Time might be infinite, but it’s something we all wish we had a little more of. With only 24 hours in each day (and even less when we consider our working day), it can be easy to see our time as a limited hourglass, slipping away before we can grasp it. However, whilst we don’t have the power to slow time down, we do have the ability to manage the time we do have effectively, simply by allotting specific chunks of time to certain tasks.
The key to unlocking your most productive self at work is to consider when you feel most alert. Are you someone who feels brightest in the morning when you first get to the office, say at 8 or 9 am? Or does your energy boost during the afternoon hours? You may fall into one of these two categories, or perhaps even somewhere in the middle. Once you’ve narrowed down your most productive hours, managing your time effectively suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. And here’s how you can do it:
Map out your week
So, it’s Monday morning. You’ve come into the office, made your morning coffee and fired up your laptop. Make mapping out your week your first task of the day. It doesn’t have to take long, and giving yourself time to plan your week will have a really positive effect on your daily productivity. Begin by highlighting the key things you need or want to achieve this week. You might not have all the details initially, but you should have an idea of when certain pieces of work will need to be completed.
Once you have the bones of your week laid out, you can then start to identify the actions you need to take in order to achieve these tasks. Working backwards from your deadlines will help you understand when you need to start each task – from here, you can then work out the days that you will dedicate to tackling different pieces of work.
Plan your day
Now it’s time to break down your bigger picture; kick-start each morning by planning your day from morning to afternoon, and time-box your tasks. Time-boxing is a time management technique where you allocate a set amount of time to a task, and move on once your time is over. For example, try setting yourself 15 minutes at the start of your day to check and respond to emails, and then strictly move on once your time is up. We all know our priorities can change on any given day; however, by not deviating from your plan as best as you can, will help you to avoid procrastination and wasting time on menial tasks.
Consider what’s stealing your time
With all the best will in the world, it can be easy to spend more time on a task then you truly intend to. Start by thinking about your biggest distractions. Do you put too much time aside for your smaller, everyday tasks? Or are you largely distracted by emails, phone calls and instant messages? Once you have identified your biggest time-stealers, you will be able to make appropriate decisions on how long to spend on each task, and stick to it.
When time-boxing, don’t pack your tasks too closely together. Allow yourself a 5-10 minute gap in between tasks to decompress, grab a coffee and get your head ready to take on your next task.
Choose your moments wisely
In any given day, it can be quite rare to have large periods of time where you’re left at your desk, uninterrupted. You may have meetings booked or phone calls arranged which means your time to work on specific projects is divided across the day.
Break your work down into manageable actions, give yourself a rough estimate of how long the task should take to complete, and slot these into your day appropriately. For example, if you only have a short 30 minutes free between meetings, use this time to complete a small task on your list. Save your biggest challenges for when you have a couple of hours spare to truly concentrate and delve deep into your work. By assessing the most fruitful times of your day and planning what to work on and when, you will start to truly get the most of every hour in your working week.