It has happened to all of us that we have a lot of work to do, and it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to finish it. “I don’t have time…” we say to ourselves, but, let’s face it, we all have the same seven days with 24 hours each. The problem is not that there is no time, it’s that we manage it wrong.
How to better manage time at work is a question that all of us hard-pressed workers have asked ourselves, and here we will look at strategies for doing so as well as how to keep our hours from slipping away as smoothly as the grains in an hourglass.
How to better manage time at work and perform better
Our weeks have seven days, and each of them has 24 hours, not one more nor one less. Time is the same for everyone in terms of quantity but not in its use. Some manage to do all the tasks they have to do without lacking time to devote to their leisure and family, while others finish their obligations very late. Why? What is it that differentiates one from the other? The key to all this lies in how we manage our working time differently.
In the society in which we live, it is essential to manage time, since at the slightest lack of it, we start to overload ourselves, feel stressed, and notice how everything we want to do has to be canceled.
Work obligations are ahead of our hobbies, family, friends, and other pleasurable activities, which means that the longer we take to do our work, the less we are going to enjoy our leisure time. Poor time management frustrates us and makes us feel like we are wasting our lives.
How to manage time better at work is something that many want to do, but few succeed at. There is no incomprehensible mystery; it is simply a matter of learning how to organize yourself. Of course, unforeseen events can always occur, but most of the hours we see passing by are time that, if well used, will allow us to finish our work tasks as soon as possible.
Ways to manage time better
Here are some tips and strategies to get the most out of your time at work so that you have more time for those pleasurable activities you want to do once you have finished with your work obligations.
1. Use an agenda
Agendas allow us to manage time in the medium and long term by putting important dates and keeping them well in mind. Whether in digital or physical format, the important thing is to have one to organize tasks and plan well when we have to deliver reports or meet our deadlines. We should always have it at hand to write down all our commitments and consult it frequently. Do not rely on our memory because, as much as we may think it is infallible, it is not.
2. Allocate a specific time to tasks
If we work without rest and continuously, physical and mental fatigue will appear sooner or later, which will prevent us from performing adequately. It is, therefore, necessary to assign a specific time to each activity and leave some free time between tasks, even if it is very short. This may seem contradictory, but taking into account that after 50 minutes, it is difficult to stay focused, a short break can recharge us and keep us working satisfactorily.
The idea is to put in our schedule when we start to do each task we have been assigned and when we should take a short break. We can base ourselves on the Pomodoro method, working 25 minutes (1 pomodoro) or 50 (2 pomodoros) and then taking a 5-minute break between periods. This way, we will be able to advance without feeling exhausted, carrying out the functions that we have to develop adequately.
3. Set goals
It is highly recommended to set daily, weekly, and even monthly goals. This strategy is a very good option for performing short jobs correctly. Besides, it motivates us to see how much we are achieving. These goals must be ambitious but also realistic and achievable; otherwise, if we see that we are not achieving them, we will become demotivated. The objectives to be set should be short, medium, and long-term.
4. Prioritize tasks
Not all tasks are equally important. We must start with the most important ones, the highest priorities. It doesn’t matter the order in which we prioritize things, and the important thing is that we do it since finishing the most important things before will mean that we will have free time before.
In this case, it is also important to have the right moral attitude. You should tell yourself: “No one will write my essay for free for me!” Or whatever it is you’re doing, a report or a review, for example. The main thing is to realize that you will have to do it one way or another, putting it off will not help.
Small or non-urgent tasks can wait to be solved. In relation to this, it is essential to know what our best performance hours are, those in which we concentrate best so that we can do the tasks that require the most resources with the greatest possible efficiency and without errors. The less important tasks are best left to the times when our performance is not very high, usually after lunch or late in the working day.
5. Start with the least pleasant
On many occasions, we leave what we least like to do for the end, which is a big mistake. The best thing we can do is to do as soon as possible that which we find unpleasant because, in this way, we will get rid of it sooner and we will be able to enjoy the rest of the day more. If we get rid of what stresses us first, the rest of the things to do will be easier to do.
6. Divide time into blocks
A good strategy to make the most of and manage time efficiently is dividing the workday into blocks. If we have to do complex tasks, which at first glance make us not want to start them, we can always break them down into simpler tasks, organized in such a way that each small step is a step forward. By converting complex tasks into several simpler ones, we can optimize resources, save time and organize our time better.
