Appropriately managing your workload in a timely manner is a necessary professional and personal skill. To help you improve your time management skills, take the following steps.
1. Assess how and when you work best.
When initiating a time management plan, it's important to take an honest look at yourself. Evaluate how long you take to do certain tasks. What's your most preferred or least preferred tasks that you usually do? What tasks require the most energy and what time of the day do you perform those tasks best? Know what tasks take you the longest so you can better manage your time and organize your workload.
It's also important to understand how you work. Are you a procrastinator? Do you like feeling on call or do you prefer to leave work at work when you leave for the day? Identify your productivity pitfalls. What distracts you the most at work? Social media? Your phone? Your coworkers? Checking emails as they come in while you're in the middle of tasks? By understanding how you function naturally, you can more effectively take the steps needed to help you prepare for success.
2. Prioritize your to-dos.
To begin prioritizing your work most efficiently, focus on what you want your end goals to be. Once you've determined what you want the results of your work to be, plan out your day according to urgency. If it's helpful, think of a personal motivator behind your workload to help drive you and increase your productivity (ex: I want to get promoted within the next year.).
Chunk out tasks and categorize your work to make it feel less overwhelming. It will feel more rewarding once you have chunks completed as well. Take each task one step at a time and make sure to allow for at least a mental break between each chunk.
When you're scheduling your priorities, make sure to allot time for your personal tasks as well. This will help put your mind at ease. Even if it's as simple as focusing on only work matters until the end of your shift and then handling personal matters right when you get off work and are still in work-mode. Depending on how you feel the most productive, it might be beneficial to plan out when you stop working. Plan when you are “on” and plan when you are “off” to allow yourself to have the recovery and relaxation time to give your all personally and professionally.
3. De-clutter your desk, mind, and task load.
De-cluttering is a broad term that can be applied to your physical work area, mental state, and task load. This is a preparation tool that will hopefully relieve some of the stress that might typically weigh you down when organizing your day ahead. This will also help you maintain focus and keep you more relaxed as you work.
To de-clutter your work space, keep things around you organized, neat, and clean. This will make you work more efficiently. To de-clutter your mental state, keep your head clear and maintain healthy living habits such as proper sleep, exercise, and diet. Pair something that keeps you in a positive mood or mentally fresh such as having coffee available, playing music that keeps you productive, or taking frequent breaks between sections on your to-do list.
To de-clutter your task load, make sure that you aren't taking on more than necessary. Don't commit to something that you won't be able to execute properly and pull through on. You'll only end up disappointing and wearing yourself out. Know what tasks can wait and what tasks you can delegate to someone else when appropriate.
4. Take action.
The biggest element of time management is action. In the age of technology, immediate distractions are everywhere, and it's important that you don't answer every call or check every email you receive while working on a project. Instead, focus on the task at hand and only later, when you're done with your task, answer phone and email messages. Avoid multitasking. Focus on being present in what you are doing. This will allow you to go deeper and end up with a better-quality result.
However, if you need to take a moment for a small break, do it. If you need fresh air, do it. If you know you are distracted by certain notifications, turn them off. You have the power to create a controlled environment for you to be the most productive. Remember that.