Another year is upon us and we have 49-some weeks to implement and perfect our resolutions. You have probably already promised yourself to spend more time with family, hit the gym more often, cut your carb intake and adopt a more positive attitude. These are fantastic goals, but achieving them will be difficult if you have not also determined how to better manage your time in order to accommodate these goals. Here are a few best practices and recommendations for managing your time better.
Delete Unnecessary Email Real-time
If a message is not important or does not require follow-up or saving, delete it immediately after reading it. You do not even have to move your mouse, just a simple CTRL + D will get rid of that message (you can do this directly from your Inbox). You should also sweep your Inbox daily. Deleting unnecessary messages real-time will help that sweep go much quicker.
Categorize, Color and Document Your Tasks
Another great practice is to categorize every task you need to undertake. In Outlook, you can use the Tag feature to assign a Category (with a color code) to every email received. I have never found a to-do app that was more effective and useful than my old-fashioned handwritten list. So, as I write tasks on my to-do list, I also assign a color category to them. Regardless of how you track your tasks, as you perform each task write down how much time was spent addressing the task. At the end of the day or week (depending on the urgency of the assignment), create a color-coded matrix of how much time was spent on each task. This has really helped me understand where I waste my time and how long it really takes to complete an assignment - which is especially helpful as more urgent items arrive on my desk. This way I can project how much time I can spend on an unexpected task and still accomplish my scheduled tasks.
Take that Break
If you are reading this blog, you are probably the type of person who never takes a break, just moves from one task to the other without stretching your legs or clearing your mind. Do not get stuck in this trap! Get up and walk to the other end of the office and back, or better yet, walk down the stairs, out the front door and into the parking lot for a few minutes. This 2012 New York Times piece illustrates the importance of taking breaks. "Long hours don't mean good work - highly efficient, productive work is more valuable," Dr. James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic says, and frequent breaks promote that. You will find that your creative potential will be greater upon completion of moderate aerobic exercise. In addition, the American Heart Association wrote in August 2016, that "insufficient physical activity predicts premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality." So get up and move. Frequently. Your life depends on it.
Learn to Prioritize
Be honest about what you can handle. If you are auditing your time regularly, it will be obvious where the efficiencies exist and therefore where you can cut or delegate tasks.
Turn Off the Distractions
While you are working on a task, turn off email, switch the phone to "do not disturb" and turn it face down and close your instant messenger app. Then work in blocks of 20-25 minutes to finish your task. We get distracted by these interruptions and they are what lead us to be anxious about our time.
Here are some excellent articles on this topic. Hopefully they will add to your toolbox:
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, has over 20 years of experience in information technology and over 15 years of experience in sourcing. Prior to joining SIG, Mary worked at Enporion, where she was responsible for the analysis, configuration, execution and award evaluation for over one thousand sourcing events, across a diverse range of direct and indirect categories. Mary is committed to customer service and considers information sharing and usability the top priorities for any project or organization. Mary holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Science from the Florida State University and has completed certifications in Health Information Technology and Requirements Gathering.