“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”
Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères
I know I’m not the only one who wishes we had more hours in the day, right?! Whether it’s work, family, education, friends, children, hobbies, housework or ‘me time’, there seems to be something for all of us that we wish we had more time to dedicate to. After entering the world of recruitment less than a year ago, effective time management is undoubtedly a skill I am still honing! I had previously considered myself as somebody highly organised - I like lists, have a clear desk policy (at the start and end of the day at least), I had managed staff rotas and audits before – surely this wouldn’t be much harder? It seems I was mistaken!
“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.”
- Lao Tzu
We all get the same 24 hours yet some people achieve so much more with their time than others – the reason for this – effective time management. But what does this actually mean? Using fancy technology to organise your life for you? Making more lists? Having a PA?
Having recently taken on increasing levels of responsibility in my job role I sometimes feel I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown and my time seems to be constantly slipping away and my time in the office has been steadily increasing day by day. After researching what I could do to help myself work more effectively – the greatest tip I have found without a doubt, has been to look back at the days I achieved the most – what did I do differently? I realised the days I was most effective were where I used effective time management techniques, so here are my top 10 tips:
This goes without saying right?! No matter how photographic you may think your memory is, at some point there will be something you will forget if it is not written down. Whether it is used as a step by step guide for your day or a reference guide to use intermittently – there is no denying this will help you to make the best use of your time. For larger projects; break tasks down into smaller bite size pieces or you run the risk of having vague tasks that you will not fully complete
Plan the following day before you leave
The end of the day is the perfect time to plan the day ahead – the day’s activities are still fresh in your mind – both good and bad, anything you didn’t achieve is loitering around your mind so it can be prioritised for the start of your to do list and most importantly, no matter what happens between you leaving the office and skipping back in the following day – you save time not having to think back to what happened the day before and get can stuck in
Take regular breaks
This is one I don’t do and most of us are guilty of failing to do in our office. It is all too easy to eat lunch at your desk and only get up to use the bathroom – as much as we love to convince ourselves we don’t have time to take a break – being busy does not mean we are being effective! Hunger does not encourage brain activity and a quick break every few hours mean your eventual output is likely to be of a much better standard
No I don’t mean pounding the treadmill for an hour a day! Even as little as 10/15 minutes a day - exercise is fabulous for clearing your mind as well as helping to deal with the stresses and strains of life. On top of that you will naturally look and feel better than you did before – it’s a win/ win!
You don’t need to write down your goals because they are always at the back of your mind, right? As much as we all want to believe this, the reality is having these written down clarifies our minds and reminds us where we are going and what needs to be done to get there. Whether these are daily, weekly monthly or yearly, having a visual and constant reminder of our goals saves time by reminding us what we need to do and what to prioritise
Having a ‘to do’ list is great – but working down it systematically without identifying which order you should do them will not yield positive results. Work out which tasks have the highest value – depending on the type of tasks this could be weighted financially, by deadline, length of time required to complete and so on- you will be most efficient when you know which order things needs to be completed
Set personal time limits
Ensure you set yourself time limits for tasks as it is all too easy to lose awareness of time or get distracted. Setting time limits for each task means you will be much less likely to allow yourself to get distracted or procrastinate and are conscious of eating into the time slot for your next task
Share the load
If you are like me and a perfectionist…you need to get over yourself! If there are tasks than can be completed by other members of the team or somebody supporting you, let them do it. It does not make any sense for you to have an unrealistic workload when this can be shared (yes nobody does it quite like you but that’s ok). If not, you are risking burn out or producing sub –standard work due to not being able to give it all your un-divided attention
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, phone calls, queries from colleagues/ clients…there always seems to be something to interrupt your workflow. Minimising interruptions is key to working more efficiently and effectively. Set designated time slots for checking your social media, turn off notifications that aren’t necessary, don’t go to your inbox just because you have seen a small envelope appear in the bottom right hand screen, if you are really up against it ask colleagues not to interrupt you unless they really need to...I’m sure they won’t hold it against you
Switch off/ reward yourself
As important as it is to remain focused on the task at end, leave it where it needs to be- office/ school/ anywhere else. Whilst the wonders of technology mean we can access our home/ office anywhere from the bathroom to the underground – it can too easily turn into a curse meaning you never really switch off. Maintaining work/ personal boundaries is key to ensuring you are most effective in each without being distracted thinking about the other. If you achieve what you set out to that week/ month/year – reward yourself with whatever makes you feel good – be it a night out, yoga session or holiday – go on – you deserve it!
“You may delay, but time will not.”