Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent, and many more tips.
It’s summertime (almost), and the living is easy (almost).
You might be looking forward to a vacation. Or you might be dreading vacation because time off — yours and your co-workers’ — creates such major logjams of work that the break seems more trouble than it’s worth.
But time off is important! And necessary. So to help make sure that summer R&R doesn’t pass you by, try some of these classic time management tips. (Yes, you’ve heard them before. But they’re still good.)
- Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important.
- If a task takes less than five minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer, put it on your to-do list.
- Set time limits for routine tasks. Work tends to fill whatever amount of time you have.
- Aim to handle pieces of paper only once. Same for emails. Read ’em and deal with ’em.
- Delegate wherever and whenever you can.
- Organize and declutter your workspace so you don’t waste time looking for things.
- Deal with email at set times each day, if possible. If you must check them as they arrive, limit sessions to 10 minutes.
- Cut up tasks into chunks. Order the chunks by importance. Work on one chunk at a time.
- Before you check your email or voice mail, devote a solid hour to your most important task.
- For tasks that require major focus, take refuge in a conference room or go to the library.
- Schedule demanding tasks for the time of day when you’re most alert.
- All things being equal, do the hardest, least fun task first. Just get it over with.
- Establish efficient systems for your routine tasks, and stick to them.
- Do people wander into your workspace to chat? Set a three-minute egg timer and let them know they’ll have to leave when the sand runs out.
- Use down time (e.g., waiting for meetings to begin) to update your to-do list or answer emails.
- Create the work environment that works for you. Adjust the lighting, fix your chair, turn off the email ping, get that cup of tea. Set the stage and go.
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Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.