7. Give yourself rewards
Although we should not overdo it, we can reward ourselves for doing the tasks. We can give ourselves small rewards such as, for example, having a chocolate bar when we finish a report, reading a book we like for half an hour, or watching a video that interests us. These small rewards will encourage and motivate us to do and finish the tasks we have to do.
8. Organize a good working environment
The place where we work is very important, more than we think. As much as we can, we should work in a place with a good desk, a comfortable chair, good lighting, and without many distractions. We can give it a personal touch to make it cozy but always ensure it is tidy and well-organized. A desk full of paperwork, with office tools in complete disarray, is an environment that prevents us from concentrating on our tasks.
9. Setting limits
Spending several hours in a row doing the same thing, without even getting up from your chair to stretch your legs a little, is bad for our health and productivity. Working more hours does not mean we will do things better. If we see that a task is costing us too much or that we are easily distracted, let’s give ourselves some time, either by changing tasks for a while or directly resting. It is not that we are abandoning what we were doing; it is that we need to leave it on standby for a while.
10. Avoid multitasking
But just as it is okay to leave a task half done for a while, we should not think that we are going to work well if we jump from task to task constantly. Concentrating is something that takes time, so we cannot dedicate ourselves to alternately doing two tasks at the same time since the only thing we will achieve is to get tired very quickly and take twice as long to do them. Multitasking is the worst enemy of efficient time management. Performance is much better when we focus on a single task.
11. Do not be afraid to say no
Learning to say no when we cannot do something is essential because we already have too much work to do. Sometimes our coworkers try to cram us with their obligations, or even our boss abuses his situation and gives us tasks that are impossible for us to finish today without sacrificing part of our free time. Sometimes this can be accepted, but it is always going too far. If we see that we are being asked to do too much, we should not be afraid to say no.
12. Delegating to third parties
Sometimes we may feel that the situation is beyond us, especially if we have been given more tasks than expected. It is important to avoid stress and delegate some of our tasks to a colleague or subordinate without abusing trust, going overboard, or giving them a task for which they have not been hired. The point is not to put someone else to do what we have to do but to send activities that are difficult for us to do completely on our own.
What takes time away from us: mistakes and distractions at work
Now that we have seen 12 tips for learning to manage time better at work, it is time to look at what takes up our time. Several errors and distractions hinder our good performance at work, time thieves that, if detected, will help us manage our working day in the best way possible.
It is clear that interruptions are the most disruptive to our time management. As soon as something interrupts us, our concentration fades, making us need a few precious minutes to be able to concentrate on what we are doing again. The longer it takes us to regain our concentration, the longer it takes us to become productive again, and we also run the risk of making more mistakes.
2. Mobile phone
The telephone takes up a lot of our time. Whether it’s to gossip about the last thing someone has posted on Instagram, what our friends are writing to us on Whatsapp or a call from a family member, the cell phone distracts us and prevents us from being efficient, and of course, the longer it takes us to get things done.
The good idea is to turn off the mobile; however, given that we live in a hyperconnected society and that we depend on it a lot, the best thing we can do is to remove it from our field of vision so that, thus, we only remember it when we see it. It is also very important to leave it on silent and tell our family and friends very clearly that if it is not to warn us of real urgency, they do not call us.
3. Postponing tasks
Postponing unpleasant or complex tasks is the worst thing we can do because the more time passes, the less we will feel like doing them, and the more it will cost us to do them well when we decide to do them. The best thing to do, as we mentioned before, is to do them right at the first moment of the day because that way, we get rid of the bad feeling as soon as possible.
If we want to manage our time at work better, we must know what we have to do, structure the tasks into small activities that are easy and quick to do, and start with the least pleasant. It is very important to keep in mind at what times of the day we are most productive and put the simplest and least important activities at those times when it is hardest for us to concentrate, such as after lunch or at the end of the working day.
Distractions, especially interruptions and cell phones, are what do the most damage to our time management because the more times we lose concentration, the less productive we will be. It is essential to work in a comfortable room where we are isolated from non-urgent distractions and are clear about the most appropriate time to use the cell phone. Our loved ones should know from when we work, telling them they should not call us at that time unless it is for something very important.