Here are wise words from author and famed management consultant Peter Drucker: “Until we manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Indeed, time is of the essence, and we only ever have a finite amount of it to do everything we’ve set out to do. Managing time can prove especially difficult in an office setting, because one is expected to carry out different tasks, meet different deadlines, and juggle different sets of expectations. Good time management involves being aware of the time and resources that you have—as well as being considerate of others’.
What are some “office hacks” that you can employ to achieve better time management skills? Try these at work, and see just how effective they can be for you!
1. When in doubt, revisit the Eisenhower Matrix. The Eisenhower matrix is a time management tool featured in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s method of implementing tough decisions during his time as a US army general, as well as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces. You can adapt Eisenhower’s strategy for your own time management skills by sorting each task as follows:
a. If your task is both important and urgent, you should do it immediately;
b. If your task is important but not urgent, you should make plans to do it;
c. If your task is not important to you but urgent nevertheless, you should delegate it to someone else, and;
d. If your task is neither important nor urgent, do away with it immediately and refocus your time and energy on priority tasks.
2. Start the day with a plan. This can be as simple as getting a piece of paper and writing down one to three things you hope to achieve before you go home. By planning beforehand, you’ll be grounding your efforts for the day and making sure that you’ll use your time on things that are important.
3. Limit the number of decisions you need to make per day. Bear in mind that the more big decisions you’ll have to make in a day, the more time you’ll consume—plus the more tired you’ll be. If you can help it, center your efforts on just a few goals. For example, securing a favorable response from one client, and then delivering good input at a meeting.
4. Track how much time each task takes up and commit to improving from there. In spite of your best efforts, there will be times that you’ll take longer than necessary to complete a task. When this happens, ask yourself what caused the delay. Did the meeting run on longer than it was supposed to because people got carried away with small talk? Did it take longer for you to find an official document because your work area was messy? Acknowledge those little mistakes, and do what you can, so that you’ll be much faster next time.
5. Cluster similar tasks together. When you’re in the mindset to complete one kind of task, you’re likely going to be able to complete others that are immediately related to it. Assign an hour to clearing all the work for one particular project or event, or you can visit two neighboring departments instead of just one if you’ll need to engage with the other in the near future.
6. Take breaks. Although breaks may seem antithetical to being productive in the office, they’re actually quite necessary for your daily time management skills. They’re what keep you relaxed, refreshed, and better prepared to face your tasks with renewed energy. Do allot time in your daily schedule for short five- to fifteen-minute breaks, during which you can rest your eyes, do a little stretching, or eat a healthy snack.
7. Say no to distractions and unreasonable demands. These are likely the two greatest obstructions to your time management skills. Build the discipline to put off social media time or chitchat with your officemates until after you finish your set tasks. In addition, try to develop both the honesty and the foresight to say “no, I can’t” to overly tight deadlines or heavy workloads. If it’s downright impossible for you to do what’s expected, or if you’ll be extremely burdened doing it alone, negotiate for a better arrangement. Don’t put any extra time and effort into an outcome that wasn’t favorable to you from the start.
How will you know if your time management skills have upgraded from good to great? The fruits of superior time management skills will be obvious: not only will you have enough time for everything you need to do, but you’ll feel lighter and more efficient when you’re putting in the work. So best of luck improving on time management, and all other aspects of your work performance along with it!