Better Time Management at the Office
As we all know but always forget, time is the only thing that we can’t buy or earn somehow. We have to get the best out of our limited time in this world and we have to use it wisely. Same principle suitable for work life too, if we use our working time efficiently, we will perform better, aim higher and achieve greater.
At some point in your life, you must had a moment that you understand the value of time. After understanding it, we try to look for better ways to spend our time, increase efficiency. There are lots of pro tips and suggestions, which are valuable of course, so maybe my experience would be useful for you too. As a white collar worker at a top 250 company, most of my time flies between meetings, one-on-ones, researches, problem solving, developing things, factory visits and tasks to achieve. This article is a short summary of my experiences and learning about time management.
Measure The Time
Bill Gates splits his working hours in 5 min. periods, Elon Musk does the same. I even heard that people splitting every minute in their schedule, what a planning! We all must split our work hours in periods. I use 15 min. periods since it is suitable for my job. To split and monitor time, I think most effective tool is Outlook, or any calendar app or tool that your e-mail is integrated. Because with shortcuts, creating tasks are no effort.
I’m suggesting using multiple calendars but they all must be integrated in one. One for personal things, one for meetings only (physical effort), one for things that you have to do yourself. You can increase calendars up to your requirements. This will help you to prioritize the tasks and show you which ones you can delay easily. Before splitting your calendar in many parts, be aware that secondary calendar don’t get the exactly same functionalities as main calendar. I suggest physical activity calendar to be your 1st one.
Before adding a task, think about how long will it take. You make assumptions but you get better with time. Always split big tasks, newer add a task that will take 3–4 hours. You could not accomplish it. I don’t add breaks to my calendar, but I foresee them. In example, if a task takes 2 hours, I create a task with 3 and half our task, have breaks occasionally. So split and swallow!
Small spaces are the key. Don’t just put tasks one after other without breaks. These small spaces are time for your email checks, coffee breaks and quick chats or time saves for some other delayed things.
I do not suggest to put tasks like “check e-mail”. You can check quickly at breaks. E-mail is newer prior thing in your schedule. If something is urgent, they will call! I suggest to check e-mails and make a quick read through during these checks. First check could be early in morning, just read mail topics and add flag if it need an action. If it is a long e-mail or need focus for you to read, leave it unread. Second e-mail check could be done in breaks, especially just before the lunch break. Delegate or direct e-mails if you are not the action taker. Last e-mail check could be done near to the end of shift. Additionally, before daybreak, you should go through all e-mails that need action. Of course don’t try to solve all of them but “plan’. If you think it will take a long time to reply, create a 30 min. new task tomorrow early morning or whenever you feel creative, smart and energetic. If mail needs an action, again create a task in your schedule in coming days depending on importance and emergency. At this stage, it is important to update schedule. This is the time that you go through your schedule and make delays, adjustments etc.
I have to mention that e-mail checking depends on department. Customer Relations or Sales are customer related departments so their main task is to be in good contact with customers so they should prioritize accordingly.
When office is silent, you are calm; focus on tomorrow’s schedule. Prioritize and shift, focus on most important ones. Don’t forget your flagged e-mails in day, create an action plan.
Planning ahead is a must. Plan you schedule or shift it at least 2–3 days before.
Update Frequently: Fluid Time Management
Continuous renewing and updating the schedule is essential. Your calendar must be alive, not something that you set before week and follow during the day. Everything (beside meetings) should be fluid.
Schedule the major things in mornings. It is proven that brain is very active in mornings so do the most important tasks in morning. I suggest not to set meetings in mornings neither, sometimes they could be time wasting. I suggest not to do e-mail reading at fruitful mornings neither. Maybe quick reading is better.
Colors have great effect in our psychology, in our moods. Using white before doing creative things help. White desktop, surroundings or even looking a white page for a long time clears subconscious. Similarly, having an organized workspace is important. Be careful with your desktop too, too crowded desktops makes you overwhelmed and make you feel busy.
