5 Ways to Manage Your Time at Work
When I struggled to manage my time at work, I searched for time management tips and even took courses. In today’s busy world, this is something that many people search for and struggle with every day. There are growing demands on our attention in both our professional and personal lives. When you go from graduating or working in a lab to a different industry, the demands on your time change. More people want your attention. There are a number of meetings to attend and interruptions whilst you are focusing. You have several tasks or projects to complete at once. This can seem overwhelming and sometimes impossible to manage without feeling stressed. There are some things that you can put in place to manage these competing demands with less stress. These are routines and habits that when done on a regular basis, will start to come naturally. This is the ultimate aim as you want to be on autopilot with some of these habits, so that you don’t have to think about them, as this would add to your stress that you are trying to decrease!
Here are 5 ways to manage your time at work (which can also apply to your personal life if you want):
The first thing to figure out is the one thing that is pivotal to your success in your work. We all have long lists of tasks that need to get done. Work out what one thing you need to focus on every day, week, month and year. This should be something that is an absolute must-do. Try reading The One Thing by Gary Keller, where he explains this concept in a lot of detail. This approach will help you focus on what’s most important. It doesn’t mean you don’t do other things, but your attention is always brought back to accomplishing your one thing before doing anything else.
In a similar way to focusing on one thing mentioned in point 1, be aware of what tasks you can let go of. What are the things that if they don’t get done today, won’t have a huge impact on you/your manager/the team/the company? This is an exercise of de-prioritisation. Don’t just have one huge list of never-ending tasks. Separate your task list out into things that absolutely have to get done today, what needs to get done this week, and what can wait until next week.
Batch similar tasks together. So much time is spent checking emails, attending meetings, or doing administrative tasks. If this is spread throughout the day, it is more likely to distract you from the work you should be focusing on. Instead, batch these types of tasks together so you are spending a finite amount of time on them, e.g. 1 hour per day only checking and responding to emails.
Block out time in your day, week or month to plan ahead. Use this time to determine your one thing as mentioned in point 1, your other priorities, and what can be de-prioritised. You can also use this time for reflection on the past day, week or month. You could ask yourself what went well and what didn’t, so that you take a different approach moving forward.
Although it might seem counter-intuitive to say ‘take more breaks’ when talking about time management because there is so much to do, it’s really important to do this! Make sure you have breaks built in during your working day for lunch, getting outside for a walk or even just reflection. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you take the time to do this. It may be that short 15-minute breaks every hour is what you need. Or, you might need a whole hour for lunch away from your desk. This will actually make you more productive in the long run, as your brain needs rest to work more effectively throughout the day.
Knowing how to manage your time at work can be tricky and can sometimes seem to be getting harder with social media, other people and the fast-growing world making us feel like we can’t keep up. The aim is to take control of our time as much as possible and look after our own wellbeing. You can use the tips above for your personal life as well, as these are often intertwined with your professional world.
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.