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Where has my day gone?

Date :
03 September 2014
Authored by :
Clinton Henderson

Have you ever found yourself looking at the clock, wondering where your day has gone, and wishing there were two of you just to get through all the tasks on hand?

In today's busy world, the importance of effective time management and multitasking has never been higher. Both of these skills can easily be applied in the office space and also in your personal life. Like all skills, practice is the key.

Better time management, in the office, can lead to higher productivity and potentially higher job satisfaction. It can be incredibly demoralising to look back at the end of a seemingly standard week with the realisation that you have more tasks outstanding than you started the week with.

In the personal space, time management can help with less time spent on chores to free up time for those activities you really want to be doing.

Here is how to help achieve that.

Take Notes

With a diary, a notepad, or even on a computer with a basic word processing application, take notes throughout your day of what you are working on. There are even free applications available for download designed specifically for this purpose. Try to categorise these tasks into items such as administrative duties, reading & responding to emails, customer relations, assigned duties, etc. It’s important to be honest with yourself while remembering that nobody needs to ever see these notes. For example, if you’ve just spent half an hour chatting with Joe down the hall, about the weekend, then note that down.

Review

Set aside some time for yourself at the end of the day, or week, and look through where you have spent your time. At this stage, you can be critical with yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I spending too much time?” on particular tasks or “Am I not spending enough time?” on others.

Try to keep up the note taking for as long as needed but once you know where your time has gone, have a look back and see if there are any areas where you can improve. For example, management of emails – are you getting bogged down too often throughout the day and simply being reactive to incoming emails?

Multitasking

The ability to effectively multitask can greatly help you get through your growing workload. Note the keyword in the prior sentence is effectively. Without some sort of plan, or knowing what the end goal is, it could end badly. Some key points when it comes to multitasking:

  • Be prepared – For example, if you know you need to make a phone call to one of those companies with notoriously long phone queues, make sure the call is made from a phone with a headset or from a location where being on speaker phone is acceptable. This frees up both hands to work on other tasks while waiting.
  • Know your limits – Trying to do too many things at once can end up being counter-productive. Do not over commit.
  • Accept that completing some items while multitasking may mean that individual tasks from start to finish may take slightly longer than when completed with your undivided attention. As long as the end result is in your favour, you’re ahead. For example, if, with multitasking, you complete two tasks that normally take an hour each in the space of ninety minutes; you’re ahead by thirty minutes. Imagine if you did this a couple times a day!
  • Prioritise – If you are multitasking and all of a sudden something needs your complete focus then how to you determine which tasks get done first? Know this in advance.
  • With some tasks we know that once enter is pressed, or next is clicked, the processing is then going to take 15 minutes or longer. In these times, move on to the next task and return later.
  • Above all, learn to recognise when to and not to multitask. Some things will simply always need your undivided attention.

More?

Do you use some other effective time management techniques? We would love to hear them so we can share them with everyone.