04 Sep 2017 19:14 IST

Effective time management tips

Working hard is good, but working smart is better! Here’s how you can be most productive

Do you work hard or do you work smart?

This is a question that we have all been asked at some point in our career. The answer calls for self-awareness with respect to our strengths and needs. How we leverage our strengths to efficiently achieve our goals in the quickest manner is what makes us great at time management.

Clarity of purpose

Whether we accomplish our ‘to-do’ list ourselves or whether we delegate work, the foundation of smart time management lies in clearly knowing the goals and purpose in accomplishing work or tasks. Out of this clarity arises a well-defined scope of work that can be broken down into definite work packets and time-frames.

In a nutshell, this helps us visualise what the completed work will look like, why it is important to see the bigger picture, and how it needs to be accomplished.

Plan, schedule, organise

The importance of having a plan cannot be overstated. Mapping out how tasks will fit into individual time schedules helps to ensure that realistic time-frames are provided for different task components. A well-organised calendar also effectively tracks and monitors work till the completion.

This also helps limit interruptions during work hours. You can schedule time for calls and meetings, and respond to e-mails without it affecting the work.

Prioritise

Place the most important or critical items at the top of the list. Make deadlines non-negotiable and focus on tasks till you finishes them on time. By allotting priorities, you are in control of critical tasks even if unexpected interruptions crop up, as they often will.

This will also help to purposefully eliminate distractions and create an environment where you can focus.

Multi-tasking may not be the best virtue

While multi-tasking efficiency differs from person to person, there is truth to the assertion that it can make you less productive. Multi-tasking can distract and lead you to procrastinate. Barring exceptions, you may actually be able to do more by focusing on one task at a time. Creating deadlines will help in not dwelling for too long on one task.

However, grouping similar tasks for simultaneous or parallel action can streamline your focus and execute the task at hand without duplication of efforts.

Intelligent delegation

Prioritisation’s ideal partner is delegation. If there is too much to get done, a wise move would be to partner with team members and complete the work before the deadline. Delegation is not just restricted to managers.

Being realistic is important to understand the time it will take to complete a task. Taking stock with periodic time audits is a good skill to nurture, that will boost efficiency.

Have a break

Taking short breaks to do something other than work has been shown to have a refreshing and renewing effect. This is especially true if the task at hand is complex and stressful. Fatigue can cause inadvertent errors that may take a longer time to correct, or even slip your attention.

Smarten your email strategy

With our propensity to be glued to our devices (mobiles, laptops, tablets and PCs), email has become an ‘un-smart’ damper to efficiency. The compulsion to view every email as it arrives into our inbox and the haste to respond immediately, steadily chips away at our productive time. Intelligent flagging of emails to distinguish between regular and important subjects and senders can help tackle both emails and work with equal efficiency.

Know when to say ‘no’

The smartest lesson in time management is learning to say no to work that has unrealistic deadlines or which does not fit into your scope. If business compulsions make it inevitable, use the tips mentioned above to execute it effectively.