You can’t change the number of hours there are in a day – but you can influence how you manage your time. These ten top tips provide practical advice for getting the most out of the hours you spend at work.
1.Analyse how you spend your time
Being aware of how you spend your time is a crucial aspect of time management. Try keeping an activity log for a week to record how you spend your time at work. Review your activities and reflect on how effectively you managed your time that week. What worked well, and what might wish to do differently in the future? Were there activities you could have spent less time on, or tasks you could have delegated to others?
2. Make time for planning
Set aside time to consider what your objectives are and how much time you’ll need to achieve them. You’ll probably need to factor in some contingency time for the unexpected. It’s important to review your plans regularly, as your objectives and/or timescales may change. Depending on the pace at which you work, you may need to review your plan daily, every two or three days, or weekly.
3. Be organised
There is an important distinction between being tidy and being organised. Simply having items arranged neatly on your desk or computer will not save you time if you are still can’t find what you need quickly. A logical filing system with clear labelling will often be enough to cut down the amount of time you spend searching for documents and information.
4. Keep a to-do list
There are many approaches to to-do lists and it’s important that you find one that works for you. Some people have many lists – one for each project they work on, for example – while others may prefer to have a single one that they produce at the start or end of each working day.
Whether your use a particular prioritisation technique or simply rank your work in terms of how important it is, prioritisation helps you to focus on what is really important. When you receive a new piece of work, prioritise it against your existing workload and incorporate it into your plans accordingly.
6. Understand your work habits
Everyone has a natural rhythm to their working day. Some people may work at their best in the morning, others in the afternoon. If you have the opportunity to decide when you carry out certain tasks, make sure you plan to tackle those that require the most effort in the part of the day in which you are most effective.
7. Set timescales for all your tasks
Sometimes work might come to you without a specific deadline – this is often work that isn’t urgent but it may be important in the long-term. To make sure these types of tasks are addressed promptly, prioritise them and set your own deadlines for their completion.
8. Delegate what you can
Consider the activities that you carry out regularly and identify those that do not require your individual set of skills or your level of authority. Once you have done this, choose the most appropriate person to delegate to, and brief them fully about the work and its timescales.
9. Be selective about the meetings you attend
Consider the regular meetings you currently attend: is there a team member who might benefit from the opportunity of attending the meeting in your place? Alternatively, if only certain elements of the meeting are relevant to you, perhaps you could arrange for this information to be communicated at the start of the meeting and quietly excuse yourself from the rest. If you or a colleague don’t need to be there in person, request a copy of the minutes to be forwarded to you afterwards.
10. Keep interruptions to a minimum
Taking a few of the following measures can help you minimise distractions and interruptions if you are trying to concentrate on something specific:
- Turn off email notifications and check your inbox every couple of hours instead. Use your ‘out of office’ to reply to incoming messages if necessary, stating that you will respond to their messages when you are available.
- Switch off instant messenger services.
- Record a voicemail message on your desk phone or mobile phone, advising you will return calls later that day. You might also want to provide an alternative number (e.g. a colleague’s direct line or your office switchboard) for people to use if the call is urgent.
- Opt out of receiving email notifications and alerts from your news feed provider. Instead, check your news feed only when you have time to do so.