There will always be more tasks to be done in a day than there are hours to do them, or at least it feels that way. Time is a precious commodity and it’s all too easy for time to control you, rather than the other way around.
Take back control of your time during the workday with these five tips.
Schedule blocks of time by activity.
Time blocking is a proven technique to improve productivity, but you can take it one step further by blocking off time dedicated to specific activities.
Two of the biggest time hogs are meetings and phone calls, so set up a time block each day dedicated to that. If meetings and calls are a big part of your day, you can set up two time blocks to accommodate your schedule. You won’t be able to control externally scheduled meetings, but this way you can control when people book calls or meetings with you.
Setting up time blocks for responding to email is also helpful. When you batch your email sending and answering into specific times, you’ll be able to take care of it more quickly, as that will be your sole focus. If you really stick to this schedule, you won’t be tempted to check your inbox every time a notification pops up, which will help improve your productivity.
Stop the back-and-forth emails to schedule a meeting time.
There’s nothing as frustrating as the endless ‘are you free at X time on Y date?’, ‘no, how about Z time on B day?’ back-and-forth emails that are sent to set up a meeting time. Save your time and your sanity by getting on online scheduler where you can simply send a link to your calendar for the recipient to choose and book their time. Calendly and Acuity are two solid options, both with fully customizable features that allow you to have full control of booking times, availability, and meeting types.
Say no more often.
Saying yes to every commitment you’re offered or asked to do is a fast track to burnout. While there will always be things that you truly can’t say no to, you have a lot more flexibility in your answers than you probably think you do. No doesn’t have to mean that you flat out refuse to do something. If it’s too much work for you to do on your own, ask if you’d be able to take on part of the task and get help with the rest of it.
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To determine what to say yes to, decide if there’s value in the task. Will it help you advance your career? Learn a new skill? Are you able to do the task without it impacting your other work? If the answer isn’t immediately clear, you can always request a bit of time to think it over. However, if you find yourself really trying to justify saying yes even after taking some time, you should probably say no.
Reschedule when necessary.
Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve planned things out, time gets the better of you. Another project comes up, life interferes, or you just overscheduled yourself without realizing. When this happens, it’s best to reschedule rather than just try to plow through.
By rescheduling, you’ll be able to dedicate more energy to the meeting or call rather than running on stress simply trying to rush through. You want to avoid a last minute cancellation if at all possible, but if this does happen, it’s important to sincerely apologize and offer the other person their choice of time to reschedule.
Find your optimal working schedule.
Finding your optimal schedule will require some trial and error. At the end of each work day take a quick audit of how you spent your time working. Tweak your schedule as necessary until you’ve found the best way to structure your day.