Work is just like a set of hurdles – especially when it comes to managing time.
Hurdle #1: Waking up tired or moody
This is an obstacle that can really set you up for a bad race. The problem is that the race still needs to be run – it can’t be used as an excuse for a poor performance. To overcome waking up tired or moody you need two winning strategies:
1. The lightning start – Build momentum by spending the first 15 minutes of your day eliminating those mini-tasks that would otherwise build and create noise.
2. The attitude shift – Visualise how the rest of your day can be positive and how much you can achieve as you have all day ahead of you. Compare that to the fraught day that would pan out with your existing bad mood. Shift your mood to a positive outlook right now, first thing, and save time!
Hurdle #2: Too much to do and overwhelmed!
You now realise that the time available is well below the time you need to complete everything. Winning strategies:
1. Prioritise, schedule and delegate. Not all tasks are urgent and important, so eliminate the noise and pressure by putting your limited time towards the jobs that will make the most difference.
2. Work with a coach. Maybe talk to your supervisor, coach or mentor – or at least get one to help you be more effective.
Hurdle #3: The email barrage
The avalanche of emails is destabilising. We want to be attentive and responsive and across everything and we hate hearing “didn’t you see the email I sent you”.
1. Bursts of speed. Set aside mini bursts and compete with yourself to reply to as many as possible, but FIRST read them! It will give you a chance to focus on the content properly, instead of rushing through it because it isn’t the task you’re meant to be working on.
2. Turn off audible email alerts.
3. Answer on the run. If you make time to read emails from a mobile device then answer as many as possible – don’t fool yourself into thinking you will come up with a better answer later!
Hurdle #4: Phone interruptions
Are we so frazzled that we hate the sound of our own phone? Maybe it is breaking concentration as we try to get through all our tasks. Winning strategies:
1. Put the phone on silent. It is less intrusive, but you can glance at t to see if it must be answered.
2. Put the phone out of sight when you need to complete critical tasks or you’re in a meeting – don’t even be tempted.
3. Responding to excessive demands.
For a manager say, “I’m working on XYZ at the moment, should I put that aside to work on what you’re asking me?” If it is someone else then you need to politely explain that you will make time to do it, but that it won’t be immediate. But give the time – don’t be vague and put it in your calendar. Keep yourself on track rather than falling over.
Hurdle #5: The unexpected visitor
An unexpected visitor can be a welcome interruption sometimes, but if you’ve loaded your schedule wall-to-wall then any visitor becomes an irritation. Winning strategies:
1. Be flexible. You need to allow some leeway and contingency in your day. No person is an island, so visitors and interruptions have to be accommodated and managed rather than shut out completely.
2. Explain and restrict or reschedule. Share your deadlines, be open and caring and work out what, when and how much to spend with that visitor. Maybe the meeting brings a new opportunity or a well-earned break! Rescheduling will help. Suggest a coffee together if you don’t have time for a 30-minute interruption.