Is Time Management important?
Ever had the feeling that your to-do list is longer than your day? Ever struggled to meet deadlines, or to finish work at 6 PM? Are you known for consistently working late?
Even though you feel you’re doing your best, you might be missing time management skills.
Regardless of what you do for a living, you’re most likely to follow a certain schedule. Some people work from 9 AM to 6 PM, with an hour break somewhere in the middle; other people work towards the evening, because that’s when they feel most inspired.
Whether you’re working for someone else who sets a schedule for you, or you’re a freelancer that works by goals, one thing is for sure: when the clock starts ticking, it starts ticking for everyone.
It’s not uncommon to have several tasks at hand everyday; to deal with tight deadlines, or with working late from time to time. As we live in a fast-paced society, it’s natural we face these challenges, and feel overwhelmed by them.
However, when these challenges start making up a routine of their own — leading to a poor work-life balance, high stress levels, or underperformance — , it’s time we start looking more seriously at how we’re managing our time at work, and how we can do better.
Finding out what we’re doing wrong
A lot of habits (such as taking long breaks to scroll through Instagram, or working late) are hard to break. Implementing new ones can be even harder.
As humans, we have a tendency to fight change, even though we see evidence that those old ways of ours are no longer working. We prefer not to look at it, and we’d rather talk about how our tasks or managers are pressuring us.
The first step to actually start doing things differently is to look at our own habits and performance at work critically.
We can begin by analysing some of our patterns:
- Do we have a fixed schedule to begin and to finish work?
- When do we usually take breaks?
- When do we feel the most productive during the day? And when do we feel less productive or less motivated to work?
- Do we know what our priorities are?
- Do we know what our deadlines are?
- Have we been able to meet our deadlines or targets?
These aspects can help us understand how we’re behavioring when we work, and pinpoint our strongest capabilities and also aspects we can improve. For example, you can excel at meeting your targets (and even overperform), but you have a hard time disconnecting from work at the end of the day — leading you to feel overwhelmed towards the end of the week.
Drawing a pie chart and dividing it into different hour chunks by tasks (e.g., work; sleep; meals; hobbies; etc) is a useful tool to help us analyse our patterns.
The second step is to look at our work environment.
It’s up to us to critically analyse a few aspects:
- Do we have a fixed work space?
- Do we usually work better at home or at the office?
- Do we have all the tools we need to work?
- Do we separate our work space from our personal space?
- Is our work environment free of distractions (such as noisy neighbours or social media notifications)?
The third step is to look at our magament.
- Does our manager recognize we have different tasks at hand?
- Are we required to perform different tasks simultaneously?
- Are we given multiple targets at once?
- Are we able to seek help to better prioritize our work?
How to better manage your time
After all your strengths and improvement points are out in the open, we have now identified where exactly you need to improve to better manage your time and tasks.
Here are a couple of aspects you can handle:
- Set up priorities: Prioritize your multiple tasks according to business goals and urgency. What’s more urgent must be done first.
- Establish focus time: set up blocks of at least two hours each, where your phone notifications are disabled and you’re focused on one or two tasks at hand. Emails or messages? They can wait.
- Define a work schedule: set up starting and finishing work hours and stick to them, to better separate your work life from your personal life.
- Write a to-do list: this is the best way to keep yourself organized throughout the week. You can do this on Friday or even on Sunday. Organize the items on your list by priorities!
- Ask for help: if you’re struggling to do this, speak openly with your manager about it. Ask for clarification in terms of the company’s priorities and goals, to better organize your daily work.
- Talk to a friend about it: we all struggle with time management; it helps if we take this challenge with a friend, and not only support each other, but also watch as we both improve our time management skills.
Regardless of how you can improve, remember to be kind to yourself: we all have a path to go through, and we will struggle along the way. It’s hard to manage our time in such a fast-paced daily life, when everything is demanding our attention at the same time. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.