One of the biggest time hogs in our professional lives is email – it just never seems to slow down in volume, does it? – but that is not the only time waster at work. Attending meetings, chatting with colleagues, checking social media, and doing tasks we can delegate to others all take time away from our primary responsibilities.
The good news is that learning how to manage your time so you can be more productive is easy. Here are 6 steps you can take to start improving your time management skills today:
Schedule time to check email and messages
To be truly productive, shut off email and switch your phone’s ringer to silent. Schedule two or three times each day to check email, voicemails, and text messages. Choose times that work for you, but first thing in the morning, mid-day, and late afternoon/early evening would be a good start. You can even set up an auto-responder email to let people know what time they can expect to hear back from you – same with your voicemail greeting.
Organize your email
If you want to save a lot of time, keep your email organized. If you can delete an email, don’t save it. If an email requires only a quick response, go ahead and respond during your scheduled email time. If someone else can answer the email quicker or better than you, delegate it. If an email contains information you may need later, file it in a folder labeled by client or project. If an email requires action that will take longer than a few minutes, add those to your to-do list, calendar, or project management system but optimally touch it only once and take care of it the first time you open it.
Keep meetings on schedule
For meetings you run, put together a schedule and stick to it. If discussions around a topic go on too long or veer into other areas, interrupt to keep people on track and /or offer to take the discussion “offline” – meaning, it can continue after this meeting ends.
Limit colleague drop-bys
To stop people from randomly dropping by your office to chat, work with earbuds in your ear or earphones on, even if you aren’t listening to music. You can also put up a sign that says “Your Name is Out” even though you are sitting there. They will get the hint that you are not available. There are other good-humored ways of limiting colleague drop-bys too. If this is a problem for you contact us.
Delegate when possible
If a colleague or someone else on your team can handle a project or task better than you – or if they have more time – ask them to take it on. To get buy-in, explain why you think they are the right person for this task. We will cover this topic in more depth in our next blog post, so keep your eye out for it.
Schedule social media time
Unlike email, social media is an unnecessary evil during the workday – unless you are in marketing and managing it is a primary task! If you cannot resist the temptation to check Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or other networks while you are at work, schedule 10 minutes once or twice a day for a “social media break.” It might be worthwhile to track how much of your time is spent doing this type of “work” now. Keep track of your “social media time” this week.