Delegate, Don’t Micromanage
If you are a manager, delegating must be your key skill. It is so much harder than you think, so spend time on results and expectations from the work that you are delegating. Delegating creates more time for you to focus on vision and future, also it’s an opportunity for your team to develop. It adds nothing to you if you are doing something repetitive or an easy task. You probably think that it’s easier to do yourself, rather than explain someone else how to do it. Probably you will do it better and faster, but it’s time for managers to spend effort on performance, and vision missions.
When you read an e-mail, if you will delegate it, I suggest not to micromanage. If you trust your employee and his/her skills, if he/she has enough experience to do the job, then he will handle the task. Maybe just giving an idea about expected output and expected duration of task could be useful. I also suggest not to write long e-mails at delegating. Instead, call him or have a quick meeting and you can explain the details of expectations and time schedule.
Be Careful with Time Killers
Reading news, magazine and all notifications about them are time wasting. There are people whose job is to make you keep connected to news and magazine, advertorial purposes. So don’t fall to that trap and keep the source and time very limited for your online surfing. You could read during a short walk at your break or during transport to office. Social media is the worsts; don’t use it or use it when you are very bored and need for a break.
Meetings should be planned, they must only be focused on expected outcome of the meeting. Always meet in small groups, large meetings are ineffective. Always prefer mobile phone call, a quick chat, message or e-mail for short and clear communication. Being clear and goal focused in every communication (even in meetings) are very beneficial. Also use time wisely. Try not to exceed meeting times, always be brief.
When chatting or discussing with long-talkers (they go in detail for every topic, they explain their opinion in very detailed way), try to be brief at the beginning of conversation. “I want to talk quickly about … task. I’ve 10 minutes, could you give me a quick summary update? Could you just summarize what are the obstacles for the task, I don’t need detail about how you’re doing, I trust you.” That’s very important because you can use a lot of time when chatting. If you have a large team, time should be splitted equally between members.
If you have an ongoing task, learn to say no. When you are focused on something, it could be disturbing to get a knock on your door and get some quick questions. You should reject and state that you’re busy, because you’re busy. Be respectful with your time. Don’t forget to return back the visiting person when you’re free.
I can suggest to tell team and people about your open door policy. When you’re free, keep your door open or left your headphones off. When you are focused, you could keep your door closed and put on your headphones. And tell people about this. Your teammates will act according to your status and your valuable time will not be spared. You could even set an office hour like our professors at university, tell your teammates about your weekly free times etc.
If your organization uses Outlook, everyone could check the availability with scheduling assistant. If you use outlook effectively, your team will see it and understand the effective communication ways with you. Also reaching your calendar with your mobile will be a great advantage.
Some Other Tips
I will not go in detail but read about 80/20 rule. As a summary, 20% of the things you do are essential, it will create value more than 80% of the things you do. So specify these tasks and prioritize.
You need time to develop yourself. Create learning time and don’t shift it unless some emergency happens. Turning learning to a habit is a real win.
Always state the reason for the meeting. Set expectations and share them written (preferably in invitations), let people to prepare for the meeting to gain time at the meeting. Be serious about your expectations from the people, it is frustrating to wait people in meetings when they can get the report or mail ready for the meeting. Let them be ready and understand the reason for the meeting.
I’m finding useful that Mr. Buffett’s suggestion about “Write down one task that you want to achieve today”. That focuses you on the most important things that you need to do. This limit delaying the important things that you scheduled for the day. If you make delaying things a habit, start-over. You could easily lost track of your calendar and feel overwhelmed. Don’t wait inspiration to start things, don’t delay tasks easily. Be persistent!
Lastly a quick tip: never say “I’ve no time”, this motto kills productivity. Time is a preference, you can always create time with preferring doing something else instead of your schedule so be responsible of your time. You’ve control of your time, only you…