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Good time management skills are essential to productivity. But at its heart, time management isn’t really about managing time—it’s about managing yourself. No matter who we are, how organized or unorganized, the truth is we all have the same 24 hours in a day, but whether or not we use those hours productively is up to us.
The best time management techniques improve the ways you work, protect you against distraction and lock your concentration. These few things make you more valuable to your employer and create new opportunities for career advancement.
Here are six proven tips to help busy professionals be more productive in the workplace:
Making a to-do list may not seem like an earth-shattering idea, but it’s a powerful way to become more productive. While long to-do lists can be intimidating and stress-inducing, if you organize your lists and prioritize the tasks on them, those outstanding projects will seem more achievable.
Make sure you set deadlines. When a task doesn’t have a clear deadline, it will invariably get pushed to the bottom of the list, eventually becoming an urgent matter. When you’re assigned a task, set a realistic expectation about when it can be completed and stick to the deadline you set.
Almost everyone keeps some kind of planner to schedule meetings and appointments, but good time managers will also block out time each day to work on specific tasks, to make sure they complete all the work on their list. The most productive people assess their productivity levels throughout the day and schedule around their behaviors. If you are most productive in the morning, take a late lunch so that your morning stretches into the early afternoon.
Schedule detailed, in-depth and analytical or creative work for times of high output. Set aside small periods of lower-productivity time in the afternoon for tasks like email, scheduling, and returning phone calls.
We live in a distracting world of cell phones, email, text messages. This has set the expectation that everyone is always accessible. A Washington Post article says that “interruptions . . . eat up 28 billion wasted hours a year, at a loss of almost $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.” The distractions aren’t going away, so effective time managers learn how to avoid them. Some of the most distracting interruptions are the easiest to avoid. To be more productive and manage the time you have set aside for a task, you may need to turn off your cell phone; close apps you’re not actively using; silence email notifications; and turn off messaging apps or set them to “busy.” You may also want to consider using noise-canceling headphones or turning on music to drown out distractions.
If you have a coworker or superior who periodically messages you (or if you’re back to in-person and they “stop by”, consider connecting with them first before beginning your focused time.
Large tasks with lots of moving parts can seem overwhelming and can begin to occupy a large amount of space in your brain, but if you can break the work up into smaller blocks, the tasks can feel more manageable. Look at the tasks you have to complete: If you can break them into smaller steps, you’ll begin to see constant progress.
Set a cut-off time for each smaller task. Failing to stick to the schedule will allow smaller tasks to stretch out, if you’re not careful. By setting time constraints, you will naturally focus better and work more efficiently.
Multitasking seems to be a quality that most of us would like to acquire, but multitasking is a myth. The American Psychological Association reports that multitasking reduces productivity by 40 percent. Every time you start a new task, leave and return to it, it consumes time that is wasted. To be more productive, you need to be focused: It's more effective to finish one job before moving on to the next.
Don’t give up your breaks! Avoiding multitasking doesn’t mean avoiding breaks. In fact, to keep your energy levels high and focus on single-tasking, you need to have moments to refuel and refocus.
Speaking of breaks…Your brain can only remain highly focused for a certain amount of time before productivity wanes. Scheduling a break between tasks or, at least, every couple of hours will help you maintain high productivity.
How you work is up to you, but some popular break methods include the Pomodoro technique (working 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break) or following the 52/17 rule (52 minutes on, 17-minutes off).
One of the benefits of living in a digital world is that there are countless tools that, if used wisely, can help us be more productive. Explore what tools help you manage your day, such as electronic planners for scheduling and notification; messaging apps that enable quick communication; email shortcuts that save time when responding to common messages; timer apps to schedule task limits; and collaborative apps that allow team members to work together efficiently.
Good time management leads to lower levels of stress and higher levels of job performance/success. When you maximize productivity in the workplace and show proven time management skills, you will dramatically improve your opportunities for career advancement.
When it comes to leveling up your IT career, you don’t have to do it alone. Having Akka Modis, soon to be Akkodis, as your partner can help you outperform at your current role or, if you’re looking to level up outside of your current organization, locate new opportunities. Be the IT employee or candidate everyone wants on their team! Contact us today.