In our next post for our series, The Gold Standards, we want to discuss time management. We all know how important it is to have great time management skills, regardless of industry, and time management skills are even important in our personal lives. However, it seems like most people don’t have a good grasp on their time, and that can lead to burnout, stress, and lack of productivity. We have a few recommendations for you to work on your time management skills so you can improve your work and home life.
Create a system that works for you. If you’ve ever tiptoed into the time management world online, you probably encountered hundreds of different tools and processes and books and podcasts, etc. It can be overwhelming to discover a brand new solution every day, and even more overwhelming to try to test out the ones that work for you. However, we recommend starting simply - consider what helped you most when you were in school. Did you lean towards writing everything down in a notebook, or were you more digital with your notes? Were you able to stick to a study schedule, or did you find yourself cramming more often than not? By examining what worked for you during a more structured and predictable time in your life, you can learn what may or may not work for you now. If you always used a notebook, but are now trying to track all your tasks on your phone, that could be a reason why you feel you can’t always check off all your task list items. Or maybe having scheduled classes throughout the day was beneficial to you, so perhaps you could try scheduling blocks of time for different tasks in your calendar with reminders throughout the day. Feel free to take what works and leave what doesn’t as you build your time management system.
Always ask for deadlines. One way to make sure you stay on top of your time management is to be sure you have deadlines for everything. It can be easy to plan to get your latest assignment or project done as soon as possible, but you can only do so many things “as soon as possible.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed when everything seems to be urgent (which we’ll talk about more later), so it’s important to get more realistic about what can be done and when it’s due. It’s as simple as asking, “When would you like this done?” to your manager when they give you a new task or project. If they seem unsure about when the deadline should be, you can ask follow up questions to help your manager narrow down a timeline. For example, you can say, “Well I have 2 other projects I’m working on at the moment with X timelines, so where do you think this new one should fit into that existing schedule?” If you are setting tasks for yourself, try asking yourself the same questions to give yourself deadlines. This is a great way to both plan ahead and not overwhelm yourself in the present.
Learn how to prioritize your tasks. As we mentioned earlier, when everything seems urgent, stress can grow quickly. A great way to consider what is truly urgent or not is to use this helpful diagram below, called the Eisenhower Matrix.
Using this matrix, you can quickly assess the task at hand and make a judgment on what truly must be done right away, and what can be done later or possibly never. For example, if you have to do the daily inventory, review the financial projections for next month, and have a coaching conversation with a struggling team member, how might you organize your time based on this matrix? Depending on the situation, you might want to finish the inventory first since it is the most time sensitive task you have, then you might schedule a time for your coaching conversation and financial review. Try using this in your personal life as well, and see how much more productive and how much less stressed you are.
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