To manage your time at work, you have to take a holistic view of time management. This means focusing on “what,” “why,” and “how.” If you can get the “what” and the “why” right, then you make it a lot easier to focus and prioritize. This will also help you make your time spent more meaningful and productive.
Guiding Principle for More Effective Time Management at Work
One of the best principles to follow when you manage your time at work is:
Work on the right things, at the right time, the right way, with the right energy.
If you use that as your guiding principle, you will continuously find ways to better manage your time. You will create more momentum, more engagement, and more positive impact. Keep this guiding principle in mind, as you practice time management at work, and in life.
10 Ways to Manage Time effectively at Work
To improve how you manage time at work, you need a baseline set of habits and practices. Here are 10 ways to manage your time at work:
- Create a schedule. Take the time to design your time. You may have more flexibility than you first realize, so step one is to map out your week. Identify recurring activities and meetings. Identify what you can change and what you can’t. Next, identify the types of things you want to spend more time on.
- Get into a rhythm. Establish a rhythm for results. For example, one easy way is to focus on three wins for the day, three wins for the week, three wins for the month, and three wins per quarter, and three wins for the year. By focusing on three outcomes for each of these time frames, you give yourself a way to establish a regular cadence for delivering value. You also give yourself an easy way to see more immediate things to do vs. longer-range things. This can help you focus and prioritize on what’s in front of you, while having the big picture in mind. Having a rhythm also helps you keep a powerful mindset. If you miss one of your ship cycles, rather than dwell on that, focus on catching your next train. The key is keeping the trains leaving the station. This will help you build a reputation of execution excellence.
- Establish boundaries. Don’t end your day when you run out of steam. Set some simple time limits. A friend of mine has the rule, “Dinner on the table at 5:30 P.M.”, and he works everything around that. His ends his workday to make it home on time, and he fills his day with as much high value, high ROI work that fits within that box of time. This forces him to focus on more important things and to spend his time budget more wisely. The opposite is to just throw hours at things or run until you run out of energy.
- Focus on priorities. Know what’s valued. If you know what’s important, then you can spend a lot less time on the things that don’t count. More importantly, you can spend a lot more time on the few things that do. This is one of your biggest time savers on the job, and it’s also a key to getting acknowledgement and feeling values for what you do. It helps you stay relevant. The trick is to know the priorities up the chain, so you can see how things connect.
- Set appointments with yourself. Just like the way to build wealth is to pay yourself first, the key to effective time management is to set appointments with yourself.
- Know when you work your best. Are you an early bird, or a night owl? Do you get your best work done in the morning, afternoons, or at night? You might know right off the bat. If not, you can always test. You can find creative ways to shuffle the work you do around a bit, to find ways to leverage your best hours. For example, I make it do my heavy lifting in terms of thinking work in the morning, and more of my people interaction later in the day, once I have key things off my plate. I don’t do intensive thought work at 3:00 P.M., unless it’s more creative type thinking.
- Spend more time in your strengths. You will achieve more in less time when you play to your strengths. The more you can use your natural thinking, feeling, and doing patterns, the faster and easier things will be, and the faster you will get good at what you do.
- Spend less time in your weaknesses. While finding ways to spend more time in your strengths, also find ways to spend less time in your weaknesses. A weakness goes against your grain, and it’s anything that goes against your natural thinking, feeling, and doing patterns. Your weaknesses will slow you down and make things take longer, and you won’t enjoy your time spent as much. The caveat here is that if you have significant areas that hold you back, then it may be worth investing in your weaknesses to get over humps. Just remember to balance with spending more time in your strengths so you can bring out your best.
- Find ways to batch your work. If you can consolidate related activities and find ways to batch your work, you will achieve a lot more in less time. Better yet, you will be able to find efficiencies when you do things in a batch, that you won’t find when you handle on a case by case basis. By batching your work, you will both streamline your time, and streamline how the work gets done. You will also get better with practice. You can then re-invest the time you save here, to find more ways to work smarter, and not harder.
- Do the worst things first. Nail your tough stuff first. This way, you won’t have it looming over you like a black cloud all day or all weak. Maybe this means trying to do it first thing in the morning. Maybe this means trying to do it on Monday vs. later in the week. Find the patterns that work for you, but the goal is to use your best energy to deal with your toughest challenges and create glide-paths for the rest of your day, and the rest of the week. It’s a great feeling when you know your worst hurdles for the day are out of the way.
Test Your Results
The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep testing and refining what you know. Your biggest improvements will most likely come from small and incremental changes. The little wins will add up. The good news is, you get to practice each day, so each day is a new chance to learn another insight or take another action towards mastering time management.