You might feel like you’re always in the office, but are you really making the most of your time at work? Research suggests that some of us are wasting three hours every day, whether it be chatting to colleagues, browsing online or just losing concentration on a difficult task. To make sure you get the most out of your day and achieve a better work-life balance, we’ve put together our top time management techniques.
While you might be desperate to run out of the office as soon as the clock hits 5pm, it can really help to hold back and spend an extra ten minutes planning for the next day. Having a to-do list ready and waiting means you can make an immediate start in the morning without having to waste time thinking about what needs to be done.
Writing out a list and sticking it on your desk means you can refresh your memory even while your computer – and your brain – are still waking up. Completing this simple piece of diary management before you leave the office also means you’re less likely to be thinking about work when you get home, allowing you to have a more enjoyable evening and a fulfilling sleep.
Find what’s best for you
Whether you’re a morning person or not, there’s a strong possibility you’ve got to get up early and go to work – but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan your day around your body clock. If you’re thinking seriously about how to manage time in the most effective way, work out exactly when you’re at peak productivity. If you have more energy before 11am and will slump in the afternoon, spend that time doing the most important, brain-intensive activities. This means that when your energy dips later in the day, you can use that time for more menial, easier jobs such as sending emails or admin tasks. If like most people you’re part of a bigger team then this time management technique won’t always be possible – but it’s definitely one to try when you can.
Don’t get distracted
Nowadays it’s all too easy to get distracted thanks to social media, online shopping and the constant ping of emails – but did you know that once you are sidetracked it takes around 25 minutes to regain your full focus? Some of the simplest time management techniques include closing down your internet browser, turning off email notifications (or turning wifi off if you can) and using do not disturb functions on applications like Skype. That doesn’t mean you have to do four hours of solid work in a row – it’s better to spend 45 minutes without any disruptions and then have a break. If it’s your office environment that’s distracting you, try wearing earphones if allowed even if you don’t have them on it will stop people from trying to talk to you – or move to a quieter area if space permits.
One of the most important time management techniques is to prioritise your activities at the beginning of every day and usually several times throughout it. One of the simplest ways to do this is to start by writing down a list of everything you know you’ve got to do and then numbering them by importance, before re-writing the list in the new order. Your most important task should generally always be done first, however difficult it is – by completing it you’ve already made it a successful day and can then focus more freely on the smaller tasks.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Whether you’re a team leader or have just started in a new role, one of the best ways to increase your productivity is to delegate your work to others when necessary. Some people worry about passing work on for fear of looking lazy, but failing to adhere to this most important of time management techniques can really hinder your day and means you rush things without giving them your best effort. If you do share out your workload, make sure you give clear instructions on exactly what needs to be done – if the person you pass it to does a bad job and someone needs to re-do it, time hasn’t been saved at all.
Use your lunch break wisely
Frequent short breaks away from the desk are vital and everyone should take some time off for lunch in order to feel refreshed and ready to work in the afternoon. While it can be tempting to work over lunch – with a recent survey of over 2,000 workers revealing more than half of employees skip their break – there are plenty of better ways to spend that precious time:
-Do a personal admin task that you haven’t had the chance to complete. Whether it be going to the post office or sorting out your new mobile phone contract, getting on top of a personal task is one of our top time management techniques. Doing so will leave you feeling less stressed and give you more free time in the evening or at the weekend. Don’t try and do too many things in an hour though or you’ll come back to the desk feeling even more frazzled.
-Get some exercise. As exercise is known to boost endorphins, a workout can leave you feeling motivated for the afternoon and therefore help increase your productivity later in the day. It also means you can avoid going to the gym early on a morning or after work, leaving more free time to catch up on your sleep.
-Meet a friend for lunch. Whether you go out with a colleague or meet a friend working nearby, getting out for some fresh air, a bite to eat and some small talk can be all you need to help you feel more ready for the afternoon behind your desk.
-Do something ‘for you’ whether it be read a new book, learn a language or listen to a podcast – a bit of you time is important and as not always possible after work, especially if you’ve got a family to look after.
Reduce your meetings
Meetings are a great way to share ideas and move projects forward but they can also be the biggest time killer in your working day. Before you set up a meeting, decide whether you really need it – would it be more sensible just to send a quick email or go and chat to one individual person? If the meeting is necessary, think about the time management techniques that will stop precious minutes being wasted. Always send a clear agenda beforehand so things stay on track, and do everything you can to ensure the meeting doesn’t drag – after half an hour people will certainly be starting to switch off. It can also help to enforce a no laptops/phones rule – too often people are replying to emails and not even taking part in the discussion.
Time management techniques: a summary
It’s easy to waste hours in the office without even realising you’re doing it, so it’s worth spending time thinking carefully about what you could change. Everyone is different, so choose the time management techniques that work best for you, whether it be taking your lunch break (even just a few times a week), switching off notifications or delegating tasks to other colleagues. Applying just a few of them to your daily routine will ensure you have a better work-life balance and help you achieve your full potential.