Doing More With Less
By Julie Ruben Rodney | Published in TLOMA Newsletter >>
Time management in the workplace is a real struggle for many people. Distractions, emails, meetings, and deadlines – it is very easy to become overwhelmed from juggling all these activities. Business owners, managers and employees face challenges daily that divert their energy and time away from their top priorities. Learning how to effectively manage your time will not only help you reduce stress but also increase your level of productivity and efficiency. Improving your time management at work isn’t nearly as hard as you might think, all it takes is awareness, planning and prioritizing.
Many people falsely assume they are powerless and do not have any control over their time and work environment. However, rapid and constant change is a reality of today’s work environment, managing your time and your workload is your responsibility. Have you ever asked yourself “How do I spend my days?” “Do I spend too much time doing unimportant tasks?” Time wasters are activities that “use up your time” or “things that just happen” which distracts you daily (i.e. internet surfing and irrelevant meetings). In order to improve your time management, identify time wasters and consciously avoid these activities which are unproductive and unnecessary.
Your attitude also drives your time management habits. It changes by task daily, hourly, weekly and monthly. The four levels of attitudes consist of denying your responsibility, blaming others, accepting responsibility and taking action. When you deny your responsibility and blame others, you are empowering the problem. When you start to accept responsibility and take action, you are empowering yourself. Having the right behavior is one of the steps to developing better time management. When you have the right attitude you become more effective (doing the right things) and more efficient (doing things right). To take control of your time, try to write down the top three priorities in your job and write down your top three personal priorities (i.e. exercise, taking lunch).
To become better at managing your time, it’s also essential to determine which tasks are important and urgent, versus tasks that are insignificant and not urgent. The concept of Time Management Matrix from Stephen Covey’s classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, can be used to help you prioritize your time. This system utilizes four quadrants to help you determine the tasks you “need” to do and which tasks should take precedence.
- Quadrant 1 (top left) includes tasks that are important and urgent which requires your immediate attention. This includes crisis matters, pressing problems, and deadline driven projects.
- Quadrant 2 (top right) involves activities that are important, but not urgent which you do not need to deal with immediately. Tasks in this quadrant include preparation, prevention, values clarification, planning and relationship building.
- Quadrant 3 (bottom left) consists of tasks that are urgent, but not important. These activities include needless interruptions and unimportant actives (meetings, off topic phone calls, etc.).
- Quadrant 4 (bottom right) comprises of matters that are not important and not urgent. These tasks are time wasters and “escape’ activities like mindless web browsing, junk and low value email, social media, etc.
Your goal is to focus on Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 activities. Try to eliminate, delegate, or say “no!” to Quadrant 3 and 4 activities.
To work more efficiently, it is important to align your time with your top three priorities and also consider criteria such as time sensitivity, preparation requirements, involvement of others, impact to your organization and the degree of difficulty. As a first step, creating a “To Do” list is one of the best ways to prioritize your time. However, creating a list will only marginally be useful unless you time-box them in your calendar (i.e. Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendars, etc.) and set parameters for how much time you plan to devote to each task. Your daily/weekly calendar will constantly be changing but it is critical to have a blueprint of your time to work from.
Procrastination is an obstacle you need to overcome to develop better time management. This is when you avoid doing an important task and you have feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and self-doubt. Procrastination creates endless stress and undoubtedly one of the biggest time wasters in the workplace. You can eradicate procrastination by becoming more disciplined with your time and setting priorities. Other ways to overcome procrastination include working in small blocks, rewarding yourself after you complete a task, setting realistic goals, and focusing on your successes.
Time management also requires you to be mindful of those around you who may monopolize your time. If colleagues are asking you to do tasks that don’t align with your job priorities and dominates your time, do not be afraid to suggest other solutions. Learning how to minimize these types of distractions will allow you to produce high quality work and achieve your goals. It is also important to limit your casual conversations with others and know when “it is not a good time.” Be considerate of what’s on your colleagues’ plate and the distractions that you may be creating. You might be distracting others without even knowing it (your tone or conversations) so be more mindful of your actions around the office.
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your activities. Make sure that you are spending time on the activities that will give you the highest results.
Good time management doesn’t mean more work, it means focusing on tasks that are important and impactful. One more hour of “planning” can save hours of “doing.” Your time management goal should be to work smarter not harder so that you can create more time for yourself.