November 13, 2012
Become a master of time management
A friend of mine recently told me about a problem she was having at work. "I always think I have enough time to get things done, but inevitably, something comes up and then I'm behind schedule on projects or tasks," she said. "My boss spoke to me about this, and I'm worried that if it happens again she'll include it as a negative comment in my upcoming performance appraisal. Any ideas on how I can better manage my time at work?"
I explained to her that the key to becoming a master at time management is to understand where your time actually goes. I had my friend document what she did every hour of each day at work for a week so she could visualize it. When we sat down to chat afterward, she was surprised.
"I can't believe how much time I spend checking my email every day!" she said, shaking her head. "I also didn't think I spent much time chatting with co-workers. It doesn't seem like a lot of time when I look at it on a daily basis, but when you add up the total time for the week, I'm shocked."
Sound familiar? You'd be surprised how many people I coach realize the same things happen to them when tracking where their time actually goes. Here are my tips for taking control of your time:
Find out where your time goes. Track your time for one week and then analyze the results.
Plan ahead. Sit down in a quiet location for 15-20 minutes and plan your week ahead. Write down the key projects and tasks you need to accomplish.
Prioritize. Prioritize your list from most important to least important activities and projects, and then block out uninterrupted time to accomplish your most important items.
Carve out email time. Set aside specific times for checking your email, such as at the beginning of your workday, right before or after lunch and at the end of the day. Refrain from checking email except during these allocated times.
As my friend found out, the more she got into the habit of managing her time, the more disciplined she became and the easier it was to accomplish her professional goals. By taking control of your time, the same can happen for you.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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