Introduction to Time Management Activities
“Either you run the day or the day runs you” goes a saying. This is true of most of us who have a somewhat volatile relationship with time.
Often we feel that twenty-four hours are not enough in a day. “So much to do and so little time”, goes our pet complaint. Most of us struggle to fit in our work within the time limits specified to us and end up complaining that even after trying our utmost, we are still running short of time. Managing time effectively is a skill that needs to be acquired with careful and continuous practice. The secret of professional success of most people lies in the fact that they have learned effective time management activities.
10 Awesome Productivity and Time Management Activities
The moment you hear of time management activities what comes to your mind? Let me guess. You think either one of the following:
- I know all about time management activities. No one needs to tell me how to use my time better.
- Oh, I am hopeless at managing my time. Nothing can really help me do better.
If you have ticked a), then let me tell you that the best of managers often fall into time traps that lower productivity and eat away into their packed schedule. For example, an urgent mail comes in, and you rush to answer it. Your work-in-progress remains just that…in-progress. Or an urgent summons comes in from the boss, and you leave everything to attend to it. Or some coworkers start discussing some juicy topic and you are sucked into the conversation, and before you know it, it is time to submit your work and you are way behind. So don’t you think you stand to gain from pointers on time management activities?
And if you are the sort that has ticked b), then there is hope for you yet. All is not lost. Time is a resource that always seems scanty for your type, though it is not always your fault. Either you are overburdened with work or are simply not organized well enough. Whatever it is, you can most certainly benefit from some well-timed tips on managing time effectively.
Time is a resource that is usually very much in demand, and consequently, very much scarce. Most of us are constantly running against time or trying to fill in as many things possible in as little time. Paradoxically, some of us are trying to fill in time, as we have nothing much to do. For such people, without meaningful employment, the day seems to stretch on and on.
Whatever our relationship with this valuable resource is, it is never ideal. Have you ever met a person who has said “I am managing my time fine? Every moment is well utilized.”? My guess is no. Even the most successful CEOs and leaders have become flustered trying to manage their time efficiently.
One of the reasons for time being such an invaluable, much-in-demand resource is that it cannot be replenished. Once gone, it is gone forever. No amount of effort or money will bring lost time back.
Proper time management activities help improve the overall quality of our life, besides giving us better job satisfaction and work performance. Our work life becomes more efficient and we can enjoy our leisure more if we can manage time. Let us see how we can use this resource optimally in the workplace to boost our productivity and satisfaction.
1. Not all work that comes to your table is equally important.
You need to know what is of priority. Ask yourself:
- What do I need to do?
- When do I do it?
- How well do I do it?
All papers or mail marked urgent need not be read then and there, disrupting your workflow. You must prioritize your work in order of importance and urgency. Or you can be in danger of making someone else’s priority your own.
If you have more than one important task pending, plan how you are going to finish these. Decide on the sequence of tasks. Don’t allow disturbances or interruptions throw you off track. Keep your schedule in front of you, with a tasks-to-do list. Tick off items as and when they are finished. Prioritizing helps you focus on tackling the important things first, and then handle the routine matters.
2. Plan your day
Reach office or your workplace before the specified time, a little ahead of others. Sit down calmly and plan your day ahead. Digital organizers can help you in scheduling tasks and remind you of these. Keep aside time for meeting internal and external clients, and a time for interaction with colleagues and your team members. Of course, your schedule will not go exactly as you plan it, so make allowances for minor variations.
3. Try to complete work within a definite time span
Time management activities help your work duties and stick to the time plans. Don’t overstretch your work day, or carry work home. Try to complete things within the specified work hours. Group tasks that have overlapping time spans. For example, if you go to meet a client, use the waiting time to fill routine formats. Make ticket reservations online while paying your bills. If there is a meeting scheduled, keep it focused on the agenda, and write down points discussed. When people see you sticking to time schedules they tend to respect your time too.
4. Limit multi-tasking
Yes, multi-tasking looks very good on paper, in reality, it gives you more anxiety and heartburn than concentrating on a single task at one time. You think you are attending to ten things at once, but actually, you are leaving all tasks in different stages of completion. The market report is incomplete, your customer is waiting, your coworker requests your response, and your boss wants the file you promised to finish work on. You started work on all of these, but soon got overwhelmed and utterly confused. Finishing tasks one by one gives a sense of satisfaction and control.
