If you have a busy job, there are always a ton of tasks to be completed. You can just arrive at your desk first thing in the morning, go like crazy all day and still have tons of stuff to do when you leave at night. Most people operate in that manner. No real thought, no real system, respond to the emergency in front of them and “just doing the best I can!”
If you want to be successful though, that strategy is not good enough. In this crazy world you MUST focus on the RIGHT TASKS in order to be productive. If you let your day drive you then you will:
(a) miss critical task deadlines;
(b) waste your time (and your client’s money) on non-critical tasks;
(c) lose all sense of control of your job.
The solution to fixing this is easy: Take charge of your day! To-do lists are extremely helpful and should be your first step, but they can also grow to the point where you have no way of identifying the “high return”, “must do”, critical tasks. Here are a few different ways you keep on track of the most important tasks:
- Highlight the important tasks on your to-do list with a marker
- Plug your critical “To Do” items directly into your calendar
- Use your large to-do list to create a smaller daily to-do list. Once it’s created, focus only on the tasks you plan to do that day
- Put a reminder in your calendar twice daily to check your list. It’s easy to stray off course putting out fires or doing less important tasks that are more comfortable.
If you take control of your day and prioritize your tasks, you get a chance at winning the battle. Being more efficient on projects means you’re getting projects done on time (or faster), saving your client money, creating time for more contracts, and securing valuable references. There are no losing factors!
How do you take control of your day? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your career, and even for your life, is to drive your day rather than have your day drive you. Basically that means consciously deciding how to spend your time rather than it just happening. That does not mean “work, work, work” but it might mean consciously deciding to nap, play or just “chill out”!
Here are 10 tips for taking control of your time:
- Be a BIG Calendar user and plan all of your time.
- Block off time in your calendar for meetings with yourself and treat them like any other meeting (be punctual). That could mean blocking off time to work on a specific project, to call recruiters, to work on your resume, or to do your accounting.
- Build regular commitments into your calendar in advance. That can include your monthly meeting with your client or Project Manager, the end of month/start of month progress reports, or the semi-annual resume update etc.
- Use To Do Lists. You can use electronic lists, paper lists whatever works for you. They should contain any significant task (or group of tasks). eg. “Follow up on my 10 recent applications” might be there as one entry but isn’t complete until all are done. Some people advocate one big list, others suggest multiple lists. You may want one list for each of your projects plus another geared towards business development.
- Prioritise your tasks. Work on the high return items first. There is a good sense of accomplishment in ticking off those completed tasks!
- Manage your phone and email, do not let them manage you! Just because the phone rings you do not have to pick it up. Use your caller ID to know if it is important! Just because an email lands in your desk you don’t need to read it right away. It is far more effective to process email in batches at a time that works for you and your job.
- Multi-tasking versus multi-threading! You cannot be efficient when you do two things at the same time. Having said that, reality is you will have several tasks “on the go” at the same time. The trick is to be totally focused on the one you are processing for the time you are processing it. Then focus on the next task. This way you can keep several tasks moving forward at the same time, but deal with them effectively.
- Build time into your calendar for thinking/strategising/organising yourself. Some people like to do this last thing in the week to be prepared for the following week and others do it first thing in the week. Do what works for you.
- Build in your socialising/networking time. Avoid the ad hoc “water cooler chat” but allot time to build and maintain relationships. This way time does not get eaten up by idle chatter you are consciously managing it.
- Revisit your time management methods every now and then and certainly if you change jobs. It can ALWAYS get better!
Good time management can actually enhance your life by giving your more time for those things that are important in your life. If you want to golf 4 times a week then figure out how you can do it, plan it into your schedule and make other things fit around it!
Are you getting the most out of your day? Here are a few important questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re getting the most out of your day and providing the best value to your clients:
- Do you have a To Do list?
- Do you assign priorities to the tasks you need to complete?
- Do you get sidetracked by other things?
- Are you so busy that you can’t take time to help yourself?
- When you look back on your day do you typically feel good about your accomplishments or wonder where the time went?
We are all busy and it is not atypical for you to be running full speed through the day, but are you spending your time on the right things? Manage Your Time — don’t just let the days happen!
If you REALLY want to get control of your days then DO SOMETHING about it! For starters, refresh yourself on these past posts about To Do Lists and Calendars. If you have any more tips, we’d love to hear them. Leave a message below!