Office work can be a bit mind-numbing at times, and so a lot of us take to idling. We don’t use our time to our best advantage. We might be looking at memes or just getting lost in a task that’s supposed to take five minutes but is taking forty and doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. Your superior will tell you “just get it done”, but that’s easy to be said. Sometimes, getting back in that good worker mindset is incredibly hard.
Thankfully, many smart people all around the world have come up with techniques that will help you manage your time at work much better. If you really want to give it your all and make sure you squeeze every last bit of work you can, keep reading. Here are ten time management tips you can use at the office.
1 Set your goals
When talking about time management techniques, it’s important to note that we are actually talking about strategies. It’s about establishing a long-term plan of actions that will make you a more effective worker. The thing about strategies, though, is that they don’t work if you don’t have a goal to work towards. However, it might seem very hard to find a purpose to your actions at work aside from “it’s what I need to do to get paid.” For all those instances when you feel lost with regards to your goals, you can use the SMART technique to get that image cleared up in your head.
A goal is SMART if it is:
- Specific – you know exactly what it is that needs to be done,
- Measurable – the results of your actions will be very much quantifiable,
- Attainable – you should be capable of achieving that goal,
- Relevant – your goal should be in line with the purpose and values of your company,
- Time-bound – the goal has a due date. There’s a clear end-point.
2 Keep your priorities in check
You’d be surprised by how much more work you can get done by deciding which of your tasks are more important than others. Though it might be hard to force yourself to do it, since the most important tasks are usually the most overwhelming ones, it’s always a good idea to start your day with your most important tasks – that was you can be sure that you’re taking it on with your mind at its most efficient. This will ensure that you will finish the task in the fastest possible time, leaving you more time later on to deal with tasks that require less brain power.
3 Time yourself
While time limits can be stressful, a lack of a time limit gives way to complacency. Without a sense of urgency to drive us, we wouldn’t really be doing anything. It’s a basic aspect of the human condition, really – we do things because we want to make sure we’ve managed to do it before dying. OK, so maybe work tasks aren’t that dramatic, but by adding a time limit to your tasks, you essentially turn it into a game of sorts, which can actually help you become even faster with every subsequent tasko.
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4 Respect your own time, even if others don’t
Your time is limited. Your time is important. As an employer, you are payed to use that time to use your talents and skills to do something only you can do. Your time is thus your most important asset at a company. And while it’s important to maintain good rapport with your coworkers, you also need to draw boundaries. If people ask you for favors that you know would wreck your work schedule for the day, it’s perfectly okay – even advisable – to say “no”. Of course, no one’s saying those favors aren’t important – but can they wait?
5 Use foresight
Starting your work day by just throwing yourself into work might seem like a good idea, but we’re here to tell you you’re much better off spending 5 to 10 minutes in the morning planning ahead. By scheduling your tasks hour by hour, also taking into account any unexpected instances, you can maximize the time you actually spend working.
6 Don’t take everything on by yourself
When you climb higher up the corporate ladder and have people working under you, it’s easy to forget that you’re no longer the only person to do that specific line of work. All of your team members are incredibly talented individuals who can get the job done – you should know this, since you helped choose them! Don’t hesitate to give them new growth opportunities – delegate some tasks and free up your hands for more important work.
7 Eliminate distractions (including “half-work”)
Smartphones make a lot of work easier, but they’re definitely not helping when it comes to keeping you focused. Distractions during the work day come in many forms, and you really need to eliminate them in order to stay productive. Sure, you can take a break once in a while, as long as you plan ahead and make sure it’s beneficial for your general work effectiveness. For distractions caused by your co-workers – consider noise-cancelling headphones.
This ties into the concept of half-work. Let’s say you’re trying to send a free fax, but before you finish reading about how it’s done, you start reading about the history of fax machines on Wikipedia. Stay focused – once the task is started, sit down and get it done. If your mind wanders, tame it (though do reassure it you’ll check that super important thing it just came up with later).
8 Let go of the notion of “perfection”
Perfectionism is a desirable trait – to a degree. There comes a point when perfectionism becomes crippling. If you pursue perfection, nothing will ever be good enough, so you’ll keep coming back to fix it. The only solution here is to accept the fact that nothing is perfect in this world and sometimes we just have to let some imperfections slide. It’s a much better use of your time.
9 Get inspired
Sometimes you’ll just stop and be unable to focus. You’ve tried everything, and you’re doing your best to focus on your work, but the words and numbers just aren’t working. You’re stuck, unable to re-rail your brain into the work mindset.
In this instance, it’s acceptable to take a break. Though the key here is to take a productive break – watch a TED talk or read that article you’ve been meaning to for a while. Chances are that you’ll hear something really informative, which might just reignite that spark for you and get your head back in the game.
10 Practice self-care
Lastly, there is no way you’ll be able to manage your time well at the office if you’re a physical and/or mental wreck. And though this is a list dealing with office-based techniques, it goes without saying that your life outside of work has a profound impact within it. So make sure you get enough sleep, eat good food, and unwind in a healthy manner. You’d be surprised with how much more time you’ll be able to devote to being absolutely focused on your work.