How do you really want to spend your day when you’re at work?
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
Hello and welcome to the last installment in this three-part series on personal effectiveness! We kicked off in March by looking at the benefits of time management and how you can improve your effectiveness at work as well as increase your own quality of life. If you missed it, catch it up here. Last month, we explored a powerful technique to get you started: I told you about the time log and how to use it to understand where you spend your time. To read about the time log, go there.
Thanks to your time log, you now know how you spend your day while you’re in the office. It is now time to make changes to how you allocate your time.
I recommend a simple method: classify the activities in your time log according to their urgency and importance. Urgent issues demand immediate attention or action while important ones are more strategically meaningful. Drop anything that’s neither urgent nor important!
If you spend all your time on urgent issues, you’re in fire-fighting mode and you’re at risk of burnout. Ideally you’d want to spend as much of your time as possible on the important things, the ones which allow you to plan ahead, to ensure that you meet your work objectives in 6 months’ time. In addition to being more strategically important to your employer, these activities should also be more personally meaningful to you, providing you with more job satisfaction.
Even when things are urgent, do they require YOUR attention or YOUR action? Can you delegate – even if you review before completion? An email from your boss arrives: it is of course important but is it urgent? Can’t it wait an hour, a day even? Consider not dropping everything for once: if you do, you will lose your concentration – think about how much time is lost to little distractions.
Good time management means not allowing little things like emails or phone calls to constantly disrupt your concentration. You need to avoid them for periods of time so close your email inbox, shut off your Instant Messages, forget Bloomberg… and let voicemail pick up your calls.
If you identified many activities as top priority, let me ask you: are you sure you are correctly differentiating and prioritizing? Is this task really essential or can it wait?
Two more tips before I close this little chapter:
- If you really have many important tasks vying for your attention, pick the most difficult first. That way, you’ll have more energy for it and less energy for the easier tasks.
- Try to finish a task or at least a clear section of a task before beginning a new one. Multi-tasking is an art form and mostly ineffective: if you juggle too many balls in the air, the risk is you won’t do any of the tasks optimally and you might even drop one of your balls!
This are the core principles of good time management. I hope that both the time log tip and the prioritization matrix have shown you that there are ways to change how you manage your day.
Let me know what you think by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!