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How to brush up on your time management skills

Businesses are having to adapt like never before in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With increasing numbers of employees working from home and dealing with fresh challenges daily, time management skills are essential. 

If you’re feeling the pressures of keeping on top of everything in these uncertain times, read on. 

Start the day the right way

If you’re working from home, you probably don’t miss the early morning commute. However, it can help your mind transition into work mode. When you’re starting the working day at home a little bleary-eyed having just got up, it can have a knock-on effect on your time management. 

Aside from the physical benefits, morning exercise can boost the brain’s mental capacity. A run, brisk walk or yoga class in a nearby park are ways of getting some fresh air, a change of scenery and some time to think about your day ahead—all of which will improve productivity. 

If you can find a workspace at home that’s distinct from where you relax, it’ll help your focus. If that’s not practical, try finding laptop-friendly cafes or pubs nearby. While it might be costly to do every day, it can make a welcome change once or twice a week. Also, there’ll be fewer distractions away from home which will help with your time management. 

Maker vs Manager schedule 

The entrepreneur Paul Graham writes in his blog about what he calls the “manager and maker’s schedule”, which has implications on our time management. Managers, he argues, are used to scheduling meetings. Their days are made up of them—it’s simply a case of finding the time to slot one in. 

For makers—defined as creative types such as programmers or writers—it’s different. The odd meeting slapped bang in the middle of an afternoon can write off half a day’s work. Simply knowing the meeting is coming up will prevent the maker from embarking on anything ambitious, while the meeting itself will disrupt the flow of work. 

If you fall into the “maker” profile and this sounds familiar, discuss the problem with your team. Can you arrange a time to meet when it’s less disruptive? If you hold back on meetings until the end of the day, for example, you’ve got plenty of time to get into a meaty slice of work. 

Set realistic goals

Time management is a lot to do with having realistic expectations. At the beginning of lockdown, you might’ve had lofty ambitions such as reading War and Peace, learning to play the trumpet and getting fluent in Spanish. Six months later, the novel and musical instrument are gathering dust in your room, and you’ve not got further than downloading the language app. 

Such ambitions won’t be met as we’re not being realistic in our goals or specific enough in our aims. The same principle applies to the work environment. If you have a big project to complete, don’t expect to get it done in one go. Break it down into manageable components and decide what you can realistically do in a set time period. And set specific targets along the way. 

Make lists

From household chores to buying Christmas presents, lists are always helpful. For any given day or week, write down what you need to do and cross them off as you go. Even if it’s a small task you can complete quickly and easily, add it on. You’ll get a sense of satisfaction crossing it off, and it’ll spur you onto the next item.  

It also helps with your time management to decide at the outset when you’ll do certain tasks. If you’ve got a number of tasks to do over the course of the day, it’s tempting to begin with the easiest. But might that be suited to after lunch when lethargy kicks in? Take on the trickier project while you’re full of morning freshness. 

Short bursts work best

The prospect of a 3 or 4-hour block of work can send even the most enthusiastic employee diving for the bed covers. The average mind can only stay focused for 45-60 minutes in one stint, so incorporating larger chunks of work time into your day may not be effective time management. Short bursts of focused attention—even of just 30 minutes—can work wonders. 

One way of focusing for a set period of time is by working to music. Maybe not heavy metal—but something ambient or classical can help focus the mind. Also, if you play an album or create a playlist lasting, say, 1 hour, you can challenge yourself to get a certain piece of work done in that time.

To help with your time management and to alleviate the monotony of a long working day, plan what you’ll do during short breaks: have a coffee and a biscuit; walk around the block; even sort through recent post or tidy the kitchen. It might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but it’ll get you away from your desk, allow your mind a brief respite from work, and help you return with renewed energy. 

Avoid multiple devices

It might be appealing to have your phone next to you while working—anything to distract you, right?—but ultimately it’ll have a negative impact on your time management. Your family won’t know if you’re half-way through solving a work-related problem when they send that WhatsApp message about Christmas plans. Half an hour later, no-one’s any closer to deciding who’s hosting Auntie Mable, and crucially, you’re no closer to solving that work problem.

If it’s too much to ask to have your phone in another room, put it on airplane mode. Then after a period of intense work, turn your data back on and enjoy a 2-minute dancing monkey video guilt-free.  

Are you doing too much?

If time management persists as a problem, it may be that you’re taking on too much. We’re often reluctant to speak out if we can’t cope, but it’s important for our mental health to be able to talk to someone if work becomes overwhelming. Is what you’re being asked to do reasonable? Does it fit your job description? Can it be delegated to someone else? These are all questions worth asking when things get on top of you, and any manager worth their salt should be sympathetic to your problems. 

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We hope these time management tips will make your working day a little easier. And at TransferGo making your life easier is our raison d’etre.

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2020-10-23

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