Mastering time management at work
Productividad

10 tips for mastering time management at work

Time management at work is key to optimizing productivity

Autor: Seth Putnam19 de marzo de 2024

In our fast-paced world—when every moment seems to be filled with more tasks than time allows—time management isn’t just a nice-to-have skill; it’s a critical lifeline for both professional success and personal fulfillment.

The pressures of modern work are creating more unproductive noise for employees than ever. According to Slack’s latest State of Work report, 43% of employees find it hard to stay motivated, and 29% have difficulty keeping their focus. Meanwhile, 71% of business leaders are feeling the pressure to squeeze even more productivity out of their teams. 

From using AI to automating routine tasks, here are 11 tips that will help you master the art of managing your time.

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What is time management?

Time management is planning how to efficiently use and deliberately control the time you spend to maximize productivity. In short, get more done in less time. Other upsides include:

  • Better work quality
  • Less stress
  • More time to work on strategic or creative projects
  • Less procrastination
  • More self-confidence

Here’s how to get started:

1. Know how you’re spending your time

If your productivity is measured by output over a certain period, lost time can mean dollars out the window. Just like creating a budget, you have to track what you’re actually spending your time on to reveal any areas or habits that are blocking you from reaching your goals.

Start with a time check. Time-tracking tools such as Harvest and TrackingTime can integrate directly into your Slack workspace, and they can tell you, based on the categories you set up, how many hours you’re productive in a day versus how much time you’re spending on non-work-related activities, such as browsing social media or shopping.

2. Stick to a daily schedule

Go beyond “I have eight hours to do XYZ.” Create a daily schedule with allotted time blocks for different tasks. Sticking to it is the key to success.

  • Create realistic timelines. People overestimate their capacity to get things done, a phenomenon scientists call “planning fallacy,” which usually results in overly optimistic delivery estimates. Add time buffers between tasks so that even if one goes over the time limit, the overall schedule stays intact.
  • Give your undivided attention. Avoid sneaking to non-work-related sites (or whatever it is you’re not supposed to be doing) during work hours. Close all those “for later” browser tabs. Turn off your phone or stow it out of reach until it’s time for a scheduled break. Again, self-discipline is your best friend here.

3. Prioritize

To-do lists can be productivity lifesavers. But if you’re not careful, they can get so big and overwhelming that you don’t know where to start. A tool known as the Eisenhower Matrix can help you decide what to prioritize according to importance and urgency. Using this decision matrix, you can break down your list by:

  • Do immediately: Important tasks with defined deadlines, or ones you’ve put off for so long they’re now overdue
  • Schedule for later: Important tasks with no defined deadlines
  • Delegate: Tasks that someone else can do
  • Delete: Tasks you can eliminate because they’re not critical to your goals or mission

4. Automate repetitive tasks

Employees who automate are 71% more likely to exceed managers’ expectations, as we learned in the State of Work report. When you automate tedious or repetitive work, it can free up valuable time, allowing you to focus on more complex and creative aspects of your work. 

With tools like Slack’s Workflow Builder, you can create automations that are as simple or as complex as you’d like. They can even be connected to the other apps and services you use to get work done. And because no coding skills are necessary, anyone, regardless of their technical background, can deploy automations with just a few clicks. 

5. Tackle the most difficult task first

Distractions happen to all of us, whether it’s a phone call, a favor from a colleague or that pile of dirty dishes. Next thing you know, the day is gone. It’s time to “eat that frog.”

The Eat That Frog productivity method devised by leadership expert Brian Tracy works well for people who tend to procrastinate or have trouble avoiding distractions. It recommends tackling the biggest, most difficult and most important task first—the one you’re likely to put off for later. Only move on to other things once you’ve “eaten that frog.”

5. Batch-process similar tasks

Batching, or batch processing, means grouping similar tasks so you can work on them together. Group them by objective or function.

For example:

  • Client meetings on Wednesdays and Thursdays
  • Respond to emails from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. only
  • Generate reports first thing in the morning, and distribute

6. Put AI to work for search and summaries

Imagine having an assistant that cuts through the noise, giving you just the information you need, when you need it. Artificial intelligence boosts your productivity by answering your questions, summarizing conversations and creating content like sales pitches and blog outlines. It helps you find relevant information quickly, focus on important tasks and manage your time better so you can get more done.

7. Set reasonable time limits

Parkinson’s law states that, “Work expands to fill the time allotted to complete it.”
If you have a full day to complete two tasks that should take only three hours, you’ll probably still spend the whole day on those two tasks. If you give yourself a smaller window, chances are you’ll still meet the earlier deadline.

8. Learn when to say no

We have only so much energy in a day, and it wanes with the hours. To avoid half-baked work, know your limits and be willing to say no. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on what you’re good at and, if possible, delegate what can be done better and faster by other people.

9. Avoid multitasking

The science is clear on multitasking: It cuts efficiency and can even be dangerous. According to the American Psychological Association, mental juggling involves “switching costs” that slash productivity. Although task switching might cost only a few seconds per switch, it adds up if you multitask frequently. Your risk for error also soars.

10. Keep things organized

You might need an organization makeover if any of these have happened to you:

  • Late to a meeting you’re leading
  • Forgot to print out a report your boss needed for a presentation
  • Had to ask IT for your username or password more than once

The good news is that organization is a skill that can be learned. Start with the basics.

  • Maintain a clean work desk. National Geographic reports that psychologists and neuroscientists link the effects of clutter on cognition, mental health and behavior. Visual clutter can increase stress levels and anxiety, triggering a fight-or-flight response. For better decision-making, toss any papers that can be shredded or recycled. Clear out nonessentials and put daily tools within easy reach.
  • Coordinate your computer files and shared drives. File naming is key to organizing digital files. Create a system that allows you and your colleagues to locate items quickly and easily.
  • Use a calendar. Organize your calendar by life buckets, such as “personal,” “professional” and “commitment.” Try color-coding to quickly differentiate categories or by urgent versus non-urgent.

Master time management to boost productivity

You can also leverage these productivity and automation tools designed to boost productivity:

  • Slack for keeping team communications in one central space organized by channel. No more slogging through endless email threads for project details.
  • Dropbox or OneDrive for storing, sharing and backing up files. Authorized team members can access cloud-based files 24/7.
  • Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar for staying on top of daily, weekly and monthly schedules. Integrate them with Slack to get automatic alerts and reminders directly in related channels.
  • Canva and Lucidchart for designs and diagrams. They help even the design-challenged create professional-looking templates.

Most high-performing teams have figured out how to maximize their time. Take back your workday with these time management best practices, and get your productivity up and stress levels down.

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