Time Management: Tips For Working Smarter – Not Harder!

Do you regularly find yourself running out of time at work or home? Do you constantly miss deadlines, or reach a point when things just aren’t getting done? Perhaps you feel the urge to complain about your workload or lack of assistance?

If this is the case, it may be that you’re overloaded, or perhaps you just need to master the art of time management. Simply put, that means using your time more effectively in order to achieve your targets.

“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.” Peter Drucker

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Here are some great tips for working smarter to achieve the results you want:  

1 Make lists

The super-efficient love lists and sometimes they have several on the go. Lists may sound like a drag, but actually they are a great release. The process of putting something onto paper or a screen essentially frees up brain space!

Whether you have a master list, or various smaller lists – it’s always worth categorising them.

Work – Prioritise urgent matters such as time-sensitive quotes, clients to ring or chasing suppliers. A sub-category might consist of less urgent quotes or other tasks that aren’t a priority.

Personal – Prioritise in the same way at home, as you do at work! Organising a party or a trip away, have an old bill to pay?

TIP! Make sure you tick things off as they are achieved – this is very rewarding! Don’t forget to re-list things that will likely re-appear, plus re-prioritise remaining and new items on the list.

2 Set Deadlines

You need to achieve something by a certain date or perhaps a certain time. This is where prioritising tasks and managing your time is truly essential – which is why we create lists! Work backwards from your objective to create a timeline.

As an example, perhaps you have staff to train and certify off-site in 4 weeks’ time. You need to communicate with staff to ensure availability on certain dates, book the course, travel and accommodation. What about project hand-overs and staff to cover their absence?  By using the list technique above and putting the sections in timeline order, it becomes a much easier task.

3 Tackle Your Least Favourite Tasks First!

Do you have a difficult phone call to make, or perhaps a tedious form to complete? Complete these tasks first thing and you’ll eliminate the art of procrastination. This will also create a sense of relief, which will allow you to focus more clearly on your working day. Delaying the inevitable could manifest itself into restlessness and even agitation, which could have a negative impact on your performance and mood.

4 Learn To Delegate

Many people do not use the resources available to them. They think they are the best people for every aspect of their job, or do not wish to burden other people with them – even if they are willing to assist. Learning to delegate frees up valuable time, which can be used more effectively. It also empowers other people, creating a feeling of value and trust. If a colleague or trainee is showing an interest in what you do, why not allow them to become involved? With a little encouragement or training, other people can allow us to work much more effectively.

5 Don’t Get Distracted

It’s very easy to be drawn into a long-winded conversation. A passing comment or observation can easily turn into a full blown session – wasting valuable time. More importantly, it knocks you ‘off your stride’ and effects concentration. It’s important to have strong working relationships and feel at ease with your colleagues. However, sometimes you need to ‘draw a line’, so don’t be afraid tell them when you need to ‘get your head down’. 

6 Work Flexible Hours

If your company offers flexible working hours, then it often pays to get in earlier or stay later – provided the role allows this. These ‘quieter’ times are great for tying up loose ends or planning the day ahead. When the phones ring less and there are fewer people around, it’s amazing how much can be achieved. This flexibility may also encourage a more balanced work-life, freeing up time and energy for yourself!

7 Take Advantage of Technology

There are many apps that will make your day easier. Anything to sharing documents through to time-tracking software, online calendars, phone reminders and cloud-based management tools.

TIP! Don’t get wrapped up in using technology for the sake of it. Do a little research, seek advice from colleagues and friends. Find what will suit your needs – it may ultimately be a trusted pad and pen!  

8 Set An Agenda For Meetings

Perhaps you manage multiple people or are responsible for meeting with suppliers. Although communication is key, accept that you simply can’t be available to everyone 24/7. Although an ‘open door’ policy is great, in practice is simply isn’t feasible without restrictions. Don’t be afraid to turn down supplier meetings, especially if they are requested at short notice. It’s also fine to postpone, delay or cut-short meetings (except for emergencies) if you have urgent matters to resolve. Adopting this approach will also encourage colleagues to work more independently.

TIP! Set an agenda and if feasible time-frame for meetings, so everyone knows what is expected of them. Don’t stray from the subject matter (aside from exchanging pleasantries)! Ensure there is a resolution or positive outcome within the agreed time frame.

9 Know When To Switch Off!

The reality is no matter how well we manage our time, there is always something else to do! Sometimes we need to work overtime or take work home, as a particular project demands this of us. This is fine, but it’s important to find a balance and learn to switch off. Working too many hours can actually be counter-productive, as it leads to lapses in concertation and energy levels. A good night’s sleep, relaxing evening with friends or even a rigorous work-out will do wonders to fire you up for the week ahead.

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