Career Development

How to Manage Time Better and Increase Productivity

Time management is the process of planning and scheduling your workload to ensure that everything is completed on time and to the required standard. For some, this means meeting strict deadlines and working to timeframes with minimal flexibility. For others, time management can be a more reactive process of prioritizing and dealing with issues as they arise.

Whatever your situation, time management is the key to productivity. If you can avoid having to work late to get through your to-do list, then you will achieve a healthier work-life balance and be much better equipped to achieve both your personal and professional goals.

How to improve time management

Work out how to manage your time more efficiently with some of these steps to make yourself more productive:

1. Firstly, audit yourself 

The first thing to do when tackling your time management is to know where your time goes. Conduct a time audit to get an accurate picture of how long you spend on each task. There are apps that can help you to track the time you spend doing various jobs which will give you a realistic picture. It is easy to under-estimate how long you spend on certain activities, so having a black and white account of your day can be a really useful tool to help you understand your working patterns.

2. Secondly, assess your time audit 

Once you know what you are spending your time on, you can assess whether or not you are using your time effectively. You may have thought that spending ten minutes checking your email was a good way to start the day, but if it turns into twenty while you have a deadline looming, then you need to revisit your strategy.

3. Thirdly, make a list

This could be a to-do list, a list of jobs that need completing as part of another project or a collaborative list that shows ownership of tasks shared between a team. 

4. Fourth, prioritize tasks effectively

Some tasks will be more urgent than others, some might require input from a colleague or external contact, and some might be easier to do at certain times of the day. Work out the best way to tackle the most urgent jobs and get started.

5. Fifth, give yourself time limits

A job can stretch to fill the time available if you let it, so set yourself a limit and stick to it. Be realistic about how long things should take and prioritize the tasks you can complete within the time you have available.

6. Sixth, get what you need

If you’ve scheduled a task that requires input from another team member, contact them first so that they have a chance to get back to you with the information you need and avoid wasting time once you have started.

7. Seventh, delegate and automate when possible

If you implement all these ideas and still regularly find yourself with too much to do, then see if you can delegate some of your tasks to someone else. Some repetitive tasks, such as running reports, populating letter templates or generating invoices can be automated if you have the systems in place to allow it. 

The best ways to manage your time better

You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can use the time you have to achieve more if you follow these tips:

Plan your day in advance

If you know you are going to have a busy day, then make things easier for yourself by getting a good night’s sleep so that you can start work early and give yourself more time to get everything done.

Manage expectations

When you are agreeing to deadlines or timescales for projects, be realistic about the work involved. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than miss a deadline and make yourself look unreliable. 

Don’t get stuck

Don’t waste time staring at your screen waiting for inspiration to hit if you’re struggling to get an idea down. Either move on to the next element of the job and come back to the tricky part or move on to something else entirely to re-focus your mind so that you can come back to it later when you have had a chance to get a new perspective on the problem.  

Know when to multitask

While it can be an effective way to get some tasks done, multitasking on a project that needs your full attention is a false time economy. Multitasking is only helpful if it allows you to maximize your time, otherwise, it’s just another way of distracting yourself from the job you’re trying to finish.

For example, if you are trying to complete a financial forecast, focus on that until you are done, and don’t be tempted to answer your phone or start looking at other reports. On the contrary, if you are trying to find the perfect image for your presentation, you can scroll through a gallery while on the phone with a supplier or while waiting for an appointment. 

Remove distractions

If you have email alerts set up, then disable them temporarily and direct your phone to voicemail while you are working on the most urgent and time-sensitive tasks. There are apps that can help you to block the internet or just certain websites and these can help to reduce the temptation to let your attention wander. They can be ideal as a short-term solution when you’re struggling to maintain focus, and they can help you to get into good habits in the long term as well. 

Say no to others

Be firm with colleagues who might come to your desk with questions or requests, and give them a time at which you will be available. It can help to set yourself up in an alternative location if you are often approached or distracted while you are at your own desk or if you are in a busy office where you can’t help hearing others.

Organize your time

Do the most urgent and important task on your list first thing in the morning. By starting with the most pressing job, you will relieve the pressure on you for the rest of the day and you will be able to devote your full attention to the next task when you move on.

By using these time management tips, you can organize your day-to-day workload more effectively and also develop more efficient habits which will help you in all aspects of your life.