Unit 4 staff at the CSU may not work on a schedule like academic staff, but they too are bound by the need for good time management. Every professional can always benefit from helpful advice on boosting time management skills, so here are several simple ways you can achieve that.
Learn to Prioritize
The first key to better time management is identifying which tasks of the day or week need your attention first and which can wait. Learning how to determine your priorities takes practice, but over time, it becomes second nature. Consider the following factors when looking at each task:
- Which task’s deadline is closest? The closer the deadline, the higher the priority it gets.
- Which tasks contribute the most to your professional growth and development?
- Which tasks can contribute to the achievement of your short and long-term goals?
- Which tasks require that you bring in outside help or resources? They will take longer and thus need prioritizing.
- Which tasks, or parts of tasks can be delegated to others and needn’t take up my time?
- Which tasks are simply busywork or distractions and can thus largely be eliminated?
When you get into the right mindset, placing various tasks in order becomes easy. A good structure to use for ordering tasks is former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s method: The Eisenhower Matrix. Using Eisehnhower’s system, you organize your tasks into four distinct categories: Highly urgent tasks; schedule and complete ASAP; delegate; and eliminate.
Ask yourself if you have created additional tasks that you thought would help you but instead they ae just taking up more time.
Alternatively, you can create your own categories. Either way, the result is a more organized way of thinking about everything set out before you each day and week.
Steer Clear of Multitasking
This one sounds counterintuitive since we’ve seemingly been conditioned from birth to think that multitasking is a great and prized skill. There may be times in your life when multitasking serves you well, but it should never be your standard MO. Why? Strong evidence supports that multitasking is a counterproductive activity when it comes to professional time management.
Back in 2011, a study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that multitasking could actually have negative impacts on your memory, and in particular, on your ability to focus on the tasks that are important and urgent at the time. However, many other tasks you have going on simultaneously ultimately turn into distractions that upset your Eisenhower Matrix.
Devoting your attention to each task individually may seem like the slower way of handling things. But the reality is that you’ll more likely complete each task faster and to a higher standard when you do, as opposed to when you try to get more than one thing done simultaneously.
Separate Yourself from Devices
Speaking of distractions, there’s perhaps none other quite so powerful as your smartphone and similar devices like tablets. Even before smartphones, the basic cell phone was problematic regarding work focus. The thrill of getting a text or the excitement to check out how many people are engaging with your latest social media post has created addiction-level connections between people and their devices.
So, if you want to reclaim your time management skills from the digital prison you’ve placed them in, you must separate yourself from your phone and other devices when you are working. Consider putting your phone in a drawer on silent or even in a separate room when you are focused on your tasks. Ask people to contact you only through work sources during the day so that you can still see urgent info as it comes in but won’t be distracted by meaningless notifications.
In addition, consider using a service such as freedom.to, which can help you block time-wasting websites during working hours on your computer and limits your daily access to such content.
Practice Saying No
This one is a simple-enough trick but may take some time to learn how to do. One reason we can end up overwhelmed at work is when a colleague asks us for help. We want to be a team player and offer assistance, but it can cost us valuable time. Take a look at your current workload and see if it’s feasible to help now, at a later time, or if you need to decline politely.
That positive, helpful attitude has its place, but when you’re already overloaded with work, it’s important to be able to explain that your plate is full right now and that you’re concerned taking on more at this moment might compromise your other work plus the work they want help with. An understanding colleague will appreciate your honesty. At the same time, you keep your time management efforts balanced.
Work On Difficult Tasks in the Morning
Finally, one more quick tip that works well for the majority of people is to get your most complex and challenging tasks done in the morning. Schools often put classes like math and science in the morning for the same reason — our brains are more alert and receptive before we get all befuddled by our lunch break. Accomplish as much as you can in the morning, and then the easier tasks in the afternoon will get done more efficiently, too.