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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 5 in more detail.


5. Get really clear about what is the next action


This approach to time management at work is based on one of the key concepts from David Allen's book, Getting Things Done (GTD). This is a simple but powerful premise. In Allen's experience (and ours too) most people are not at all clear about what the next action is for many of their "projects" (we define projects in this context to mean any task requiring two or more actions).

Think about your to do lists, or post it note reminders or mental reminders. Many people have things like "train the sales team", "get team to time management workshop". Often things are even more general, like "Health" or "Business Plan". All these examples are very broad. There are many, many actions that could be associated with them. Now add your email and voicemail. Most people read many of their email 3 or more times before they do anything (and sometimes it is more than 10).

This technique to improve your time management at work is about you deciding what is the next action and where will I record it in my planning system. Let's use email as an example. To keep this simple, imagine you have three unread emails in your inbox right now. You have decided this is the time you will process them. You read the first email, which is from your boss. NOTE here - you read the first email rather than scan all three. You may not read every detail of the email, but you read it in enough depth to understand what it is about. Next you decide what is the next action. Not the whole project. Just the next action. In this example let's say you need to give you opinion on how to handle a customer complaint. Now you ask yourself can I write and send my reply in under two minutes. If yes, DO IT NOW. If now, then add this task to your time management system. In this example we will say that you already know what you want to say, you type them email, send it and DELETE the email from your boss.

The first email has now been processed. Then you move on to the second email and go through the same process. Our clients (and David Allen's) tell us that they get an amazing sense of clarity and control when they know what the next action is for each of their "projects". It does take some thinking and some practise. Don't worry about the action being "right" or the "best" one. Just get clear about what the next action is.

These techniques for improving time management at work have proven beneficial for our clients and I am sure that they can help you too. Different people get different results from the various techniques. Start with the one the seems to make the most sense to you. We also recommend that you work to develop your own time management system.




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