How to effectively manage your time and get work done

Running a business requires a lot of time and energy – you need to focus on a variety of roles whilst exceeding your client’s expectations as well as being constantly on a lookout for new business. To balance all the different aspects of working for yourself, being mindful of your working habits can make a significant difference.

1. Focus on your long-term goals

There will always be more work that you can do. What makes a difference is to differentiate between the work that will get you to your long-term goals and work that is a ‘nice to have’. It’s obvious that we should focus on work that matters but it’s very easy to be distracted. To focus on what’s important, write down your long-term objectives and what needs to be done in order to achieve them. If possible, have these in a visible place as a reminder and try to focus on work that will get you there.

2. Avoid assumptions

Making assumptions can can result in a lot of time wasted. Ask questions. Make sure you fully understand what’s required before starting to work on projects and ask for feedback as you work on them if needed. No one will be frustrated if asked relevant questions but you are likely to see  frustration if you made a wrong assumption because you didn’t ask.

3. Talk to people

Email is great and is an effective tool to have information written down in one place, but it’s so much more personal to speak to people either on the phone or face to face. It’s also much quicker – if you need answers, pick up the phone and ask. Forming new relationships and keeping existing ones will make a lot of difference both on business and personal level. People like to work with people they like and they won’t be able to get to know you if they have never spoken to you.

4. Stop multi-tasking

Multi-tasking might seem like a good way to save time, but it’s not as effective as you might think. It’s actually the opposite – your brain can’t do two things at one time so if you need to focus on something it requires for it to switch from one task to another and you will end up spending even more time and getting distracted. Just do one thing at the time.  An effective way to deal with this issue is to estimate how long it will take to complete a task, block dedicated periods of time in your calendar and try to stick to the time allocated.

5. Take breaks

To avoid being overworked and unproductive, set your daily working hours and do your best to stick to them. By working ridiculous hours each day, you are more likely to become less effective and more tired. Try to have at least a few breaks during the day and make sure you take time for lunch, preferably not at your desk. Switch off from work related activities by doing something completely different. Meet people, go to the gym or just leave your working space. It’s very refreshing and good for the brain and the soul.

6. Say No

People over commit for a variety of reasons: they don’t want to disappoint, they feel they have no choice, they have an unrealistic idea of what is involved in the new commitment – to name a few. But being overcommitted can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling, rather, it communicates that you are taking your commitments seriously. Avoid the automatic yes and be sure you have a realistic idea of what’s required before you agree to do it.

7. Eliminate distractions

To eliminate distractions, have a dedicated place to work on projects that require concentration, set aside set time periods for specific activities, and discourage interruptions. Save e-mail and voicemail checking for the transition time between other tasks. Plan your tasks, calls, breaks – the more detailed the plan, the better. Having a set plan helps to avoid distractions and will help you achieve your objectives easier if they are broken down into little tasks.

8. Try to be organised

Use your calendar to mark anything important and block time for specific projects. You don’t need to be clutter-free with your stuff, but just know where to find things – both on your computer and in your office. Being disorganised can cost you a lot of time and cause a lot of frustration so just organise yourself in a way that makes sense to you. Use tools that will save you time and make your life easier.

9. Take time to reflect

Without reflection time, it is difficult to know whether you are working on the right activities. A lack of time to reflect, refresh, and rest can also lead to stress and work overload. Use an existing activity such as regular workouts or a hobby as an opportunity to reflect or find a mentor. Set aside specific time periodically to reflect on your work, self, long-term goals and objectives to ensure that you are on the right track.

10. Manage expectations

Keeping your colleagues and clients updated about the progress you are making will help you manage expectations and keep on top of things. If you are receiving questions that you don’t have the answers to, just admit that you can’t answer them at the time, do your best to figure it out and respond as soon as you can. If you just ignore others until you have final answers they will naturally start to make assumptions.

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