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Time Management at Work

How to reduce your work overload



Overworked and overwhelmed and maybe under paid. Do you sometimes feel one or all of these at your work? Time Management at Work is becoming more critical everyday. It seems people are expected to do more, get better results, but have less resources and budgets. And somehow we are meant to have some work-life balance.

We have found most people can significantly improve their time management at work. The same core principles apply to getting control of time regardless of whether you are at work or for life in general (check out our Time Management Skills Page for the 4 core skills). There are though some very specific aspects to time management at work that can make your life less overwhelming and more fulfilling.

There are many aspects to getting control of time at work. We will start here with five key strategies that have had the biggest impact for our clients. These are:

  1. Agree on and document with your manager your performance measures and targets

  2. Decide what key activities will get you to these targets and do them

  3. Say no to tasks that have little impact on your targets

  4. Reduce the time taken by interruptions

  5. Get really clear about what is the next action


There are many more strategies that will improve your time management at work and we will be writing about these in the future. If you are in sales or if you manage people come back soon to see our suggestions for you.

Let's look at strategy number 4 in more detail.


4. Reduce the time taken by interruptions


Interruptions have a massive impact on your time management at work. Lots of people I talk to would like to get rid of all interruptions. But they can't because interruptions are a fact of working life. Especially if you are a manager. And even more so if you are in customer service. So what should you do about interruptions?

Firstly to improve your time management at work  allow for interruptions . You are going to get interrupted so allow time for it. The best way is to track your time for a few weeks and get an idea of how much time is actually taken up with interruptions. Another way is to estimate how much time you are willing to spend on interruptions and allow for that. The key point here is that when you allow time for interruptions you don't feel so negative about them. Look at it this way. Imagine you have a full day, 8 hours plus planned in your head, of work to do today. You get in to work early, get started and feel like you are getting somewhere when .... you get interrupted. Immediately you feel annoyed, angry, upset, frustrated. Already the day is "gone" because the interruptions means there is no way you will get your day's work done.

Contrast that with planning on paper 5-6 hours of work, knowing that the other 3 or so hours will be filled by interruptions. When the interruption comes it is no longer such an emotional event. Perhaps you even calmly ask if you could deal with the issue in an hour so you can finish the task you are working on!

OK, so this is a way to help you deal with interruptions, but not necessarily reduce the time taken-up by interruptions. Here's how you can reduce the time you spend on interruptions.
Plan in your Time Management System a block of time each day where you are not to be interrupted. Ideally go to a location where you can't be easily seen for this block of time. Let everyone in your team know that this time is for you to work on important task and you are not to be interrupted unless there is an emergency (and you need to define emergency). In this block of time don't answer your phone or email (turn your email off). Work out a way that one person can contact you in an emergency (e.g. a text message).

Ask questions when you are interrupted. Ask how important this is on a scale of 1 to 10. Have they spoken to anyone else about this? Who is actually the best person to help? What solutions and actions have they come up with? When is the task "due"? You might even ask if they could have handled the issue without coming to you? And finally ask for time. If there is something you need to do about the interruption suggest a time frame that gives you plenty of time to get it done.

The response I get to these suggestions is often "Yes, all that sounds great but it won't work for me. At my company you are expected to stop what you are doing and deal with the interruptions. Clients expect that and so does everyone else at work!" This is a description of a company culture. And a very unproductive one I imagine. My suggestion to you is that if you want to improve your time management at work it is up to you to push back on the culture and try some of these strategies. They work.




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