As a business professional, you may often find yourself pressed for time as you strive to accomplish your professional goals. Below are seven strategies for time management that will help you avoid burnout and increase productivity.
1. Be the master of your schedule. Set aside administrative or “work” time for you to accomplish necessary research or procedures. Use your calendar to your advantage. Set specific time every day (or weekly) to focus on administrative tasks, set weekly meetings at the same time, and plan your meetings with location in mind. Give yourself a 10 minute walk outside between offices or factor in the 20 minutes to prepare for a marketing pitch.
2. Evaluate your time. What elements are you allowing to take over your day? How do you filter or flag your emails? Are you spending hours following news and social media? Consider using time-saving tools like only responding immediately to emails that require less than 2 minutes of your time and flagging more time-consuming emails for follow up. Explain yourself clearly in the first email to avoid clarification email chains that take up time and energy. Apply filters to prevent your email from overloading or crashing. Subscribe to a consolidated daily news update either through your email or social media. Set limits on the amount of time you can allocate to social media, and only post content to social media platforms that align with your business goals and audience.
3. Take breaks! Reward yourself with a little time. Last year, the Internet smiled when Japanese researcher Hiroshi Nittono found that “participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images.” (Read the full article here.) Companies like Google and Facebook have tapped in to what we already know to be true: making the time for reflection and creative, collaborative-thinking enables greater focus and innovation.
4. Sleep, exercise, and eat well. This goes without saying. Measure the quality of your work when you’re tired or hungry, and you’ll notice a difference. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll perform better when you take action so that these three elements align. Taking care of yourself in these three areas will prevent you from taking sick days and getting behind on your work. Your colleagues will also probably notice a marked difference when you are a good model of self-care, and it will give them tacit permission to take better care of themselves.
5. Seek out professional development opportunities. Take a leadership management course. Build your network of professional contacts. While you’re learning in the course, you’ll also build your network of people who can support you through difficult times or provide tips on a more efficient work style. You’ll stay up-to-date on best practices and likely incorporate new technologies that will make your day-to-day work more efficient and effective. Your colleagues will see you as a thought-leader and an active implementer of change and ideas to meet your business goals.
6. Recognize your needs. Take a lunch break or go for a brisk walk every day. As you make a habit of taking care of yourself, your colleagues will respect your practice and may even join you. In stressful times, it may be more important to take a day off and avoid having a meltdown at the office.
7. Utilize your company’s resources to your benefit. Many companies provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), so you can talk to a specialist who can support you in making lifestyle changes to benefit your health and wellbeing. Companies may also provide additional training and support for professionally engaged employees. Seek out a relevant leadership or management training program to meet your needs.
By using these seven strategies, reflect upon your current use of time and how it aligns (or diverges from) your goals. By applying each of the steps and engaging critically with the projects that make up your daily routine, you’ll be an active director of your work and your professional goals. With active application of these time management strategies, you’ll be more able to take on the projects that will meaningfully impact your work and build your success.