5 Time Management Tips You Must Do in 2013

Jessica Miller-Merrell, blogging4jobs

Every year on the first work day of January, your co-workers return to their desks with a new plan to transform themselves via their New Year’s Resolution. Maybe they are mixing health shakes in the breakroom in place of their lunches, walking through the halls (or up and down the stairs) in lieu of their typical breaks to sneak in some exercise or madly chewing nicotine replacement gum to kick the smoking habit. Whatever their goal might be, their intentions are good. But, this year, instead of (yet again) resolving for your health, consider the best New Year’s resolution of all: resolve to find more time.

Jim Croce wanted to capture time in a bottle. And, while you can’t actually store time or increase the minutes of the day, it can seem like you have by increasing your personal productivity with time management tips. Technology can be a double-edged sword. New software programs and communication methods promise efficiency and automation. But, on the flip side, they are often coupled with additional steps, duplicate efforts and yet one more thing you have to check off your daily list. The time we have left over for ourselves, for our sanity and for creative thinking gets slashed. We find ourselves reconsidering a glass of water because too many trips to the restroom can hinder our work efforts. Fear not, and fill up at the water cooler because real tips for improving your time management do exist.

  • Do it once. The best time management tip I ever heard was to only touch a piece of paper (or electronic message) once. If you can answer it and be done with it within 2 minutes, do it then. No reason to let this one pile up in your to-do box. Revisiting it later wastes time because it means re-reading it and re-thinking about it. Do it while it’s fresh in your mind. Check.

  • Schedule your inbox time and emails. This is an interesting concept and I have heard of companies actually requiring this of their staff. Consider how often emails interrupt your work day. You are feverishly working on a report or compiling data. Your inbox is hot with activity and you see the incoming messages pop up as you work (Click here to learn how to disable incoming message alerts in Outlook). Even if you do not open the email, it is distracting and your mind can turn away from the attention it should be giving the task at hand into the incoming emails. You might give in to temptation and open your inbox and start replying. At this moment, you have cut your personal productivity because when you return to your project, you are going to have to spend time refreshing yourself as to wear you left off, and switching gears isn’t that easy. 

    The solution: try scheduling your inbox checking and replying to only 2 hours through the day. From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. you will check and reply to your email. At 10 a.m., close out of your email completely. Don’t turn it on for anything. Next, re-open your email and work through the communications at 2 p.m. Once 3 p.m. comes around, close back out of your email. If necessary, re-open at 4:30 to ensure you didn’t miss anything major before the end of the day. This type of transition can be difficult to get used to—and maybe you think it won’t work for you in your environment because your boss requires you to respond immediately. That may be the case, but most emails can wait a couple of hours for a response, and if you can pitch to your superiors the need to segment your time and improve your efficiency through this method, hopefully, they will allow you some freedom to experiment and see if it does indeed work.

  • Be Social… Sometimes.  Social Media time: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Plus and other sites are always on. If you are guilty of incessantly checking your newsfeed or notifications, you are hindering yourself. Much like you should schedule your email time, schedule time to check-in and post. Do not leave your browser constantly open. Social media can be a true time suck. Even if managing social media for your company is part of your work, remember, that it isn’t ALL of your work. Schedule your tweets and posts in advance and monitor the accounts like you schedule time for your emails. It will make you feel less scattered and will focus your time. 

  • Use Technology to your Advantage. If you are like 90 percent of companies out there, you use Outlook for your inbox. Outlook comes with some fabulous tools for managing your messages and inbox to help you sort, prioritize and schedule your workload as your emails come in. Get familiar with the tools already available to you. Take two hours and set up rules so internal emails go to a particular folder. If emails are coming in from your staff, send them to another folder. By pre-sorting your emails, you can save yourself some hassle and also better segment your work in replying to them. Another great tool is with Conversation Clean Up which will put all of your messages in a series into a single email and delete the ones you no longer need. No longer will you have to sort through messages to make sure you have all the info—this tool does the work for you.

  • Ask for the Agenda. When you get a meeting request, no matter who it is from, ask for an agenda. If he meeting organizer doesn’t have one, you shouldn’t go. Without an agenda, there is no identified purpose. No one (aside from maybe the organizer) knows what is being discussed, who is reporting, what the deliverables are and the desired outcomes. Meetings can be a major time crusher. And if you have ever spent time in a meeting wondering why you were there, or about the million other things you should be doing, asking for an agenda before you ever step foot in a meeting is the first step in ensuring your time is being maximized.

These are just a few of the many ways you can increase your productivity in the workplace and discover newfound minutes. Maybe you will use this newfound time to focus on work projects or maybe you will focus on yourself and those health-related goals you didn’t jump on the bandwagon with at New Years.  Whatever you decide to do with it, you still can’t store it in a bottle, so spend it wisely and enjoy. 

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs


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