Going from emergency to emergency putting out fires at work is no way to spend your day. Some days there is a crisis or things keeping coming up that do not let you manage your time effectively. Most days, though, you should be able to arrange your work day so you can work efficiently. This will leave you fresher for the inevitable out of control days.
Make your first task of the day to review what needs to happen and when. Prioritize all the tasks you have to do so that you make sure to accomplish the most important things and do not waste time with things that can wait until later.
Schedule time with yourself
Set aside time to think and work on complex problems. Meetings and collaborations will be written in on your schedule but do not neglect solo work or fit it in late in the day. The end of the day is when you are tired and not at your best. Make sure to protect your time to think. It can easily be chipped away by co-worker requests and last minute changes.
Plan on interruptions
Take into account how often you are interrupted throughout the day when planning your schedule. If possible schedule ‘office hours’ when people are welcome to ask you questions and discuss projects. Do not pretend interruptions do not exist when making your schedule; you will still have to deal with problems and issues that come up. Your plan for the day will fall by the apart if you do not anticipate this happening. Try to leave a little extra time in your schedule, knowing it will be eaten up by people dropping by and problems popping up throughout the day.
Block similar tasks together
Make blocks of time to handle the same type of tasks. Make all your phone calls at one time. Take a chunk of time to read and respond to emails. It’s easier on you to be efficient and do tasks that require the same software or equipment at the same time rather than jumping around.
Email, phone calls, and social media are increasingly intrusive and distracting. Disconnect from your electronics for big chunks of the day and stick to your schedule rather than being pulled in multiple directions when possible. Reply to messages when it is convenient for you unless there is an emergency.
Do not multi-task. Give your attention to whatever you are currently working on; stopping and starting projects will slow you down and not let you do your best work. Complete one task before switching to the next one. Logging out of email and turning your phone off will help with this.
Managing your work day will let you be more productive and feel less stressed while working. Prioritizing, scheduling time to think, allowing for interruptions, efficiently grouping tasks, disconnecting from electronics, and focusing on the task at hand are some ways to organize your time. It’s not possible to always stick to a plan but effectively managing your work day will allow you to be more efficient and should make your time more enjoyable.
This article was written by Sara Stellfox. After working in contract and pharmaceutical laboratories, Sara changed her career path and is now a free lance writer and chemistry instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.