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Seven Essential Time Management Strategies

Get the right things done in less time

To get ahead in your career, deliver your projects successfully and to get a promotion or a pay rise, you must learn to consistently focus on the activities that add the most benefit to your projects and your clients. The better you are at maintaining focus and managing your time, the more you will achieve and the easier it will be for you to leave the office on time. Not only does effective time management allow you to get better results at work, it also helps you withstand stress and live a more fulfilling life outside of work.

The following strategies will help you get the right things done in less time.

1. Start your day with a clear focus

The first work-related activity of your day should be to determine what you want to achieve that day and what you absolutely must accomplish. Come clear on this purpose before you check your email and start responding to queries and resolve issues. Setting a clear focus for your day may require as little as 5 minutes, but can save you several hours of wasted time and effort.

2. Have a dynamic task list

Capture the tasks and activities you must do on a list and update it regularly during the day. Revisit this list frequently and add new items as soon as they appear. Ensure that your list gives you a quick overview of everything that’s urgent and important and remember to include strategic and relationship building activities as well as operational tasks.

3. Focus on high-value activities

Before you start something new, identify what would have the biggest positive effect on your project, your team and your client if you were to deal with it now. Resist the temptation to clear smaller, unimportant items first. Always start with what is most important.

To help you assess which activities to focus on next, ask the following:
- What does my client or my team need most from me right now?
- What will cause the most trouble if I neglect to do it?
- What is the biggest contribution I can make right now?
- Which strategic tasks do I need to deal with today to help us work smarter tomorrow?

4. Minimize interruptions

The more uninterrupted time you get during the day to work on important tasks, the more effective you will be. Identify the things that tend to disrupt your work, and find a way around them. Avoid checking emails and answering the phone when you are in the middle of something important. Once you have broken your flow, it can be difficult to reestablish it. Instead, discipline yourself to work on a task single-mindedly until it is complete.

5. Stop procrastinating

If you have difficulties staying focused or tend to procrastinate, you may benefit from creating a commitment external to yourself - for instance, by scheduling a meeting in two days’ time where you will be presenting your work and by which time your actions will have to be completed. It is also very effective to complete the most unpleasant tasks early in the day, and to allow yourself small rewards once you have completed them.

6. Limit multitasking

Many of us multitask and believe we are effective when we do so, but evidence suggests that we can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. To get more done, you need to stop multitasking. Plan your day in blocks and set specific time aside for meetings, returning calls and for doing detailed planning and analysis work at your desk. Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop and sit quietly for a minute.

7. Review your day

Spend 5-10 minutes reviewing your task list every evening before you leave the office. Give yourself a pad on the back if you achieved what you wanted. If not, decide what you will do differently tomorrow in order to accomplish what you need to. Leave the office in high spirits determined to pick up the thread the next day.

Tags: Project Management Productivity

Susanne Madsen

Susanne Madsen

I am a Project Leadership Coach and the author of "The Project Management Coaching Workbook - Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential". I help project managers improve their performance and wellbeing through leadership…
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Robert KellyElizabeth HarrinMário H TrentimConrado Morlan, PgMP, PMPSang LeeJonathan FeistSteve PrenticeNaomi Caietti, PMPTara Rodden RobinsonAndrea FrancisLisa AndersonJim MillikenJason WestlandLew SauderSusanne Madsen