Time Management Tips for Work

How many times have you wished there were more hours in the day? More time to get things done, return those phone calls and messages, catch up on admin and be proactive. We’ve become so accustomed to operating at a frenetic pace, that sometimes we feel that anything less is unproductive. Quite the opposite.

As the years have passed and techonology has homogenised our private and personal time, the general corporate culture and pace has become one of urgency, chaos and a relentless demand on our time, focus and energy. In both our corporate and personal capacity, there is a significant learing around the benefit of saying no to superfluous tasks that impact negatively on our overall effectiveness. Obviously this doesn’t mean that genuinely urgent matters can be set aside, however we need to master when to say no to those unimportant task which creep onto our to-do-list and haemorrhage our time.

When my own to-do-list verges on impossible to manage, I examine it more closely and more often than not discover that many of the tasks belong to divisions or individuals or are issues that I have taken on. Often we do this to our detriment, partly because we have been conditioned to take control, and for some, the crippling belief that if you want a job done properly, you should do it yourself.

In my experience, the driving force behind a vast majority of urgent issues is due to a primary lack of planning and foresight.

Learn to Say No

If you struggle to escape the vacuum of urgency in business, a good place to start is to identify what is truly important and what you can say no to. If you’re not sure how to say no, or how to disseminate between what is crucial and what is secondary, hire a coach to act as a confidential, objective and non-judgemental sounding board for open and honest feedback. A coach can also ask vital questions you may not have thought about relative to your workload or response to urgent requests for help.

Learn to say no politely and constructively. Be mindful of peers routinely delegating to you. If you find it hard to say no, use your business reasons to justify your position to not assist. You could use statements such as, “I understand that this task is urgent for you, however I have planned priorities to deliver against first, for the benefit of the business. I’m happy however to agree on a realistic deadline once I’m available, rather than setting one now which I can’t meet.” Be transparent about your schedule as it validates your priorities and conditions your colleagues to working with you in a planned fashion.

Separate Urgent from Important

When faced with an urgent and unexpected request, always dig a little deeper into the stated deadlines to establish the true requirement. Often people will say they need things now when in fact, later is perfectly acceptable. While it is important to focus on daily deliverables and have your finger on the pulse, it’s also vital to have an eye on the future and evaluate how extra demands on your time will impact on you achieving goals.

Refine your ability to judge whether activities are genuinely urgent, important or critical to ensure you’re at the top of your time management game. Poor time managers tend to prioritise tasks and time according to who shouts the loudest (interestingly, loudness normally correlates to seniority, which discourages many people from questioning real importance and urgency). Interestingly the majority of people spend the least amount of time on their most critical areas for success and development.

Re-evaluate Your Routines Regularly

Where possible avoid unnecessary and challenged routines while being conscious of slipping into comfort procrastination activities like net surfing, excessive cigarette breaks, social media and unimportant emails. While these habits may give us comfort in the moment, in the long term they only compound the time frame in which you are required to deliver under pressure.

A false sense of urgency is deceptive as many mistake the activity and hype for productivity. A real sense of urgency is rare, much rarer than most people seem to think. Yet when managed, it is invaluable in a world that never has and never will stand still.

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