We’ve all seen job descriptions with the requirement, “Must have excellent time management skills.” Most candidates assume they have that skill, but many do not. Effective time management skills are truly essential for most employees — and for our lives in general. The problem is, most of us need to improve our time management skills. Here are a few tips on how you can improve your time management to be a more efficient employee.
Know How Long Things Take
Start your time management experiment by timing everything you do. (Yes, even bumming around on social media!) There are several great apps and online tools for this, like Toggl (www.toggl.com), or you can do it the old fashioned way by just noting the time and activity. This practice helps you to be aware of what you are doing with your time and how long it takes. Over time, this data will tell you what you are spending the most time doing, activities you can cut to help you add time to your day, and which activities will take you longer than expected.
Make a Schedule
Using your understanding of how long your tasks take, you can begin to make and refine a schedule for yourself. Start simple, by planning a few tasks you want to complete in a specific time, then seeing if you are able to meet that schedule. Schedule things to your comfort level, whether that is a generalized list of things to do in a day, or whether it’s a detailed schedule with every minute accounted for. With effective scheduling, you will be able to plan out your days in advance and you will also be able to predict any issues that might occur so that you can build in time to create a better outcome overall.
We have all had that moment where we procrastinated on an important project. Having a priority system in place can help you to avoid those distractions and put the most important work first. Be aware of which deadlines come first, which projects will need extra review time, and any other external forces that might dictate that one thing should be prioritized over another.
Take the time to create goals and set deadlines for yourself as a part of your prioritizing.
How many of you have a tab open to your email right now? Are you checking social media every few minutes? Distractions can be a great thing when your brain needs a break, but most of us overuse them, which leads to us wasting the majority of our time on unproductive tasks. Restricting how often you use distractions can take some work, but you may be surprised how much more time you suddenly have.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re needed, so it’s hard to say “no” when your boss, manager, or coworker comes to you with an extra project. However, taking on too much can put a serious damper on your available time, which can add undue pressure to your carefully constructed schedule. Instead of always saying “yes” to these unexpected projects, say, “I need to look at my schedule and see if I can fit that in.” If you don’t have the time to give that project and your existing projects the attention they require, it’s ok to say “no” to the extra task.
Take a Break
Our minds need to take a break on occasion, whether that’s to recharge our energy, to wind down after a stressful event, or to work on solving a problem in the background. Our bodies need breaks too—sitting and typing all day can be bad for your health! Avoid burning out by scheduling and taking breaks throughout the day so that you can tackle tasks with a fresh mind and not feel overwhelmed. Remember to also use your vacation time! Vacations can help to improve your mood, health, and productivity.
Remember that time management skills are SKILLS. Nobody is born with great time management; we all have to work on building up these skills and learning what works best for ourselves. The more you practice your time management, the better you will be at it.
Remember that technology is here to help! There are many different applications that can help you plan your tasks and streamline your efforts, whether they are simple calendar or timing apps, or distraction blockers that don’t let you go to certain sites during specific times. Research and try a variety of tools to see what helps you the most.
Another important thing to remember is to enjoy what you are doing. If you aren’t enjoying your work, you may be in the wrong opportunity. There are lots of great jobs and opportunities out there, and the JDC Group recruitment team is here to help you find the one that is right for you. Contact a recruiter today, or browse through our job board to learn about the opportunities that are available to you.