Welcome back to another Career Series Post! If you missed my first one, you can catch it here. Now let’s dive in t this weeks discussion. A common theme I have heard from my coworkers, friends, and even myself is a shortage of time to get everything completed on our growing to do lists. Learning to manage expectations for deadlines will help you control your tasks and better management working hours.
From trial and error these are some of the methods I use to try and complete work with competing priorities.
1) Block time for emails: We are constantly available thanks to technology. Which is great when you have a quick message to send over Skype to a coworker or send an email to a group. However this also means there will be time with a lot of messages coming your way. I’m not able to take credit for the following idea, as I read it somewhere, but have implemented this into my daily routine. Set a timer for 20 minutes and complete as many emails as you are able to in that time. Set a calendar reminder or change your profile status to do not disturb in the beginning to get started. Now I just focus on emails for 20 minutes, if a message appears I scan and ask I i can message them back in 15 minutes. Truthfully I don’t get a lot of emails in my current role but at a previous company I returned to 1,200 emails after a four day vacation. Luckily from this experience I have found many methods for myself to manage emails. Now I check emails first thing in the morning, before lunch, after lunch, and before end of day.
2) Add reminders in your calendar for reoccurring tasks: For tasks you know have to be completed on a set date or x amount of times a day, week, month, etc. setting an appointment for yourself in your calendar helps you remember to complete the tasks and forecast less time in your day for other items. Utilizing your calendar in correlation to your email software helps keep everything organized.
3) Review your calendar before each week and at the end of every day: Meetings, trainings, reports, etc, book up in some calendars quickly. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Ensure when you check your calendar you also check the body for the invite to see what you have to prepare for each meeting, as contributing valuable information to meetings keeps you engaged and learning.
4) Set no more than four top priorities daily: Top four priorities where if this doesn’t get done there will be consequences to some degree. Many of us check our emails first thing in the morning then many have changes to our plans based on what messages we’ve received. I encourage you to list your three priorities prior to checking your emails. Then evaluate how the tasks sent to you rank against your list. In cases where you aren’t able to get an emailed tasks flipped around that business day, send an email response stating you’ve received their message and when you expect their task to be completed. Then you have clearly communicated expectations plus have it all documented in writing. The other person won’t have to send a follow up message, saving their time, because you let them know you have clearly received their message and will action by the date.
5) Reflect at the end of each day on what your largest time waster was and how to avoid or improve efficiencies moving forward: Take 4 minutes or less to think of one thing which too longer than usual. Why did this take more time? Ask yourself these questions. If you make one tweak a day to increase productivity imagine how much value you would have added in a year from those few minutes.
6) Break large tasks into smaller steps: For massive projects which will take longer than a day, I try to break up these projects/tasks into steps. This allows me to step away at points, have a break, then come back with a fresh perspective.
7) Ask for help on prioritizing items: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. You are showing you value hitting deadlines and want to ensure your work is done accurately. Speak with your direct report on what your current items are and what order they need to be completed in. Your manager is their to support you. If you don’t want to ask them point blank, try bringing it up in your TOUCH POINT.
8) Minimize the amount of times you touch a task: Each time you have to work on the same thing takes away time from something else you could be doing. Do you have that task you have completed multiple ones. Once you complete something check it over before sending it. Even last week I attended the incorrect document causing my coworker to have to send it back to me and for me to resend it. We all make mistakes! I know though if I spent 10 seconds to open the attachment before sending this would have been avoided.
9) Four minutes or less, do it now: There is a two minute rule referencing if something will take two minutes or less so it on the spot. I extended this to four minutes because sometime you need an extra moment to proof read or complete a final check before submitting.
10) Organize documents you reference often: Find a method to organize documents, applications, or webpages you use often. In my email I have folders for every person I work with directly, then have folders for projects, general info company wide, and training items. I also categorize each email depending on if it is something I have to reference, if it have a set due date, or anything else to help you be organized. In addition I ‘flag’ each message to add a pop up reminder from my inbox before a task is due. I do the same for any messages I need to follow up on because the recipient didn’t respond. For documents I use often I ‘pin’ these to the program on my toolbar on my laptop. Then I ‘bookmark’ webpages for quick clicks. Lastly I ‘map’ folders from our shared drive to my network. Saves on filnding the exact file path.
We are all different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for everyone. These times are meant to be tried, then tweaked to fit the way you work. I hope you’ll find some ways to save time in your day and get more done!
Thanks for reading,