- List it!
To do lists are a largely underrated tool to assist with time management and prioritisation. It doesn’t matter if these are hand written or digital lists, just make sure everything you need to do is noted somewhere easily accessible and is something that won’t get lost (i.e. don’t use a bunch of sticky notes that can easily be lost). Having two to do lists, one for work and one for home can be very helpful as it will eliminate mix ups and ensure you don’t forget anything. As soon as a new task comes up, or you remember something you need to do, note it down on the appropriate list immediately. At the beginning of each day, prioritise each task by urgency and/ or due date. This will help you to keep on top of your workload, be more organised and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- If you start a task, finish it.
A big mistake that a lot of people tend to make is starting a task and moving onto another before finishing the first. Multi- tasking can make you feel like you are getting through your workload faster, but can end up costing you more time. If your tasks are prioritised by urgency and/ or due date, wholly completing each task is almost always the fastest way to get through your workload.
- Do what you can the day/ night before
You’d be surprised at how much you can benefit from doing little things ahead of time. Have you got a client meeting first thing tomorrow morning? Set aside about 10 minutes before you leave the office to get their files and other relevant information out and ready. Make sure your desk and the chairs they will be sitting on are clean and tidy. Struggling to get out the door on time in the morning? Having what you want to wear ready, making lunch & snacks, filling up your water bottle and having your bag packed will leave you breezing through your mornings on time and prepared.
- Set aside time for the unexpected
Life happens. Not everything runs to a smooth, precise timeline and the unexpected seems to happen when you are least expecting it. Make sure that you allow a reasonable amount of time between each appointment and task to allow for the unexpected. For example, leave about 30 minutes in between each client appointment so that if one runs overtime you don’t have the next clients waiting. Leave an extra 10 minutes early to drop this kids off to their sports game in case of bad traffic. An extra benefit of this is if there are no unexpected interruptions, you can have a short break, which is a great way to refresh the mind, or you can get a head start on your next task.
- Keep a time log
If you are really struggling to find what sucks up the most of your time, keep a time log for one full working week. Take note of all of the tasks you do each day, and the time each takes. By the end of the week, you will be able to see which tasks take you the longest and will be able to appropriately compensate for them. For example, answering emails is one of the most common time-consuming tasks. You may find it helpful to set aside 30mins once in the morning and once in the afternoon where you answer emails. Only respond to emails at these two times of the day. This will leave you able to fully focus on your other tasks throughout the day.