Do you know what wastes your time? If you do not, then you need to carry out a time analysis. Log what you do every half hour, for three consecutive days at work. Then take a helicopter view and identify your problem areas. Draw a line in the sand and commit to making a change.
Here are three common time wasters and steps to deal with them.
Step 1: Other People?
Maybe you have learned some time management tips already. You know that you need to schedule your week ahead. You keep a daily To Do list which focuses on the urgent and important tasks. But what if other people come along and mess up your plans?
If your manager has a habit of interrupting you at a moment's notice, their own time management may be poor. Suggest meeting with them on a regular basis so you can go through the work plan for the period ahead. If they want you to do something urgently, ask them what existing task should be dropped. If they see you as being organized and having a well thought out plan, they may be less likely to interrupt you.
If your collections have a habit of making demands on your time when you are busy, do not be afraid to say "no". Explain that you are busy with a task. Politely suggest another course of action for them. Or agree to meet them later (by which time they are likely to have got themselves sorted).
If your time is wasted by people dropping by for a casual chat, get rid of any comfy chairs in your workspace. It is very hard to get someone to leave your workspace when they are comfortable! Stand up when they arrive, and if necessary, walk them to the coffee machine or water cooler, where you can politely make excuses and leave.
Step 2: Things that go Ring and P ing
Ideally, make as many of your phone calls at the one time in the day as you can. Dividing your day into blocks gives you more control. Learn to put your phone on voicemail when you have something important to do. And bringing your work mobile phone home in the evening is not recommended! You do not have to be instantly available to everyone. People will soon get used to a situation where you are only available at certain times of the day.
Check your emails no more than three times a day, and switch off those email alerts. If you stop what you are doing to check an email, it could take you 15 minutes to get back to where you left off with your task.
Step 3: You?
So maybe you are the problem? Do you look for opportunities to go for coffee when you should be working? Set yourself short term deadlines to get you focused. Decide on small rewards for when you get that task done. If necessary, change your work environment to a place where you are less distracted and more focused.
Do you procrastinate? Do you put off starting that important task? Ask yourself what is stopping you. Sometimes we harbor deep separated fears, for example, of failure, or of being ridiculed by others, or simply of change. So find out what is stopping you and decide to tackle it.
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