Time Management

Sometimes, there are days where you feel it’s just an uphill battle.  You cannot get anything organized and it feels as if there are not enough hours in the day.  The work keeps piling in and everything is top priority.  Where do you start?  How do you organize the mess?

  1.   Think about what you need to do and break it down into tasks.
    • Make yourself “disappear” by going to an empty conference room or somewhere where people won’t be looking for you. Bring a notepad and pen with you.
    • Think about the projects you need to execute and make a detailed list of tasks that need to be done to complete the project. The tasks you list must not be generalized as in:  “Plan office party at O’Hara’s.”  They need to be more specific like:  “Call O’Hara’s to verify availability on April 1st from 6pm to 10pm.”
    • When you are done listing your tasks you are ready for the next step:
  2.   Prioritize your tasks
    • When does the task need to be done? If you are not sure by when you need to complete something, you need to see your manager to discuss priority and when items should be completed.
    • You can use a calendar (traditional organizer or software program) to note the due dates of your assignments. Then, you can decide which days you’ll work on certain tasks to reach your deadline.  For example, if you need to plan a party by December 13th, mark that due date on your calendar.  Then, take the tasks that you brainstormed earlier and assign them to days leading up to December 13th (remember not to leave things to the last minute and plan for contingency in the event you work in a hectic environment).
  3.   Prioritize email:
    • Treat email the same way you’d treat your prioritized tasks.  Go through all your email and make a note on when action items are due.
    • Note these action items on your calendar.  If there are conflicts of priority, meet with your manager to help you clarify what you need to work on first.
    • To help you clean out your inbox, create subfolders of appropriate topics to place your “reference -emails.”  These are emails that don’t require any action from you but are good to keep in the event you need to refer to them in the future.  For any emails that do require your action, keep them in your inbox so that they are a constant reminder of what you need to accomplish.
  4.   Avoid multitasking
    • Research has shown that multitasking makes us less effective, increases mistakes and stress, and costs the global economy about $450 billion annually.  See study here conducted by “Realization”.
    • Think about the last time you attended a meeting on the phone while working on something else not related.  Do you recall specifically what was said in the meeting while you were doing the second task?  Also, how effectively did you do that second task?
  5.   Manage Interruptions
    • You need to be assertive if people are trying to push you to do tasks for them.  If you are working on a critical task and the person wants you to divert to another task, you need to ask yourself if this is worth doing.  If not, you need to tell the other person that you’re busy and will get to their item when you’ve completed yours.  This is not the time to be nice because there is very little chance that the person asking the favor of you will reciprocate.
    • Even if the person is insulting you or getting emotional, you need to stand pat.  Remember that it is your job on the line.  They won’t care if you’re walking out of the building at the end of the day carrying your belongings in a box.

One final word of caution that should be noted is if you’re working for a disorganized manager.  If they are not able or willing to prioritize tasks for you, let them know the impact to your work of their indecisiveness.  If they express that they are not willing or concerned about prioritizing then you may have to look for a new job or work for a new manager.

It is enough stress for you to manage unorganized work.  It’s additional stress for you to “manage upward” with your manager.  It is a manger’s responsibility to put their subordinates in a position for them to succeed and not fail.