Rethink how you approach your work: what every working person should know

BY THE OFFICE COACH - NOVEMBER 18, 2016

I did a time management course 20+ years ago that did more damage than good: it advocated writing down every task that was in my head and allocating it to lists according to the location that the tasks would be completed.

For example, I had a @phone list where I recorded every call I needed to make, an @computer list, an @home list…and so on. I became overwhelmed by lists, could not remember anything unless it was written down and did not prioritise. I was a mess and so was my work!

Since then, I have spent a lot of time researching time management tools and techniques and there are a number of standout items that I wish I had known 20 years ago:

Best case, you only have about 4 high impact hours in your working day

There is no such thing as time management: the hours, minutes and seconds in the day cannot be controlled. All we have at our disposal is self-management. Our days are filled with distractions and interruptions that detract from our ability to focus on activities that really matter: meetings, travel, social media, chatty colleagues, our own circadian rhythms.

Nobody is capable of being 100% productive, creative or effective for 100% of their working day. Accept that and plan accordingly.

Be clear about your values, your goals and your passions

Knowing what is important to you and what will move you closer to your goals is so very important. It serves as the foundation on which you can base your decisions about tasks, priorities and engagements. It will also make it easier to say “no”, to maintain boundaries that are critical to the discipline of self-management.

With clarity about our values, goals and what makes us happy, we should schedule time for activities that bring these to life.

Conduct a weekly review, as advocated by David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done”. Some action items worthy of your attention are:

  • Identify unfinished business from the past week and re-prioritise these, along with any new items that relate to the coming week(s)
  • Review your Inbox and clear it; when you leave work at the end of the week, your Inbox should be empty
  • Revisit your goals for the year and ensure that you have items on your “to do” list for the coming week that relate directly to the achievement of those goals
  • Bring to mind lessons learnt in the past week: what has frustrated or slowed you down and how can you avoid a repetition of this?

Work smart by using technology

A colleague told me recently that technology “creates opportunities for us to do new things”. Harnessing technology is about so much more than doing what we have always done but in a way that is better or faster. We need to be aware of the space that technology makes available in our lives and we need to use that time constructively, focusing on creating, innovating, changing.

These days, there is an App for nearly everything that we might need to do regularly; it is one of the greatest gifts of current times. We would be foolish not to work hard at being “tech savvy”.

Be mindful of all that is happening at any given moment

Life is too short for “could have”, “would have” or “should have” thoughts. Too much time is wasted on guilt trips. Consider the implications of your thoughts and actions before they become reality and consciously take the path that is most constructive.

This is not always easy, granted, but think of the opportunity cost of having to re-do or un-do actions and you will surely find the motivation to act appropriately. If we act mindfully, with the best intentions, we can save ourselves from the greatest time waster: regret.

There are so many more ideas to share. Contact [email protected] if you would like a partner to help you with this.