Productivity it is a HOT topic among managers and common people, everybody is talking about produce and create more! Well, I agree! However, increase productivity does not mean, in the majority of the cases, working more but rather working better! Be efficient is key to competitiveness in the 21st century. I am strongly convinced that efficient time management, working better, can and should be faced as a competitive advantage. So, how can productivity be increased by working better and more efficiently? Well, I can say that in the short run a lot of things can be done to quickly improve time management efficiency!
Please find here bellow a list with 20 suggestions of things that one can do to improve time management efficiency and work-life balance. You do not need to use all of them, instead you can chose the ones you feel more comfortable with and stick to them. Later, you can gradually accommodate those suggestions that you believe are adequate but don’t feel comfortable with. Ah, and never forget that creativity and innovation can be powerful ingredients on achieving your goals and working better. Good Luck!
1) Plan your week and month ahead, and do not forget to add achievable objectives to each of your tasks. I suggest that you fill your week-plan on Friday the week before, in order to accommodate on it also those tasks you have not had the time or opportunity to finish for that week. If you have a different work week, Friday should be substituted by the last day before your day-off.
2) Check your accomplishments for the ended week on the last day of work before your day-off (normally Friday). Match your planning with what you have really done. This will help you focus on what have been accomplished, and helps you re-scheduling the tasks you have not had time to finish.
3) Define your week maximum work-load, and avoid passing it with too many appointments and tasks. Why? If you fill your week with stuff you already know that you will not have not time to cope with, you will be be rising your anxiety levels and you feel demotivated.
4) Schedule 1-2 slots of 20 to 45 minutes per day for unexpected tasks (at least one slot of 20 minutes);
5) Use your afternoons to schedule meetings – it helps balancing and copping with your energy levels, normally higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon and evening;
6) Meetings: avoid scheduling long meetings (2-hour, or less, meetings are more efficient); meetings must have a clear agenda with all the topics to be discussed and the time allotted to them; Invite external speakers (1 to 2 maxium) for meetings to present something creative and innovative related, or not, to the main topic; Use and “abuse” of informal meetings (stand-up meetings) by the coffee or vending machine (10-15 minutes); Schedule meeting (suggest: Friday afternoon) to analyse week/month achievements/results in order to monitor the real status against the planing;
7) Have a “to do” list, but not be a slave of it; meaning, check out your list at least to times a day – beginning and end of the day, it will help you understand what you have to do and have done) but do not feel you are obliged to do everything on it; Use the Coach – Delegate – Monitor – Praise/Motivate or Criticize (always positively, when needed) method in order to gain time to do what you have to do yourself and also to motivate and empower your team;
8) Avoid submerge in your emails as a first thing in the morning, avoid also to read an email as soon as they arrive (disable email alerts); Instead, schedule in your plan 3-4 periods of 15-20 minutes a day to read/reply emails and do/reply phone calls. Use subject typology and urgency levels, in order to help you screening through your email. Avoid spending your time reading emails or answering your phone if it is not urgent.
9) Use you morning to do your creative and intellectual tasks – like reading or doing reports.
10) Schedule 1-2 10-minute or 20-minute slots with yourself and do not allow being disturbed during that time – during this time you can re-establish your energy levels (taking a quick nap, meditate,…) or simply think about something that needs your full attention;
11) Go out during your lunch break, at least 30 minutes per day – you can eat out and healthier, go to the gym or simply walk. You can also schedule week periods to do something you have never done, stimulating your creativity and going out of your comfort zone – it will help you with problem solving, innovating and being creative. Not to mention that exercise yourself by walking or going to the gym will help you keeping up with demanding tasks and maintain your energy levels high.
12) Keep always a notebook with you – where you can write your ideas as a way of venting your anxiety or do not forget something.
13) Divide your projects into smaller tasks with an objective, a deliverable, resources needed and a deadline – the objective here is to be able to diminish stress and anxiety, and have quick wins along the project, not to mention the efficiency gains.
14) Control your time spent on doing stuff by using your wrist-watch chronometer, smart-phone and PC applications or any other way you can find. I find Egg Timer an easy way of doing it;
15) Use a dashboard with all your KPIs and deadlines – must be up-dated – in order to control your work/project status and any deviations you may have – helps you avoiding deviations and miss deadlines. Information systems and technologies can be highly helpful on controlling and monitoring your KPIs, and mitigating risks.
16) Schedule time to learn about and keep up with what is happening around you and challenge yourself about new and tough topics.
17) Schedule at least one innovative/creative/networking event per week, something that involves a new challenge or something that can bring anything new for you.
18) Try to schedule brainstorming events (1-2 per month) with your peers and colleagues to discuss and debate new topics and listen to different points of view – helps you keeping your mind open.
19) Do not give on tough tasks, if you could not achieve it today try again tomorrow, or in a week time.
20) Avoid working more than 8-9 hours a day or you will be compromising your working capacity and freshness.
Please do not work more, WORK BETTER! Good Luck!
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