How to get everything out of a working day?

This Friday I wanted to write about good time management and organizational skills required to work effectively at work. We all know that work can be very stressful at times with too many balls in the air at the same time and it is so hard to concentrate when you are bombarded with new tasks constantly. There are also plenty of interruptions during the work day, meetings, questions, funny things happening around you and so on and it is hard to get focused again. So, what can be done? And can you become more effective at work? Let’s go through some good tips.

First of all, time management is a key point. Have you ever tried dividing your work day to different time slots? I use that quite a lot to stay focused on one important section at a time. For example I mostly work on back-office tasks in the morning and contact people in the afternoon. It can also be divided even more. You can decide to go through all your emails first thing in the morning with your morning coffee in hand. Once you’re finished, you can take up another task and concentrate on that. When you are not trying to multi-task and you don’t jump back and forth from one task to another, you keep your focus better and finish tasks faster!

Prioritizing. Have you ever seen this table below? It is actually a good tool designed to help and support you with dividing work tasks into different sections to decide what you need to finish first and what can be pushed forward to a later time. It has 4 different sections: Urgent, Not Urgent, Important and Not Important tasks and their combinations. When you list all the tasks waiting to be finished into a sheet and start going through them using this table, you get a better understanding of your situation, a general overview if you will. Important-Urgent task might be tasks like project deadlines or important meetings, Important-Not Urgent ones are for example some long-term goals in your work. Not Important-Urgent tasks can be everything from interruptions, unimportant phone calls or emails or low value reports etc. The last section Not Important-Not Urgent tasks include things like gossiping, web surfing, being too much of a perfectionist and so on.

All of the different sections can then be turned into a schedule and a plan. What needs to be done now, today, what can be pushed forward, what needs to be forgotten totally until all the other things are finished. Once you master this, you don’t necessarily need to write them down, but you can figure it out in your mind and start with the most important task. This will save you a lot of time and get rid of some unnecessary extra things from your routine.

To do -lists are a good way to go for a lot of people. Once you have gone through the importance and the urgency of work tasks at hand, you can make a plan. Make time slots, set deadlines, delegate and get an understanding of where you are. You might notice that you usually forget something and if it wasn’t on the to do -list it might not have been finished at all. This kind of a list is a good tool for keeping important things in mind and add new things as soon as you come across them. To do -lists are something that I, as somewhat of a perfectionist, love. I feel more accomplished when I can cross off some tasks and it also releases stress, because I don’t have to be afraid of forgetting something super important. If you haven’t tried writing things down, maybe you should try, it might surprise you!

After prioritizing and writing a to do list, it is good to set up some deadlines and reminders. I use my Outlook-calendar regularly to remind me of deadlines, phone calls, meetings and tasks that I have pushed forward. Again another great way to reduce stress and worry about not remembering to finish everything. Once I have set my reminder I can concentrate on the current situation and what needs to be done, not keeping every little detail in my mind.

Lastly, taking your own space in the office every now and then might help you re-focus. Especially the people who work in an open office, the volume sometimes gets very high and it is much easier for everyone to interrupt others just to ask a quick question or to have a laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that it is very important to sometimes joke around and have a nice moment with your colleagues to keep up good spirits, but when you are in a crunch and you have tons of things to finish and that starts getting to you. You are probably stressing more and it is hard to keep focus. What I do in these situations is I book myself a meeting room or I just casually go sit at the lounge area with my laptop with some calming music in my headphones. That makes me more difficult to interrupt when I am not available as easily as normally, I can focus on my own things and finish them faster. Some people might have the option to work remotely from home and sometimes it is good to take a day at the home office to work on the tasks that require more creativity or concentration.

However, everyone’s different and might find some very different things helpful for them. Also, it depends on your job and your position what kind of tools are good to use. Still, all in all, if you haven’t tried these tips yet, I strongly recommend trying them. I have found them very helpful and I can leave work after each day feeling accomplished and like I have everything under control.

I hope this helps and I wish you another great weekend!

Nina Filpus - International Recruiter and Marketing Executive
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