No matter that type of environment you work in, chances are you have a myriad of tasks to complete on a daily basis. It can feel overwhelming knowing you have so many tasks to do and only 8 hours in which to do it. Here are a few suggestions to help manage your time wisely.
1. Wear a watch.
This may seem simple and maybe even silly considering we all have smart phones that give us the time. However, every time glance at your cell, you run the risk of finding a distraction with the constant notifications and new texts and emails flooding your inbox. A watch can help you stay on task, while your cell rests out of sight.
2. Utilize Outlook Calendar or iCal.
Use any calendar application that allows you to log not only meetings and deadlines, but daily tasks and projects as well. Take it old school with a day planner if you are more of a visual person or if you want to physically write down items that need blocks of time allocated for completion. If you have a super important task that needs done, schedule time to do it, rather than hoping you can squeeze it into your day. Print off the calendar and carry it with you to meetings so you are aware of what is next on your daily schedule.
3. Follow a checklist or to-do list.
If you are like me, there are many activities you have to accomplish every single day. Some of these items are small and don’t necessarily require a huge block of time on the calendar. Compile these single items onto one daily checklist. Just like your calendar, print that off and keep it handy all day. Check tasks off as you go, and hand-write any new items as they come up.
4. Leave blocks of time unscheduled.
If you schedule every single minute of each working hour, you are going to run into a scheduling crisis if something truly urgent comes up. To keep your entire day from getting off track while you tend to the urgent matter, leave little blocks of time unscheduled on your calendar. That time can be used to get caught up, for overflow if a task takes longer than expected, or simply to get ahead of the next project.
5. Make good use of your energy.
We each have a time of day when we are most productive. Capitalize on that time by scheduling your important tasks during that time frame. I am a morning person, and work best after my small, first-thing-in-the-morning tasks are out of the way, so I schedule my big priorities mid-morning. If it takes you a little longer to ramp up, plan to tackle those large items later in the day.
6. Allow time for breaks.
We are more productive when we allow ourselves time away from our desks or work stations. For every 50 minutes of work give yourself a 10 minute break. Refill your coffee or water bottle, chat with a colleague in the break room about weekend plans, or head outside for a brief walk. The point is to get away from work for a few minutes so you can clear your head and come back feeling refreshed. Just getting a little sunshine or looking at a body of water for a few minutes can help calm stress that pops up throughout the workday. If you are feeling lethargic reenergize yourself with a quick snack or splash some water on your face.1
7. Prepare for the next day.
During the last 10-15 minutes of your shift, get your workspace ready for the next day’s tasks. Complete any printing needed (tomorrow’s calendar and checklist), finalize appointments and meetings, and wrap up any loose ends before calling it a day. Leave priority projects and to-do lists where you will see them so you have a reminder of their importance. Spend the first 10-15 minutes the next morning reviewing the day’s events and tasks, making changes as needed.
8. Celebrate the small successes.
Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for your accomplishments. Share your daily successes with a colleague or supervisor, no matter the size of the project, and allow yourself to be proud of your work. Just receiving a high five from your neighbor may be the boost you need to tackle the next big thing.
Finding a good work flow takes constant tweaking and attention, so start with one or two of these items and adjust them to fit your work day and environment as needed. Make it a productive day!