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5 Time-management tips for being productive in a fast-paced environment

Ever felt like your 40-hour workweek was filled with 60-hours of tasks, and you have no idea how you’re going to get through it all?

In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard speaks about the importance of how we delegate our time:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”

If you work in a high-capacity role such as a project manager or team lead, the reality is, you’re always going to have a lot to do. Whether it be meetings, planning, communication, delegation, execution of tasks, or reporting – sometimes all of that in one day alone. On top of that, you may have to monitor and manage the time and tasks of others too.

In order to do this effectively and not face the threat of burnout at the end of each week, you’re going to need to master the art of time management. Here are five tips to help you do just that:

Tip #1: Learn to prioritise

In the words of Mark Twain, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

In other words, tackle your major or most important tasks first thing in the morning, so they are not looming over you for the rest of the day. Once you’ve accomplished the hardest task, you’ll feel motivated to complete the rest.

Use the Eisenhower Matrix at the beginning of each day to help you separate urgent tasks from important ones, by organising them into the following four categories:

  • Important and urgent – do these first (these are the frogs)

  • Important but not urgent – schedule to do later

  • Not important but urgent – if possible, delegate these task

  • Not important and not urgent – delete these tasks

Tip #2: Say no to multi-tasking

It’s a myth that multitasking makes us more efficient. The truth is, it actually decreases our productivity, and there’s science to back that up.

According to the American Psychological Association, ““psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.”

So, what can you do instead?

Employ the Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and proven to increase productivity. The idea behind this technique is to dedicate a short, set amount of time (25 minutes) to focus on a specific task, and when that time is up, take a 5-min break. You can even download apps specifically designed for this technique, to help you stick to the time.Depending on the size of the marketing campaign, this type of error could cost the company weeks or months of valuable time. By simply investing an extra hour or so into developing a clear creative brief at the beginning of the process, you’re ensuring a more efficient turnaround of your project in the long-run.

Tip #3: Minimise interruptions

It might be all those unread emails in your inbox. It might be the latest post on social media. It might be your colleague at work coming over for a chat. Whatever it is, we all get distracted at work – even now that many of us are working from home (for some this is an even more distracting environment) – and these seemingly small interruptions are impacting your productivity.

So here’s what you can do:

Dedicate two specific time slots in your day when you can check your inbox Make a rule, that when your headphones are on, nobody can come and chat to you Keep your phone somewhere you can’t see it and silence notifications from social media apps

Tip #4: Plan out your day before it arrives

Research has shown a direct correlation between project planning and project success, according to the literature review of Pedro Serrador, a professor at the University of Toronto.

The key to getting planning right, may be to simply create a to-do list the night before of all the important and urgent tasks required for the following day. This will not only allow you to plan out your Pomodoro time slots, but also help you work out what frog you need to eat first thing in the morning.

Tip #5 Backup your time management strategies with the right tools

To-do lists are always helpful on a small day-to-day scale, but if you’re planning a project with massive scope, it may be a good idea to invest in a project management software that will help you to deliver what’s expected of you, in a faster time frame.

Want a fun, and inspiring motivator to remind you how to manage your time during the day?


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