your tasks and daily activities. Time tracking will allow you to determine how much you can accomplish in day. It will also give you an idea of which activities you can spend less time on to boost productivity. When you evaluate where your time is currently going, you'll be able to implement the remaining time-management tips more efficiently.
2. Plan Your Day Ahead of Time
Create accountability for yourself by starting each day with a to-do list. Not only is it a great way to manage your time efficiently, you'll also be less likely to forget about certain tasks or procrastinate. Put your most urgent tasks first on the list and determine how much you'll realistically accomplish throughout the day.
3. Be Distraction-Free
Whether you're working in the office or from home, avoiding distractions—be it small talk with a coworker or a ding sound from your cellphone—is one of the most critical time-management tips to consider.
To help you stay focused, try these six ways to avoid distractions at work:
- Shut your door if you have one. If not, consider using noise-cancelling headphones.
- Make a schedule of your time and tasks.
- Put away or shut off your mobile device.
- Consider moving your workspace to a less distracting location.
- Only check your email periodically.
- Consider starting your day earlier or staying later.
4. Learn to Say No
When you're swamped with tasks, there are some instances where you can't realistically meet every deadline. Check your to-do list. Is it completely maxed out? Do you have other deadlines that must be met first? Don't be afraid to say no or ask for help from a coworker if you don't think you can complete it on time. Just make sure you have a good reason and can communicate it to your supervisor and coworkers.
5. Prioritize Your Tasks
So, you created a to-do list. You've received help from coworkers on meeting your deadlines. But you're still scrambling. Now what?
To keep your workflow moving efficiently, consider prioritizing your tasks. You can accomplish this by keeping similar tasks batched together and focusing on the ones with the closest deadlines first. Try using the four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix. These include:
- Important tasks with the most urgent deadlines.
- Important (but not urgent) tasks that you can work on later.
- Urgent (but less important) tasks that can be delegated to others.
- Tasks that aren't urgent or important that you can do when you have the time.
If you don't have any firm deadlines, take a look at the tasks on your to-do list and set reasonable completion goals for each. This will help you focus on one task at a time and allocate your focus into meeting your deadline.
6. Try Using Time-Management Tools
Working consistently and meeting deadlines can lead to burnout. If you're overworking yourself, you might find that you're less productive in the long run. That's why it's important to balance maximum focus with periodic breaks. Time-management software isn't a requirement for staying productive, but it can help tremendously by allowing you to easily track your time during and between tasks, create schedules, build in break-time, and set deadlines.
Some time-management tools worth considering include:
Want something less high-tech? Try using the Pomodoro Method, which involves working diligently on a task for 25 minutes, then taking a five-minute break. Repeat the process throughout the day and see if you notice an improvement in your productivity and performance.
7. Save Your Intensive Tasks for When You're Mentally Fresh
Some tasks can be more taxing than others. In addition to some of the above time-management tips, you can avoid burnout by starting your day with more intensive tasks and saving the easier ones for later. For example, if you're writing a 1,200-word article that requires research, consider starting it first thing in the morning. As the day progresses, work on the smaller tasks that require less focus.
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