Managing your personal work priorities is at the core of being effective in the workplace. Below we provide a few easy to implement ideas to assist you in your endeavour to master the art of time management.
Tips to manage work priorities
- Step back and look at the bigger picture.
- Establish your priorities.
- Allocate your time to the tasks that matter.
- Plan your weeks and daily task lists.
- Manage your emails.
- Minimise distractions and interruptions.
- Don’t procrastinate.
1. Step back and look at the bigger picture.
Good managers are required to step out of detail and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it helps to go back to the basics and read your position description have a look at the organisation chart to remind yourself exactly what you were hired to do, and as a result, what your priorities should be.
2. Establish your priorities.
Categorise your tasks by Importance and Urgency. This will enable you to decide which matters regard your direct attention, which matters you should delegate, which tasks you could postpone and which tasks you can dump. Importance is the first factor of establishing priorities. Urgency is second.
3. Allocate your time to the tasks that matter.
The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rules, suggests that 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. Before you begin a task ask yourself the question, “What will the outcome be?”. Then you can try and avoid the time wasters. Record a time log for 3 days and monitor exactly what you’re spending your time on. What time was spent on important or urgent tasks? How can you rearrange your time and tasks to better fit the 80/20 rule?
4. Plan your weeks and daily task lists.
Effective time management starts with good planning, so plan your weeks and days, not at the beginning of the day, allocate time on Friday afternoon to plan the week ahead. Daily tasks should be planned the evening prior to avoid distractions which often occur first thing in the morning. Create to do lists, whether paper based or electronic.
5. Manage your emails.
Effective management of emails can have a big impact on freeing up your time. Turn off pop-up notification emails; allocate specific times during the day to check and respond to emails; set-up automatic rules to file unimportant emails.
6. Minimise distractions and interruptions.
Avoid unnecessary meetings and set boundaries for staff so you’re not being continually interrupted. Learn how to say no (where appropriate).
7. Don’t procrastinate.
For your most important tasks, allocate these to be done first thing in the morning, and complete them prior to checking email to avoid distractions. Inform your staff that you have a busy morning and would prefer no interruptions unless necessary.
How can I ensure I meet work deadlines?
With the COVID-19 pandemic
still lingering, most of us are still working from home and struggling to find the right balance in setting boundaries when it comes to both our work and personal lives.
It's important to meet work deadlines but to also keep our mental health and wellbeing in check as well. Below are some tips on how to juggle your work priorities when working from home:
- Take your lunch break: it can be easy to skip lunch because you're tempted to finish off a high priority task but skipping it may make you less productive for the rest of the day. Be creative during your lunch hour - you don't need to spend it eating food. You can have a quick lunch then spend the rest of it taking a walk outside. You'l feel more productive for the rest of the day because you've stepped away from work and using that hour to regain energy levels.
- Don't bite off more than you can chew: if your workload seems to be growing, get in touch with your boss and ask them to help prioritise your tasks. Biting off more than you can chew can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Have a list of what you need to do and review it first before taking on new tasks. It's okay to refuse extra work as long as you're upfront and honest with your boss and the rest of the team.
- Find ways to collaborate with your team: it can feel isolating being away from your colleagues when you're so used to seeing them in the office. Stay connected over Zoom calls or send messages through Slack or Google Hangouts. You can still collaborate effectively through virtual mediums. Also, don't be afraid to delegate tasks to your colleagues - even if it's a small task. This can help you meet tight deadlines, especially when working on big picture tasks.
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Editor's note: This article was originally published in January 2018. Content has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.