Sometimes work engrosses us, we feel snowed-under and it is hard to see anything past a pile of papers or a looming deadline. So how can you implement some key strategies to ensure that you leave a bit of 'me time' within your busy schedule?
Here are 10 practical steps that everyone in business can implement into their working week to make workloads more manageable. After all, a well structured workload is key to time management.
How can you manage your workload better?
Step 1 - Manage your time effectively
Don't over-estimate or under-estimate time scales. If you say you can turnaround a task quicker than is possible you will only end up letting someone down and putting yourself under immense pressure. Split your day into manageable chunks. Decide what you will achieve in the morning and what you will tackle in the afternoon. Allocating time frames to tasks will prevent you from running-over and spending too long on one task - which may force another to be neglected.
Step 2 - Prioritise your workload
Organise your work by level of importance. Create a to-do list and write everything down to see what is urgent and what can be saved for another day (allocate dates as to when to start these tasks). Writing everything down helps to clear your mind so you can focus on the tasks in hand. You may find that you have a day where you have no pressing deadlines. These are the perfect times to start work on larger tasks which you have coming up. Chip away at them now and you will thank yourself later. And finally, don't take too long over tasks which don't matter as much. Always think 'who, and what is most important within my business?'
Step 3 - Start your working day earlier
Our brains are more alert in the mornings so starting your working day earlier makes sense. If you work flexible hours, work from home or commute via train you can start your working day many hours before 9am. If you regularly wake early set aside an hour or two to plan out your day, reply to emails, make your priority list and tackle those jobs which require the most concentration.
Step 4 - Delegate Work
Don't try to do everything yourself. If you have work you can delegate to someone else, either inside or outside of the company, then you should. If you work with a team, delegate the tasks which requires group effort immediately, and with clear deadlines attached. You want this work to be completed in plenty of time so you are not waiting on someone else before you can complete. If you cannot delegate work, plan for times when it is quietest to use shared resources such as photocopiers or laminators.
Step 5 - Be Flexible
Be prepared to be flexible. Accept that tasks can arise which require immediate attention. Unexpected work and priorities can change suddenly throwing your plans into chaos. How can you adapt to sudden shifts in priority? Either keep time slots open in your diary so you are prepared for the unexpected, or use a colour-coded system. You can then give priority to this new task, and put off what was previously highlighted as low priority.
Step 6 - Don't Get Distracted
Keep a log of all the times you are interrupted during the day, or the times that you are distracted from your work. Write down what, or who the distraction was. If you are getting distracted by emails, make an effort to only check them at certain points of the day. If you are constantly checking your personal phone, simply turn off notifications. If a colleague wants to chat then schedule in breaks where you can talk, and keep work times for working.
Step 7 - Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking can actually be counterproductive. Trying to do two things at once will mean that you are not giving either your undivided attention. This can also lead to mistakes that you will have to rectify, meaning a task could take you twice as long to complete. I live by the motto "do it right, or do it twice".
Step 8 - Be Prepared
As soon as you know about a business meeting, conference call or visit, put it into your diary. Allocate time to research the reason for the meeting, and what your input will entail. Whilst thinking on your feet is an admirable skill to possess, being prepared will always give the impression you are put-together and confident. Also, make sure that you put all of your pressing appointments into your diary, you do not want to double-book yourself.
Step 9 - Take Breaks
If you have times where you feel totally overwhelmed just sit back, close your eyes and try to relax for a few moments. If you can leave the building, go for a short walk taking deep breaths. Just a few minutes to gather your thoughts will give you a clearer focus when you return to your desk.
Step 10 - Learn to Say No
It can be hard to say no, and even impossible in some circumstances. But if your schedule is already full it would be wrong to say yes and accept further work. If you are worried that declining work could make you look difficult or imply you can't cope, keep it positive. State that with time-pressure you couldn't possibly do the task justice. You are not prepared to hand in sub-standard work when the client deserves more. Always keep your integrity as your number one priority and your company will respect you for it.
Whilst we all want our business to be busy we should manage our time better to insure we are in charge of how busy we actually want to be. There will inevitably be times where we have to cancel previous engagements because we cant possibly leave a task until the next day. However, when this happens we can always monitor our performance afterwards to see if there was something we could have done to get the job finished in ample time.
Keep a log of what you do in your working week, highlight times where you could have been more productive, or list the mistakes you made which ate into your time.
Managing our time will always come with different sets of variables, and unexpected last minute tasks which throw all our plans out of the window. But if we take control over the majority of our tasks we are on the right track to managing our workload more effectively.
At Millennial Procurement we provide business consulting services for all UK businesses, non-profit organisations and SME's. Visit our procurement blog for more tips and hints for millennials in business.