It can be easy to fall behind with our work – things come up (like about a billion snow days), or a lack of focus, or we’re tired or not inspired. What’s interesting is that everyone has different times of day when they work best. Some people cannot work well after three, others before 10. Me, for example, I cannot write anything after noon.
Related: 7 Ways To Stay Productive At Work
It is a struggle. And some of these reasons leave us feeling behind and overwhelmed. But, another reason is that time management is difficult.
When we are not really managing our time well, that can lead to chronic overwhelm leaving us to believe that the demands of our job are too much. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t. The hard thing to recognize is when the work is truly overwhelming and when you are simply not elegantly managing your time.
Over the years, I have been behind, overwhelmed and a bad time manager. But, I have become a time management master in those same years. Here are a few tips to really manage time and tasks that I use that help me conquer my to-do list regularly.
Plot a plan
When I construct my weekly to do list for home and work, it is comprehensive and thorough. Everything gets an assigned time in my week. Since I’ve been at this for quite a while, I know how long many of my tasks take, so, that’s the easy part. The weekly plan keeps me on task.
That being said, stuff comes up, so you have to look at that list and know what is going to be a priority this week – like it must be done – and what can fall off into next week.
If you see the same tasks falling off into the following week all the time, you know that that task is either not a priority, or not a priority to you. Either way, if it is a priority to someone else (maybe your boss of client), then it has to get done by someone and should not be falling off every week. As things fall off, have a way to capture that for next week and poof, you are suddenly building next week’s task list to save yourself time next week.
When you plot out your week, you might be able to spot periods of downtime, which feels really good. Trust me, they will get filled by the end of the week. The other thing to look out for is busy work. Busy work is the fastest way to overwhelm there is.
Here’s where I would ask you to take a hard look at the tasks that you are doing very closely. Are there shortcuts? Are there ways to speed up the task? Is the task delivering value? If you can find shortcuts to your busy work or find that the task isn’t even relevant, guess what – you get time back for stuff that really matters.
When it is overwhelm?
Sometimes the best-laid plans cannot fit into the given time container of work. When this happens, I would encourage you to do a few things. And I am sorry to say that unfortunately most of them are hard.
Say “Not now”
If you are anything like me, I want to over-deliver. I want to dazzle people with the speed and accuracy that I can produce the results that they need to see. But, sometimes, my emergency is not the boss or client emergency. It’s mine. When it is solely mine, it gets pushed. I will check with those people first, but if we all agree, that task will be delayed.
Talk with your teammates
Your teammates can often provide you the short cuts you’re looking for. They also might be able to step up with help if they are less overwhelmed at the moment. It will be temporary, but it will squash that overwhelm feeling.
Talk with your boss
This one is the riskiest, but when all else fails, talk with your manager. Feel free to share with them how you’ve organized your week and time and ask if there are things that can be shifted into next week or if they have any shortcuts that they’ve found. Some bosses are open to this, others… not so much so tread with care here.
If at the end of this you find that week after week, month after month, you are under water and overwhelmed despite your organizing your time, you can feel secure that the challenge is the workload. And if no one in the organization wants to help you tackle that workload, well, as CAREEREALISM says: Every job is temporary.
About the author
With passion and an innate curiosity, Tracey strives to push the envelope to create great experiences for talent. Tracey has been developing digital, mobile and social solutions for nearly 20 years in the talent acquisition space. Currently CredHive’s CEO, she is dedicated to changing the way hiring is done to create a more level playing field for talent. Visit CredHive to learn more.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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