In an age of mass information, it’s easy to get distracted while at work. It seems that staying focused and on task is becoming more difficult. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average adult human attention span is about 8 seconds, down from a 12 second attention span in 2000. With statistics like this, It should come as no surprise that multitasking is not the most productive way to work. By following some easy time management tips and strategies, you’ll be able to leave work on time and achieve more with less.
One key component to time management is delegation. Often times, we take on more than we can handle. Especially at work when attempting to earn a promotion or impress your co-workers, it’s easy to take on too much. Learning how to ask for help, or delegate smaller tasks to others, does not mean you’re running away from responsibilities. Delegation is also a great tool for management, which shows you are able to relinquish control to others.
Coming into work in the morning with a set intention on what needs to be done and keeping focus on those top priorities can solve time management deficits. Find a cloud based app you like, to help stay on task. Here’s a few of our favorites: Any.do, Wunderlist, and Trello. You could also try a mapping tool like the “Action Priority Matrix” or MindMeister to organize your tasks. For more traditional methods, feel free to use written reminders and Post-It notes. Whatever type of work flow you decide on, the key is to stick with it.
Update your task list as something of more importance comes up. Make sure you keep it updated to reflect the most important tasks. If a task takes less than 2 minutes to complete, then it normally makes most sense to knock it off the list right then and there. If it takes longer than 2 minutes, place the task on your planner or in the app to schedule for the best block of time. Plan similar tasks near each other, to keep your “switching costs” at a minimal.
3. Set Tangible Goals
Make sure it’s feasible to realistically complete your goal before the deadline. Goals which are too large to accomplish in one sitting, become more difficult to complete and are most often delayed. If you set tangible goals, while breaking down larger tasks; you’ll be able to better manage your list.
Don’t forget about your personal goals! Starting with the end in mind can help everyone stay focused and make sure you reach benchmarks to achieve the larger plans. According to Locke and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory, you need to set clear goals and be able to measure them accurately, in order to achieve the larger end goal. Vagueness or general instructions can lead to less motivation.
4. Manage Distractions
Each work environment comes with it’s own set of distractions. Between gossiping co-workers, social media, and personal life, distractions can waste a considerable amount of productivity if not managed properly. We’ve all done this: you look up from something that got you side-tracked and before you know it, two hours of time have passed! Learn to turn off all digital notifications at a certain point each day. Try blocking out time away from your desk in a private meeting area.
Limit multi-tasking because it’s impossible to effectively work on more than one thing at a time. Taking on more tasks increases the likeliness of errors. A Time article suggests, “rather than switching tasks from minute to minute, dedicate a 20-minute chunk of time to a single task, then switch to the next one.” Another important part of the organization skill set is to know when you need to take breaks in order to stay relaxed and give your brain, eyes and mentality a rest.
6. Review Your Day
Just as important as planning your intentions and organizing your “to-do” list, reviewing your day let’s you see where you are today, and then regain focus on what will need done first thing tomorrow. Before you leave the office, take 10 minutes to look back at your tasks, clear off completed items, and take note of those that still need finalized. Also, clean off your desk and put things back in order. It’s best to have a fresh start coming into work the next day, rather than feeling completely unorganized and frazzled in the morning.
Please remember, these skills take time to build. Time management does not come easily to most people! It’s a daily battle to compete with the distractions of today’s world. Do you already use any of these strategies? Let us know of your favorite time management tactics in the comments below.