What is time? It is our most precious resource, the most valuable thing we possess. It is perishable, irreplaceable and cannot be kept. The only thing we can do is to manage it in the best possible way.
Are you familiar with the expressions, “I don’t have time,” or, “I don’t have time?” I’m sure you are. These are the bread and butter of every day, especially in the workplace. However, often, it is not a question of lack of time, but of bad time management at work. We all have the same hours in a week, so it is up to us to manage them.
Managing time at work is fundamental to doing a job efficiently. Generally speaking, good time management at work results in a significant increase in productivity, greatly improving a person’s quality of work. As with personal time management, poor time management can lead to stress and anxiety.
In this post, we give you some tips to improve your time management at work. Don’t miss out!
Planning to optimize time management at work
Planning consists of distributing the time we have in the best possible way in activities from most to least value. All good planning should be based on realistic objectives and foresee equally realistic and achievable deadlines. Remember, poor planning, both at work and in life, can be counterproductive and end up overwhelming and stressful.
According to the Pareto Principle, only 20% of our time contributes to 80% of our results. The rest of the time is usually devoted to participating in unforeseen events, emergencies, interruptions, corrections, etc.
That is why it is essential to plan our time. To plan well, use a good agenda, either physical or electronic, to organize your working day. Agendas help reduce stress because you never forget anything . . . yes, you have to know how to add and delete tasks as the day progresses. However, planning does not mean filling your agenda with activities throughout the day.
Sometimes, we deal with things and issues that are practically irrelevant in the end result. In fact, many times, we use these activities as an excuse not to do other, more important, activities that we find uncomfortable, and that are the ones that would actually provide us 80% of the results.
Another fundamental aspect of planning is deadlines. According to the Parkinson’s Act, a task will grow in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted to carry it out. When you have to do something, try to set a limited and realistic timeframe. It’s amazing how we can turn grains of sand into mountains just by spending too much time on them; thus, the less time assigned to a task, the better the result because the concentration will be greater. We are not talking about working quickly but about working concentratedly. We must avoid deconcentration.
Urgency and importance in managing time at work
Good time management at work involves setting priorities. But how do you do it when everything was due yesterday? When we speak of urgency, we are referring to those activities that require immediate action; when we speak of importance, we are referring to the results of those activities. According to this matrix, we find four possible categorizations of our daily activities:
IMPORTANT AND URGENT: These are issues you need to deal with right now. Some examples are crisis management, punctuality problems, fixed deadlines, etc. Often, they are not plannable.
IMPORTANT BUT NOT URGENT: This refers to activities like improving skills, caring for personal relationships, preventing illness with medical checkups, etc. It is important to recognize opportunities for these actions and plan them; if we let them pass, stress and anxiety arise. Important (not urgent) things require us to be proactive. These are the opportunities we have in life to achieve what we really want to accomplish for ourselves.
NOT IMPORTANT, BUT URGENT: here we are referring to those kinds of things that are imposed on your day-to-day but lack relevance and are rarely plannable: interruptions, phone calls, reception of emails, etc. Urgencies act on us; we set the pace but are not always important. You have to know how to recognize them. And if they are not important for your work, it is almost better to try to delegate these tasks to others for whom they are.
NEITHER IMPORTANT NOR URGENT: we refer to activities without a defined objective. Basically, those that waste our time. Avoid doing them, much less planning them. We must learn to say no to tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
Time thieves to avoid for proper time management at work
A great thief of time is our own mind. We spend hours thinking about things and worrying about things that have already happened or will never happen. According to some studies, we devote 8% of our thoughts to real problems, 10% to problems that cannot be simultaneous, 12% to health issues, 30% to problems that have already occurred, and 40% to things that will never happen. In other words, we use very little time efficiently.
Another aspect to avoid: perfectionism. Every task must be given adequate time. Neither too little time (to avoid making a real mess), nor too much, since the only thing we will achieve is dedicating precious time to improve the final result very little. It’s about working within our efficiency zone.
Ineffective communication negatively affects time management at work. Corporate communication often revolves around the use of email. You would be surprised by how proper use of email can improve your time management at work. Thus, using a good antispam or unsubscribing from distribution lists that you are not interested in can change your life. It’s all about not receiving unwanted emails.
Disorder and lack of personal discipline should be avoided in order to achieve proper time management at work. This can also apply to your email, so here’s a tip: organize and archive your emails instead of leaving them in your inbox. Create folders for them. Once created, use these special folders to organize yourself. You can have, for example, a folder called “Tasks pending,” another called “Tasks completed,” and another called “Follow-up.”
We hope you found our tips on how to organize, manage, and optimize your time usefully. We want to hear from you, so please leave us a comment.