According to a survey by salary.com, 89% of respondents admitted to wasting time every day at work. Other research showed the average worker puts in less than three productive hours each workday. Most employees need to be more organized and productive, and there’s a booming enterprise of time management tools and books touting secrets for improving efficiency. Unfortunately, when it comes to time management at work, employees spend too much time dealing with distractions, looming deadlines, meetings, and last-minute tasks to feel like they’ve really accomplished anything at the end of the workday. Learn more about time management at work and get nine tips that will boost productivity.
Develop your time management strategy
If you’re looking for practical time management tips, a great place to start is a quick online search for inspiration. There are hundreds of blogs, articles, and books devoted to the subject. It’s easy to get inspired by quotes and advice from leaders and experts. “Look upon time management as a vehicle that can take you from wherever you are today, to wherever you want to be in the future,” says sales training and personal success coach Brian Tracy. But don’t get bogged down in the search for time management tips—it’s more important to stop procrastinating and put these best practices into action.
Nine time management tips at the workplace
1. Track daily activities; conduct a time audit. If you’re looking for ways to help employees better manage time, it helps to understand when and where time-wasting occurs. Track your activities for a few days or a week to determine how much time is spent on different activities including meetings, work tasks, socializing, and more.
2. Set your goals and make a plan. As many experts point out, improving time management at work is more about changing behaviors. In order to use your time wisely, it’s important to make a plan. For example, try one of the following best practices: At the end of the workday, spend a few minutes organizing your desk and writing tomorrow’s to-do list. Start your work day by writing your to-do list and then begin working on them right away.
3. Use time management tools. There are numerous paper-based and electronic time management tools that can help keep employees on track when it comes to planning and better time management at work. For example, software can help organize the day and send alerts for meetings and deadlines.
4. Prioritize tasks. Success coach Brian Tracy suggests using the ABCDE system to prioritize tasks. Basically, any tasks labeled A (most important), B (minor consequences), or C (no consequences) should be accomplished in that order. Anything labeled D should be delegated and E tasks should be eliminated altogether.
5. Be organized with everything from your desk to electronic files. Keeping a well-organized desk with needed supplies and maintaining a system for storing files is another way to improve how to manage your time. Everything will be easier to find so you aren’t wasting time looking for the things you need to get the job done.
6. Don’t try to do everything. A crucial step in better time management is coming to terms with the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. Follow your priority list from step four above; learn to delegate and eliminate tasks when appropriate.
7. Focus on one task at a time. Another time management expert, James Clear, notes that “it’s stupidly easy to split our attention between what we should be doing and what society bombards us with.” To improve time management and boost productivity, we must learn how to minimize “half-work”; for example, break the habit of checking your email when you’re in the middle of writing a report or presentation.
8. Group similar tasks together. For example, rather than checking email throughout the day, just do it during a specified time on your schedule. If you need to make five sales calls and write two proposals, group by task and knock the calls out, then the proposals, rather than switching mental gears back and forth.
9. Set appropriate time limits and schedule wisely. Allow yourself time to tackle big projects and not have to rush from one thing to the next.
Time management for the modern workforce
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