Is your desk constantly cluttered with papers even though you are working overtime to try to get all your daily tasks finished? Does it feel that you never get everything accomplished that you set out to do each day? Are you continually being interrupted by your co-workers, your boss, telephone calls or other annoying distractions? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then enhance your office skills by adopting some or all of the following time management tools and tips:
1. Learn your job well– Whether you are starting a new job or are an old timer, make an effort to understand the scope and responsibilities of your job and identify efficient ways to perform the tasks to be done. If no-one is available to train you or no office procedures manual is available, take the initiative on your own to learn the tools you use such as the electronic mail system and electronic files. Study the organizational chart to learn the names of executives in your company, their admins and other employees and their titles.
2. Take time to think and disconnect – Sharon Burton and Nelda Shelton, in their text book, Office Procedures for the 21st Century (8th Edition) recommends scheduling time to think into your working day where you are totally quiet and disconnected. Without clear thinking, they say, office professionals cannot improve office procedures, streamline office policies or provide creative solutions to problems. They recommend solving problems and developing better procedures as part of a team but if this option isn’t available for you, do your creative thinking on a scheduled break or even early in the morning before others arrive.
3. Set Priorities – Assigning priorities is usually one of the most difficult tasks for the office professional and often requires judgement as some tasks can have more pressing deadlines than others. However, knowing the difference between what must be done immediately (most important) and what can wait (less important, routine tasks) will be key to your time management skills. Many experts agree that establishing priorities with your manager is essential. While there are many thoughts on how to set priorities, organizing your tasks into categories can be helpful such as : (A) what must be done immediately, (B) what must be done today, (C) what may be done as soon as time allows and (D) what may be completed within the next week or two.
4. Plan but be flexible – Planning your time distribution and establishing priorities is always a good idea but it’s important to remain flexible as you may need to adjust your plan according to unforeseen objectives, schedules or deadlines that are out of your control.
5. Manage tasks and details with a To Do List – It’s important to keep a list of the tasks and the details associated with them by completing a To Do List. Many people manage their To Do lists on paper or in a spreadsheet but there is a much more effective way. Managing the action items on your to-do list in Outlook, for yourself and others, has never been easier when you use the Tasks feature in Outlook 2016. The Tasks feature keeps track of what you need to do with your tasks list and will also remind you of any up and coming deadlines. It can also record what percentage of a task you’ve completed and can even send emails that assigns tasks to other people. Make sure you plan each task well before you begin and proofread each finished task for correctness before you check it off and release it.
6. Group similar tasks but work at just one task at a time: – Some experts believe that grouping work that requires the same degree of concentration, such as composing routine letters or making telephone calls, will increase your effectiveness. Also, scheduling your work so you can work on just one task until it is completed will provide you with a greater sense of satisfaction and will save you time in the long run.
7. Start day with a difficult task – While it may be tempting to begin the day leisurely drinking coffee and browsing through your emails, many experts agree that you should use the first hour of your workday as one of accomplishment. Start by tackling a task that requires concentration and effort, is difficult or even one you dislike as it will seem easier to do when you are more energetic and your mind is clear.
8. Avoid Procrastination: Procrastination is a very unproductive behavior that causes you to delay working on your assignments, projects and tasks. According to mindtools.com, some people are so chronically affected by procrastination that it stops them from fulfilling their potential and disrupts their careers. Don’t let this happen to you. Take the necessary steps to learn the reasons why we procrastinate and tips on how to stop procrastinating on unstuck.com
9. Cope with Interruptions: Interruptions are a part of everday life when working in a busy office environment. It’s inevitable that your phone will ring, your boss will ask you a question or a co-worker will need assistance. “Everyday interruptions at work can be a key barrier to managing your time effectively and, ultimately, can be a barrier to your success” notes mindtools.com in their article on Managing Interruptions. So how do you cope with interruptions? Sharon Burton and Nelda Shelton, in their text book, Office Procedures for the 21st Century (8th Edition) advises not to resent interruptions but to keep calm and do not allow yourself to become upset. They recommend giving yourself adequate time for interruptions, be courteous but do not waste time because of an interruption. If you get interrupted in the middle of a project or task, mark your place in the document/task as soon as you are interrupted, handle the interruption immediately if possible and quickly resume where you left off.
10. Prepare for the Next Day with a Daily Plan– At the end of each work day, review the work you must do the following day and wrap up your assignments and tasks to a point where they will be easy to pick up the next day. Always strive to leave your office with an uncluttered desk, an updated appointment calendar and an updated To Do List.