My work day starts at 7:30 in the morning. Some days it doesn’t end until 6 in the evening; and I will take a “working” lunch. Let’s not even get started on the tasks that are waiting for me when I get home. There are so many tasks that need to be completed in a day, literally there are not enough hours in a day sometimes. I know my daily experiences are not unique. We all have busy schedules and wear many hats throughout the course of a day. So how do we fit it all in? What are the best ways to prioritize our precious time?
Make a List
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? To me it always feels good to have a plan, and making a list always makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, even if I’ve yet to complete anything on said list. I feel even more accomplished when I get to cross something off my list! But, you must be organized when making your list. If you do not make a thoughtful to-do list, you will get no where.
Here are key steps to a successful to do lists:
- Rank the most important jobs, the one that need done today go at the top. The jobs that need to get done in the next few days come next. The jobs that can wait until next week go at the bottom.
- Make the list a “living document;” continue to build on it daily. The tasks that you do not complete that day get moved up to the next priority category the next day. Add new tasks at the bottom. If it helps you can color code your priority levels.
- Evaluate your list at the end of each day, and edit tasks priority levels as needed. Doing this will also help you get an idea of how long it takes you complete certain tasks, and assist you in future planning.
If you need help organizing your thoughts and placing tasks into priority category make yourself a priority matrix:
So you have your list and have mapped out what is on the agenda for today, but how do you know when you have spent enough time on one task? The simple answer is until it’s done, but we all know sometimes it’s just not possible. You could spend a whole month working on one task related to a long-term campaign. By setting specific time aside and sticking to time parameters will help you fit more diverse work into a day. Assigning specific time periods to work on designated projects will also help you focus your attention. When making your schedule be sure to build in time to take a break and get up from your work so that you do not burn yourself out, as well as add “emergency time” in case of any unplanned issues that may pop up.
Expect the Unexpected
I know some of you have been reading this thinking, “List and schedules are a great idea but they do not fit my job functions”. I’m with you. In some positions you cannot plan how your day will progress in advance. Each day is a little different. There are still ways you can prioritize work as it comes at you, however. Here are some tips for those with positions like mine where the days can be unpredictable and everything is a priority.
- Realize you cannot be everywhere at once and it is OK to delegate lesser tasks. One of your colleagues who is available can place the order for the lunch room supplies if you have clients to work with.
- Set boundaries in your work. We all want to impress the higher ups, but sometimes you need to just say no. When you are good at what you do many times you can be pulled into others projects because you are reliable. While this is a good problem to have it can cause a lot of stress. If you have too much on your plate speak up.
- Be flexible and prepared to be pulled off task. In office settings where priorities are more fluid you’ll need to have good multitasking skills. Do not get irritated when you are pulled off a task for another; some things will need to be left undone or handed off to another.
- Teamwork is key. In situations where you may need to hand off tasks to another, try and establish a “we not me” outlook.
Time is precious and fleeting. Find what works for you and your work place, and remember to breathe. Something may have to wait until the next day. As you continue evaluate your work and make a habit of prioritizing tasks, what is important and what is not will become more apparent and you can manage your time more appropriately.
Do you have a technique for prioritizing work and managing time at the office? Share it with us!