Time management can be a challenge for the computer-based worker. The sheer volume of information that must be processed each day can be overwhelming. So what do you do? What is the best use of your time when you are working under that kind of pressure?
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]PRIORITIZE[/typography]
The first step to time management is prioritization. Rather than randomly working through the things that you know are in the queue, make a list – and number them in the order of priority. Then, start at the top of the list and work your way down. Make a new list at the close of each day so you know exactly where to start the next morning. Planning ahead – knowing what is most important and what must be done TODAY is a great way to start your day.
You may not be able to accomplish every item on the list in a single day, and that is OK. It is completely acceptable to “carry over” unfinished business, as long as the essential work is always at the top of the list and is completed first.
It is imperative that you do not allow yourself to get sidetracked by new projects, or secondary tasks which may be more appealing or less daunting that those at the top of the list. Focus on first things first and you will continually accomplish more every day than you thought possible.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]IDENTIFY PEAK PRODUCTIVITY HOURS[/typography]
The second factor to consider is: When is your productivity at its highest? If your work schedule is flexible – as it is when you work from home – this step may be easier. But, regardless of where you work – always use your most productive hours for the most important work. At the very least, plan to do the things that require your absolute attention during the period of the day when you are most awake, focused, and capable of being detail oriented. Always work from your strengths.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]SET BOUNDARIES[/typography]
Another step for those who work at home (full-time or part-time) is the management of family interruptions. Many “at-home” workers find that they are fair game for interruptions – at least until they learn to set boundaries.
Without clearly set boundaries, it is far too easy to get sidetracked. There are many other things you could be doing – the laundry, the dishes, yard work, etc. – and then, you may have children vying for your attention, some louder than others. Such distractions are very disruptive and can interfere with your productivity, which prevents you from accomplishing what you need to accomplish to make your business thrive. The answer is to set boundaries – and guard them scrupulously – from your own inclinations to ignore them and from your family members who will breach them if you allow it.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]KEEP OFFICE AND HOME SEPARATE[/typography]
The ideal is to set up your office in a separate room with a door, one that is as far away from the general family hubbub as possible. The door should be the marker between your home life and work life when they occur under the same roof.
It is also effective to have your office hours clearly printed on a sign, so everyone knows when you are “at work.”
You may also want to pick up a “do not disturb” sign for times when you absolutely cannot be disturbed except for true emergencies. When you work at home, your work hours must be held sacred, or you will always be distracted and less effective than you want to be in both your personal and professional endeavors. Neither one will get the full attention it deserves.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]INCLUDE FAMILY IN PLANNING AND SCHEDULING[/typography]
Include your family in planning and scheduling. Have a family meeting and discuss the importance of uninterrupted work time. Emphasizing that having that time will allow you to do your work and then, be free to have time with them. Help them to understand that working at home is the same as working in an office – the work still needs to be done. The only difference is the location.
When they are included in the planning, they are more likely to understand the importance of their role in making your business work. They will feel part of an important undertaking. This approach is much more effective than letting the anger and resentment build inside you because “they” do not fully understand how continual interruptions, no matter how short, can really add up in time lost that should be spent working.
Enlisting everyone’s help in keeping noise levels down and managing the household affairs without you when you are in your office so that you can get your work done is critical to your professional success – and ultimately to your success as a husband, wife, partner, and parent.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]AVOID MULTI-TASKING[/typography]
Multi-tasking is NOT a good idea. People brag about being great at multi-tasking. They are kidding themselves if they really believe that. The brain was not built to focus on more than one thing at a time – in fact, it cannot. It can jump from one thing to another so quickly that it may feel like you are focusing on more than one thing, but you are not. The end result is that none of the things you are trying to do all at once is getting your full attention, and the results will not be your best work – the quality work that you are capable of doing.
You may feel like you are getting more done, but it is very likely that you would have finished everything in the same amount of time if you had tackled each task one at a time – and the outcomes would have been better. Multi-tasking opens the door for mistakes, which you may or may not catch when you are jumping from one thing to another so quickly.
There are many ways to save time, and multi-tasking is not one of the better choices. There is no doubt that there are times when you will be forced to multi-task, and having the ability to do it when necessary is a good thing; but the overwhelming majority of the time, it is not a wise choice. When a task or project does not have your full attention, it is too easy to miss something – and sometimes it is a very important something. Don’t take that risk.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#311e9e”]ORGANIZE YOURSELF[/typography]
Organization is the key to time management. That coupled with vigilance in finding better, more efficient ways of doing things – including routine tasks that may be taking up far too much of your time – will help you reach your goals faster than any other tactics.
Pay attention! Keep track of your time and figure out how you are spending your precious work hours. Then, evaluate! Are the activities that are taking most of your time providing the results that you need to be successful? Get rid of time-consuming activities that provide little return. Either change them, or eliminate them entirely. Do not continue to do things in the same way and expect different results than you have been getting – it simply will not happen.