Effective time management can help you get more done, reduce your stress and reclaim your personal life.
Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the number and complexity of projects that need to be completed at work each day? As the day flies by, do you often feel as if you haven’t paid enough attention to each task because other tasks keep landing on your desk, co-workers interrupt you with questions or you can’t get it all organized?
You probably know that managing your time effectively will help you get more done each day. But it has important health benefits, too. By managing your time more wisely, you can minimize stress and improve your quality of life.
But how do you get back on track when organizational skills don’t come naturally? To get started, choose one of these strategies, try it for two to four weeks and see if it helps. If it does, consider adding another one. If not, try a different one.
- Track how you’re spending your time. Write down everything you do for 7 days to determine how you’re spending your time. Fill out a ‘time card’ for each task so you know how much valuable time you are spending on every task you do that week. Look for time that can be used more wisely. You may be surprised by what activities are actually eating up the most time.
- Plan each day. Now that you know how much time some of the activities you must do actually take, you can plan when is the best time to complete those tasks and where best to slot in other activities. Planning your day can help you accomplish more and feel more in control of your life. Write a to-do list, putting the most important tasks at the top. Keep a schedule of your daily activities to minimize conflicts and last-minute rushes.
- Prioritize your tasks. Time-consuming but relatively unimportant tasks can consume a lot of your day. Prioritizing tasks will ensure that you spend your time and energy on those that are truly important to you. You can rank tasks by importance or give each activity a grade. One system I like is to give each activity a grade of A, B, C or D. “A”s are the most important and most urgent tasks on your list. “B”s are either less important or less urgent. “C”s are unimportant and not urgent and should either be done only when time allows or discarded completely. “D”s are tasks someone else can do and should be delegated.
- Say no to “C” tasks. Consider your goals and schedule before agreeing to take on additional work.
- Delegate the “D”s. Take a look at your to-do list and consider what you can pass on to someone else.
- Limit distractions. Block out time on your calendar for big projects. During that time, close your door and turn off your phone, pager and email. When you get interrupted while doing an important task, it takes more time to regroup and figure out where you were. Make sure you block out enough time to finish important projects in one sitting.
- Break large, time-consuming tasks into smaller tasks. If a task is too large to complete all at one time, break it into smaller, manageable chunks. Try to complete them in as few a sessions as possible to reduce the amount of time spent figuring out where you were but don’t make the sessions too long to avoid losing focus.
- Take the time you need to do a quality job. Doing work right the first time may take more time upfront, but errors usually result in time spent making corrections, which takes more time overall. Make sure you set aside enough time so you don’t rush to get it done. Trying to complete a task too quickly will create errors that end up taking more time to correct.
- Set time limits. If you have a task that you really hate but it isn’t too time sensitive, break it into 10 or 15 minute chunks and work on it a little each day. Once you get started, you may find you can finish it. Set time limits for completing most tasks. Some people successfully use an egg timer to help them stay on schedule.
- Take a break when you need one. Too much stress can derail your attempts at getting organized. When you need a break, take one. Take a walk around your dealership. Do some quick stretches at your desk. Working bell-to-bell every day really doesn’t help you get more done. You need time off to regain your focus and re-energize.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy and exercise regularly. A healthy lifestyle can improve your focus and concentration, which will help improve your efficiency so that you can complete your work in less time.
I know you have heard the expression, “work smarter, not harder”. Managing your time properly is “working smarter”. You can be more productive with less stress. When that happens, you will enjoy both your life at work and your life outside of work more. Managing your time will take some effort but the benefits far outweigh that effort.