5. Delegate some work
You need not to do everything yourself. The minor tasks can be delegated to junior staff. Ask the telephone operator to make cold calls for you. Get a peon to oversee the printing and photocopying work. Routine office work like mailing, following up, etc. can be delegated to assistants. Concentrate on the bigger and significant tasks. Make sure the delegatees report their progress to you, however. Else you will have a bigger problem repairing work that was incorrectly done.
6. Do the unpleasant tasks first
None of us really want to do what we dislike, but work must be done. Spend some time in the morning planning how and when you will tackle the unpleasant tasks. If you have been avoiding meeting a cranky customer, schedule it for some time in the day and get it over with. That tedious report you have been assigned? Start work on it and get it off your mind. Unfinished work tends to occupy space in your mind. The more you procrastinate the more cumbersome these tasks become, and the more reluctant you feel about starting them. Do not put off these tasks. Tackle them one by one.
7. Don’t check your messages and e-mails through the day
Set aside a time for checking these, and keep your notifications off for the rest of the day. Don’t check your e-mail every now and then. Checking e-mails and replying to these eat away a lot of our working time, so do it only at the scheduled time, and not during the remaining work hours. It distracts you and before you know it you will be spending all day replying and responding to non-urgent mail and texts.
8. Set aside a block of time for paperwork and letters
Instead of reading things as and when they find their way into your in-tray, keep aside a time, preferably in the afternoon to do your reading. The period after lunch time is a slack one, read your mail and letters at that time. Use this time to write memos or letters. Except for highly urgent mail that needs to be responded to immediately, everything can wait till afternoon. Write your correspondence at a time when you are not pressed by other urgent work or phone calls.
9. Learn to say no
This is an important tactic all of us need to adopt. We should be able to say no to unreasonable demands on our time. Most people follow an ad hoc practice of making demands and requests to get jobs done. Make it clear that your time is precious, and people need to respect it. Say no to people when they come to you with unplanned requests. When you are busy with an assignment, make it clear that you will not entertain any sudden changes in your schedule. The prime reason why we always feel short of time is that we spend most of it doing work we hadn’t planned or scheduled earlier. Learn to refuse people politely.
10. Seek the help of supportive co-workers in the time management process
Ask a helpful colleague to help you stick to your work schedule. He/she can remind you when you go off track and help with some of your workloads when things get unbearable. The support of coworkers often inspires us to stick to our time management process plans.
You might also like to read Effective Time Tracking Apps.
Now that you have an idea of steps to take for time management process, take this quiz to see whether you are able to follow the pointers.
- I am reaching my workplace 10 minutes before time.
If your answer is not yet, then buck up. You need that extra time to plan your day and gather your ideas. It is worth the effort, trust me.
- I do the most important tasks first.
If you do not do the important work before it becomes urgent, soon you will be left gasping for breath with urgent tasks all demanding your attention. And your boss wants the report, like yesterday!
- My daily schedule helps me in planning and executing tasks
Still, haven’t made the habit of writing daily to-do tasks in a list? You will continue to work haphazardly, and responding to demands as and when they come without a sense of priority.
- I read my mail and texts as they come.
What did we discuss about repeated checking of messages and e-mail? Please do it in the afternoon or early in the morning before things start. And remember, no Whatsapp or Facebook during office hours, please.
- There are some things which I put off doing till absolutely unavoidable
So you still procrastinate and put off unpleasant work? Grow up and tackle the tough things first.
- I refuse my colleagues occasionally when they request some work from me.
If you have learned to say no, excellent. If you haven’t, then be prepared to accommodate unwanted last-minute demands on your time.
- I have eliminated unnecessary tasks or delegated these
Still doing your cold calling yourself? Delegate or be overburdened with repetitive and uncreative stuff while the important things keep waiting.
- I finish one work at a time before proceeding to the next
So you do twenty things simultaneously? Since you are such a multi-tasker, how many tasks have you finished yet? Chances are none. Concentrate on doing one thing at a time.
Creating a profitable relationship with time takes time and constant practice. Time management process requires an awareness of ourselves and our daily habits and the actions that lead to time wastage. If we can consciously review our lifestyle and habits, we can detect and eliminate a number of time-wasting activities.
So make time your friend and ally. Establish a rewarding relationship with this resource and improve your work output and quality. It requires some self-discipline and control. Soon you will find yourself racing ahead with the help of time management activities in time and delivering better work than your counterparts. All the best!
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