7 Tips on How To Manage Your Time Effectively
“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed” - Peter Drucker.
According to McKinsey & Company time challenges influence the well-being of companies, not just individuals. This insight, by a worldwide management consulting firm, is not to be overlooked. Especially when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - the definitive framework for Workplace Health and Safely Law in the UK - found in a report in 2014/15 that 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That accounts for 40% of all work-related illness.
Much like setting new goals and pushing out of your comfort zone in the workplace, some work-related pressure can be motivating; but when it becomes excessive it can eventually lead to work-related stress. As time pressures are intensifying, we will take a breather for a short while to look at why time management is vital in the workplace; for both the worker and the place to run smoothly. And also to offer 7 tips on how to manage your time at work effectively.
Tip 1: Find out where your time goes
When Lisa Quast - a career coach, business consultant, organisational trainer and former Fortune 500 executive - is asked by her colleagues “how do you get so much work completed in a day?”, she tells them the following advice: “I schedule my workload every day.” Whilst this may seem like a waste of time in itself to some, according to Lisa it can be easy to get sidetracked at work when you don’t have clearly defined goals for what you’re trying to accomplish that day.
Try this: At the beginning of the week sit down in a quiet location for around 15 minutes and plan out the following week as best as you can. If you do not have the facilities to do this on-site (if you work for a busy NHS Trust for example), then you could dedicate the first commute of the week instead and plan it out on your smartphone - providing that you are not driving at the same time of course! Write down key projects and tasks that you need/want to accomplish. Remember to prioritise, by organising your list so that you can see the most important activities at the top, all the way down to the least important. If you are in a managerial role and already use a calendar to manage your many meetings and various ongoing projects, you could always spend a little time working on it. Schedule first the time that you will need to complete your high-priority tasks and projects that week. Then, block out time for your medium-priority and lower-priority activities.
To help you plan perfectly please see this free weekly work planner developed by the NHS London Leadership Academy. Or, if you prefer to invest some money into helping you use your time and resources more productively, then you can consider buying a Productivity Planner.
Tip 2: Watch where your time goes
If you find yourself appointed a task where you already know that you are likely to get distracted and spend longer than you want to on it; take off your watch and put it on the desk. Make sure to note what time you started that particular activity, as well as how long you intend to spend on it. Remember to check back in regularly on the passing of time. Another, more high-tech way to do this is to set Outlook Mail Alerts, which will tell you when your time allocation period is finished. Or, if you are allowed your mobile phone within reach then you can set an alarm there. Remember that it is always best to have the phone on ‘vibrate’ mode, so as not to let the sound disturb the people in your vicinity.
Tip 3: Feel where your time goes
Jenny Rogers - an executive coach and director of Management Futures - has the following advice: NHS managers, if your time is being wasted on pointless chores, bin the boring bits and limit the endless meetings. There can be a dispiriting sense of time wasting in many large organisations, and the health service industry is no different. For example: if you’re procrastinating on a task then ask yourself why you are procrastinating? Are you intimidated by the work, or simply confused by it? Is it too difficult, too easy, or too boring? Knowing why you feel the way that you do regarding certain daily, or weekly tasks, can help you to speed up, or slow down even, and produce the best quality work whilst staying more consciously aware of your time throughout the day.
Tip 4: Redirect where your time goes
The CEO of LinkedIn - Jeff Weiner - acknowledges that in most large-scale organisations e-mail communication is the way of communication for many. Furthermore, when McKinsey surveyed 1,500 executives recently, they found that in the very small percentage of individuals who reported themselves as “very satisfied” with their time management (9%), less than a third of that percentage involved over-using e-mail, or other asynchronous forms of communication. To reduce your chances of declaring “email bankruptcy” establish a routine where you set aside specific times in the day to check your emails. A further tip, in the instances where the email is not urgent, is to read it, send a quick acknowledgement of receipt back to the sender (to inhibit further unnecessary emails being sent out), mark the email as “unread” and redirect it to a separate folder for later reading.
Tip 5: Delegate where your time goes
The administrative staff of the NHS provides business support to clinical and non-clinical staff, and they must be able to use their skills in time management, organisation and communication effectively. If you are in the position of having an administrator on hand then do not be concerned about delegating certain tasks to that person. If you are that person then understand that this is where your strengths need to lie. To know what, and how, to delegate, Emma Donaldson-Feilder - a chartered occupational psychologist - talks about ‘‘The Eisenhower Matrix’’, which asks that tasks be grouped into four categories:
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent but important
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
Individuals with stronger time management skills concentrate on “urgent and important” tasks, whilst delegating “not urgent but important" activities to a trusted member of staff. In doing so they lower the chances of too much work becoming "urgent and important”, and leaving the individual in question unable to dedicate the finite resources that they have as effectively. Additionally, McKinsey state that out of the individuals in their survey who deemed themselves effective time managers; 85 % reported that they received high-quality administrative support for scheduling and allocating their time.
Tip 6: Practice where your time goes
It is essential to practice not answering the phone every time that it rings, and again: not reading e-mails when they (seemingly) instantly pop up. To go one step further, if you really are in a crucial time-management situation you can disconnect your mobile phoe and email for the time period required. The idea is to practice not instantly, almost automatically, giving people your attention; unless it's absolutely crucial to do so. Instead, you can schedule a time to answer those emails and return the phone calls. Furthermore, blocking out other distractions, such as Facebook and other forms of social media, is advisable; unless you need those tools to do your job effectively, or to generate further business. In instances where you are away from your desk for continued periods of time, common curtesy would denote having an automated email or voicemail response generated. This would ensure that the recipient knows enough about your circumstances to hopefully not overload you with theirs, unless necessary to do so.
Tip 7: Meet where your time goes
If you work in a large, multidisciplinary environment, such as the NHS - especially in a non-clinical role, then daily meetings may be something that you find eat away at your working time, whilst not always providing you with much in return. A top tip is prior to meetings; obtain a written agenda in advance. You can send the recipient a short, friendly email asking for the relevant information to be addressed at the meeting. Once reviewed you may actually find that instead of attending the meeting, the issue/s in question can be solved independently. In the instances where frequently held meetings make up a large and necessary part of your working week, then consider creating a ‘meeting template’. In addition, once the meeting has drawn to a close there is “an art and science of follow up”, says the website Project Management Hacks. It is a vital professional habit to provide a follow up - via email, phone call, or face-to-face - the same day as the meeting. And by meeting your meetings head on; it is a great way to manage time, reduce stress and make a good impression on others.
Until next time, good luck with managing your time and hopefully turning the thought “I wonder how my week will be?” into “Here is what I’m going to accomplish this week.”
Written by Laura Tomlinson, Marketing Assistant at GoToJobBoard.
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