If you want to get things done, you need to be organised. We’ve all been there, with deadlines looming and just too much to do. So, to keep on top of our priorities and to be productive, organisation is key.
Here we offer our top tips on how to manage your time more effectively and eliminate those distractions that are the bane to productivity. Enjoy!
1. Stop – If you want to get organised and be more effective, take the time to stop and think. We spend most of our time being busy, so we don’t give ourselves time and space to think carefully about what really needs to be a priority and to then plan how to do it most effectively.
A good question to start your reflection off with is “what is my purpose?” This might sound like a really big question, but considering what your main purpose in life or work is will help you to prioritise what should be done first. Once you know what you are really supposed to do, it’s a lot easier to focus on that and make sure all your actions are driving towards achieving this goal.
2. Urgent or important? – How often have you had a really busy day but at the end of it you haven’t achieved anything you set out to do? Steven Covey’s time management quadrant can help you to analyse where your time is going. Are you spending your time firefighting in quadrant one, or are other people stealing your time to achieve their goals (quadrant three).
3. Divide and conquer – When thinking about all the things you need to get done, it’s easiest to assess how much time you have available and then divide that across your most important tasks. You may have to accept that you won’t get everything done, but allocating quality time to each project or task will move things forward. It might also help you to assess what you need to do yourself and what you can pass on to others, which brings us to the next tip.
4. Delegate – The old phrase “if you want something doing, do it yourself” really doesn’t help anybody. Not only do you end up overloaded with tasks, but you also prevent others in your team from developing.
Delegating tasks to others not only will keep you focused on what YOU should be doing, but it gives your team members the chance to learn new skills and competencies, which will move their career forward. Of course, delegation must be done right to be effective; you must make sure you aren’t just dumping jobs on others, but that you are clear about what you expect from the team member, what support they can expect from you, and you must be prepared to invest time in coaching them whilst they undertake the task.
Yes, this might take a little longer the first time you delegate that task. but next time you will only have to be involved with a light touch and thereafter the team member will be able to tackle the job and just report back to you on completion. It’s a win-win solution.
5. Turn off your emails or IM – Nobody expects you to respond to emails within minutes of receiving them. A good habit to get into is checking your emails just two or three times a day. This will stop you getting dragged away from important tasks to deal with “urgent” matters. If it’s really urgent, the sender will call you.
If you work in a culture where quick responses are the norm then you might consider adding an auto reply, which tells people that you check your emails at 10 am, 2 pm and 5 pm, and if their message is more urgent, to contact you by phone.
It’s also good to have some rules when dealing with emails – I have four categories: Do it, Defer it, Delegate it and Delete it.
Basically, if you can do it quickly and get rid of the email then take action straight away. If it’s something which is going to take longer or needs more time then defer – but book time into your diary to do it later. If it’s something you can pass to one of your team then delegate, but let all parties know this is what you have done. And if it’s really not important, delete it – it’s ruthless, but it will stop your inbox getting clogged with information you are never going to use or action.
6. Escape from your open plan office – Open plan offices are great for creating a feeling of togetherness and team working. They can also help with communication, because generally you get to know what’s going on as you are amongst it all the time.
However, they can also be the cause of lack of focus and distractions. It’s too easy for people to interrupt each other so you get distracted from your task – try booking some private space, if that’s possible, or alternatively listen to music whilst wearing headphones, and make it an office rule that the headphones mean no interruptions please!
7. Regular breaks – It’s tempting to just plough on if you have lots to do and too little time to do it. But taking regular breaks will make you more productive. You can read this article from the Huffington Post to better understand the science that backs this up.
8. Keep a diary – It’s obvious really, but so many of us don’t use our diaries effectively. The key for me is to make sure I schedule time to work on my own, as well as time for meetings and working with others. This means that when people check my calendar to see when they can fit something extra in there, they get a true picture of my workload instead of seeing lots of gaps.
9. Work from home one day a week – Not all employers allow home working, but those who do recognise that not only do employees get more done when working at home, they also feel more trusted and valued. Taking the travel time and stress out of your day is a big bonus, and knowing that your boss trusts you to get on with the job even when not in the office can be a real confidence booster.
10. Make lists – I love a good list! Lists might seem tedious, but they are a great way to look at exactly what you need to get done and to prioritise your time accordingly. Make a list at the end of each day to be clear about what is left to do tomorrow and you can leave work knowing that you have things in order and that you don’t have to think about it overnight – leaving you with a clear head to enjoy your time. And it feels great when you can cross off the jobs that are completed. If it helps, there are plenty of attractive journals, notebooks and even desk pads on the market.
So, there you have it. Ten of our best top tips to better organise your time and resources. We hope this advice resonates with all those struggling to manage their hectic schedules, while following these steps can be an excellent starter for anyone hoping to develop a better work-life balance.
You can find out more about the importance of developing coping mechanisms against the stresses and pressures of work by reading our recent blog ‘Bolstering mental toughness: A How-to Guide‘.
- Sarah Cave, Director and Head of Leadership at Primeast