Eight hours to an intern may feel like an eternity, especially if he’s filing papers or stuffing envelopes. But to you, someone who has an endless list of appointments and to-dos, that eight-hour workday goes by in the blink of an eye.
Having a system to encourage good employee time management is a problem for a lot of organizations, which is why there are so many apps, books and consultants out there that promise to give you ways to manage your time more efficiently.
Email reminders. Spreadsheets. Expensive software. New equipment.
The list goes on.
But is there anything that actually helps?
There is. And you don’t need fancy equipment or a consultant. You just need to keep reading.
Follow these four steps to start better managing your time.
1) Identify your essential tasks
Before anything, you first have to determine which tasks on your long list of to-dos are the most important. These are your “essential tasks.” Here’s a good rule of thumb.
Essential tasks are tasks that will produce the most output or will benefit your company most when they’re completed.
They’re not the tasks that fill the most hours on your timesheet or are the easiest to finish. You have to prioritize.
Shooting off a message to Bob in accounting about the $8 disparity on your expense report doesn’t produce a lot of output. It’s important, yeah. You should definitely follow up with Bob. But it certainly isn’t an essential task.
Does that $8 push the company (or the project) forward? Probably not.
What tasks do?
2) Make your tasks visible
Once you have your list of essential tasks, don’t put them in a draw and lock them away. Don’t keep them hidden in an app in your phone. Get them out in the open. Make them accessible.
Invest in a white board or a corkboard to pin things on.
Whatever you do, make sure those essential tasks are big and bold and staring you in the face as a reminder that these tasks are important!
By seeing them they’ll stay at the forefront of your mind.
3) Give yourself time
Don’t treat your essential tasks like any other tasks.
Most people pick a normal task from their list and work on it until it’s done. Then they move onto the next one.
For essential tasks, give yourself an allotted amount of time to complete them. Experts say you should dedicate at least 50% of your time each day to completing these kinds of tasks.
This makes daily time tracking easier. You know you spent X amount of time doing A, B, and C.
It also allows you to focus on nothing but the essentials for a set amount of time.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you get something done when you know that it’s important, that you should be doing it and that for the next hour you don’t have to worry about anything but completing it.
Sometimes spreading your thoughts and energy too thin can be a hindrance, which leads us to the final step.
4) Avoid multitasking
That’s right. You heard me. Multitasking can actually be very inefficient.
The reason for this? Not every task requires you to have the same mindset.
Putting together a monthly report, filling in your timesheet, shooting off an email to your boss and interpreting a construction blueprint all require totally different mindsets. Studies have shown that the more people switch between mindsets the more tired their minds become. And exhaustion certainly doesn’t equate to efficiency.
Focusing on an essential task, getting into the right mindset and staying in that mindset for the duration of the task is one of the most efficient ways to complete it. Focus on the tasks that matter most. Identifying your essential tasks helps you sort out the most important from the less important. Making them visible keeps them at the forefront of your mind. Then setting aside time to complete these tasks and focusing on them without giving into the temptation to multitask is a good recipe to help you start better managing your time.
Follow these steps and you’ll start seeing better time management. You’ll get more done and feel like you’re accomplishing your essential tasks instead of just keeping busy.
Have you used essential tasks to manage your time?
Share your experiences in the comments