Feb 07 2013
Tips for time management and managing your workload

As Oscar Wilde once said, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." Spending your time effectively will mean you get much more out of your life. It is the key to a work/life balance and well being at work.

Here are some of the tips from a delegate who attended our Time management for administrators course which will help you overcome the interruptions and conquer your daily responsibilities.

1. Planning
This is sometimes much easier said than done! If you are anything like me and a bit of a perfectionist, I've always worried that I'd spend more time making an elaborate plan than actually getting on with the work. But, since attending the course, I've learnt that a simple ‘to do list' will suffice - and without this now, I find myself getting snowed under and overwhelmed.

Set aside five minutes every morning to write down all the tasks that you need to do that day. For each thing - schedule an amount of time it will take to get this done and always over-estimate this. That way, when the jobs inevitably take longer to do - you won't feel overwhelmed and when you get the tasks done quicker - you'll feel better about yourself and more positive.

When thinking about your daily plan - consider your energy cycle. Most people find that their energy levels rise and dip during the course of the day and there is a pattern to this. So, where possible, try to plan your schedule to match your ‘prime time' and plan the most important jobs for when you will have the most energy.

I normally go through my list and highlight the most urgent tasks by the highest priority to make sure I get to these first and review the list regularly throughout the day to keep track of my progress and make sure I'm not going off task.

A marker pen will be your best friend as there is nothing more satisfying than putting a big tick next to a completed job or crossing off a task you've done - so raid the stationery cupboard and get one on your desk.

2. Managing interruptions
Distractions and interruptions are always going to come up - there's no avoiding them! But there are things you can do to manage them more effectively and not let them take over your day.

You can tackle distraction from colleagues by re-positioning your workstation. Facing outwards can often tempt you into conversation with whoever is passing by or anyone who's having a chat for that matter! Whereas facing away will make you seem a little hostile, so the best way is to sit sideways - making you less open to office chit chat and banter.

Another tip is to try signalling your availability (or lack of it as the case may be). Put a sign on your desk to notify your colleagues that you are not available to conversation or questions they may have. If you are firm about this from the beginning so people know you mean business, they should stop distracting you from your work soon enough.

If, like me, you work on a reception desk - this probably isn't an option since it's your job to greet people! Although I have found there are some things you could try. Something we have managed to implement here at the Centre is for a colleague to cover me for one afternoon per week. This enables me to catch up on all the important tasks that have fallen to the bottom of my to do lists since they were not urgent. If you work with a colleague on reception, try to arrange a time when one of you can get on with such tasks while the other mans the phones and swap over on another day.

One of my biggest distractions are emails. I could spend all day replying to emails if I had the time! An excellent tip I picked up on the course was to turn off the email pop ups that notify you of a new message. In the past, it used to be so tempting to have a look at someone's reply and answer ‘just that one' but this would lead to me checking all the others and feeling that I needed to reply and action them all. Before I knew it, an hour would have gone by and as I would get back to what I was doing - another tempting email would come in! So turn these off TODAY! Make time to check emails and reply to them once in the morning, at lunch time and late in the afternoon to avoid them taking over your day.

3. Be assertive
I've realised that it's okay to say no! You may like to be everyone's friend and enjoy helping others, but sometimes there isn't enough time in the day to get your own work done, let alone taking on more. So some tips on assertiveness that I've picked up are:
◾Be straightforward, open and direct
◾Keep it short and simple - don't ramble or try to search for better words to use. No means no at the end of the day!
◾Don't over justify or apologise profusely as this may lead to the other person trying to persuade you to change your mind
◾Use a problem solving attitude - offer solutions and that way you are still being helpful

I have found that these small steps in time management have really helped me to overcome the stress I was feeling at work and I now manage to get most things done to the high standard I know I am capable of achieving.

Remember that it's impossible to get everything done but if you aim for progress, not perfection, you'll find you feel better about your role and gradually you'll feel more in control at work.

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