Managing your time is one easy way to add an organized structure to the day. While it isn’t easy to change habits that we have become accustomed to, the following tips will help you better manage your days.
1. Schedule a 2 p.m. check-in. Most people wait until the end of the day to tally what they’ve checked off their to-do list. A mid-afternoon review allows you to know what needs to get done before its 5 p.m. and you need to extend your workday. It also allows you to manage the expectations of others. If you make a goal of leaving work on time at least two days a week, a 2 p.m. check in should help you make this a reality.
2. Organize your to-do list every day. Some people prefer to make a task list before bedtime at night; some prefer to do it early each morning. The list should include manageable items that can be completed, such as “Prepare exhibits for monthly report,” rather than just “Work on report.” Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistically long list. You may need to rewrite a task on the next day’s list until it gets done.
3. Make a not-to-do list. Every individual gets into a habit that at the time it was created made sense but since has outlived its usefulness. For some, that habit may be reading e-mail exchanges you no longer need to be part of, checking Facebook at the start of every morning, listening to a co-worker whine, or stopping for a cup of coffee.
4. Live in your calendar. People spend their entire days tethered to their in-boxes and lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing. Keep your calendar front and center so you know what you should be doing.
5. Organize your day. When you block off time on your calendar for major events, don’t jam your day full of activities. Many people underestimate the time it takes to get tasks done and the number of unexpected events each day. If a problem arises that doesn’t need to be handled by that evening, suggest to your boss or client that you take it up the next day when everyone is fresh.
6. Check e-mail on a schedule. Many people waste time answering every e-mail or text message as it arrives. Even worse, they respond without fully thinking through their response. Create a schedule and fall into a routine for checking your in-box. To keep up with e-mail, organize it in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If you want to acknowledge receipt, respond with “got it.” If it’s for reference, print it out. If it’s a meeting, move it to your calendar.
7. Know your purpose. Before you make a phone call or go into a meeting, know what you want to accomplish. A lot of people walk out of meetings feeling exhausted because the meeting didn’t start with a clear plan for what had to be achieved. Be sure to identify the most important thing you want to get done each day, and do it first.
8. Use time management tools. Software such as Outlook lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of appointments in advance.
(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.