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Time management is essential in our fast paced, demanding, results driving culture that we live in. With the advances in technology, Americans are able to check and send emails, watch the news and surf the internet regardless where we are. This often promotes the concept that we are managing our time better by juggling all the demands but that is not always the case. We spend so much time multi-tasking we are actually hurting our productivity. You can only do one thing at a time so do it right
Organize and Prioritize
Start out by making a to-do list and prioritizing everything on your list. While this sounds very basic and like common sense, it is the easiest way to see what tasks are needed to be completed and when. We often have so many things on our plate and spend time thinking we need to remember to do this or that, we actually are distracting ourselves from getting our work done. Copy important dates down in your calendar so you know exactly when your deadlines are and you can visually see what needs to be done and when.
If you can’t spend several hours working straight through on a single big job, organize the project into different groups and focus on them one at a time. Instead of saying, “I will write my paper this afternoon”, break it up into smaller, manageable tasks. Research information, write body, edit and finalize. This works for procrastination as well. If you are dreading starting on a big project, break out sections and work on them individually. This will make the project seem a little less daunting and more manageable.
Once you're organizing by simple components, it's easier to jump into the small tasks. However, get the most dreaded project out of the way first. Stop putting off your project by working on other items on your list because the dread of getting to the tough work will negatively effect your current project and that is not helping the overall time management.
Establishing habits for certain tasks is extremely important. Knowing what project you are going to complete and when saves time in making decisions. Set aside the same time every day to do things like returning emails. Avoid generalizations in your schedule and commit yourself more definitely to specific tasks. For example; instead of scheduling “return phone calls”, list out everyone you need to call and make a note about what. This way you will not miss anyone and you can mark that one item off your list when it is completed.
Set realistic goals
Remember that you need to set realistic goals for yourself. If you don’t get into work until 8:30 every morning, don’t plan on returning emails from 8:00-8:30. This will just cause you to miss your allotted time and cause anxiety when you have not completed your task. It is also important to allow yourself enough time for each item on your list. People tend to underestimate how much time a particular activity will take so a safe plan would be to determine how long you think it will take to complete and double it. More often than not, your project will take longer than expected and it is better to have more time allotted then not enough.
Manage your interruptions
The key to controlling interruptions is to know what they are, when they happen and if they are necessary. During projects, turn off you email pop ups or silence your phone if possible to ensure that your concentration will not be broken by outside sources. If certain interruptions are necessary, plan for them in your daily schedule when they truly need your attention. By managing your interruptions, you can help control the “overwhelmed” or “overloaded” feeling that many people get.
Finish what you've started
When possible, start working on a single task instead of jumping from task to task. It takes time to get settled and organize your thoughts on a project. If it is a possibility to start one project and work on it until you are completed, it will save you valuable time of revamping each time you go back.
It is possible to have enough time to complete your work and obligations and still have enough time for yourself. Try these steps and see what works for you. Create a routine and you will be organized in no time!
Written by Melanie Fischer, Career & Job Expert who has been writing professionally for over 10 years.