For project managers, juggling your time between multiple clients and coworkers isn’t easy. But here are a few tips that have helped me be more successful with my time management:
1. Schedule your day. Take 10 – 15 minutes at the beginning of each day to map out a game plan for projects and personal tasks. Though your plan might not stick, it’s easier to meet your goals and deadlines when you have multiple short-term goals, and not just a start and finish.
2. Prioritize your goals. Distinguish between a need, want, and a would-be-nice item. Defining what tasks are important and what can wait will help you prioritize your goals. If you have a deliverable that’s due before COB, and a report that’s due at the end of the week, don’t work on the report until your deliverable is complete.
3. Be real with your time. Unless your name is Usain Bolt, you will not be able to run the 100m dash in under 9.5 seconds. Likewise, if you have a task that’ll take an hour to complete, don’t bank on completing it in 30 minutes (even if you did manage to do it that one time). After you’ve finished a task, treat any spare as bonus time to tackle other tasks. That way you’re always running downhill and not uphill.
4. Freebies. Always keep a list of smaller, easy-to-finish tasks in hand. Small, incremental victories are key. Just like with debt, the snowball effect is real in the workplace. When you complete a bunch of small tasks, you will always feel more accomplished at the end of the day. Remember, building a brick wall starts with laying down one brick at a time. The more tasks you complete, the closer you’ll get to finishing your “wall” of responsibilities.
5. “No” – learn it and use it. It’s ok to say “no.” Say it with me: “No.” See? It’s not hard! Learn to turn people away when you’ve run out of capacity to take on extra work. It’s always better to say “no” than to bite off more than you can chew. Remember tips 2 and 3: know your goals and your bandwidth. Unless something is mission critical, that request should not change your day.
6. Take breaks. You’ll be a better worker, and your work will turn out better if you remember to take a few minutes to rest each day. Break up long tasks with small quick tasks, or plan a mini-break away from your workstation. Taking your eyes and mind away from a task and coming back to it will refresh your mind, and will improve your focus.
7. Distractions are evil. Put your phone on silent, turn off your sync (or whatever messaging software you have), and don’t reply to that text message you just received. If you limit your distractions, you’ll enjoy a higher success rate in completing your goals and daily tasks.
8. Just do it. When thinking about which task to do, where to start, or if you finished a task before the due date/time frame, just start another task. Don’t waste 30 minutes trying to find out what your next task should be, but just start the next task. By the time you figure out what to do next, you could’ve easily started (and maybe even finished) a smaller task (see tip 1).
If you still have difficulty managing your time even after following these steps, then consider enrolling in a management class. Most companies offer continual education—take advantage of these programs! You can normally find a handful of classes relating to time management because it’s not an easy skill to master.
Remember, no one is perfect, and you should always expect to mess up every once in a while. Learn from these mistakes, and never be afraid to ask for help. Be fearless. Go conquer your day!