Time management tips: How to work smarter, not harder

Time Management

We can’t buy time. Now, that’s a fact. So how do we save it? Try our time management tips to help you work smarter, not harder and save you a little time in the workplace so you can get it all done.

The power of one. We all have a million things on our plates. Oftentimes, this means we have a phone glued to one ear, one hand on a keyboard and the other checking off our to-do list. Trying to multitask sounds like a good idea but studies show we actually get a lot more work done when we do one thing at a time.

Break time. We don’t want to admit it. Especially at work. But the mind wanders. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just like our stomachs need time to digest our lunch, our brains need time to digest that which is processing in the mind.

Check out this mind-altering data: A group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a study to see which group of people would out-perform the other during a 50-minute brain-intensive task. Guess who’s mental stamina earned the highest score–the group that keep at it or the group that stopped to take breaks throughout the test? Yep! The breakers for the win! Point proven.

The United States Army Research Institute says we should break every 90 minutes based on our body’s natural ultradian rhythms. Other professionals and research institutes say 50 minutes of work is enough before it’s time to break. Ultimately, there’s no prescription when it comes to taking breaks. Measure your own tendencies to be distracted. Take breaks when necessary rather than trying to make it through the long-haul knowing that your mind will be better apt to serve you and your place of work with a little time away.

Don’t feel guilty! Taking breaks doesn’t always mean you’re slacking. When you feel distracted (if possible with your given job) get up, take a walk to the break room or, even better, go outside. Take a load off. Then, when you’re ready, get back to the task at hand ready to rock and roll.

Save the date. Deadlines are never fun but they serve a purpose. Take out your calendar or planner. (If you don’t have one, buy one.) Create deadlines for assignments and projects. Depending on how you operate, some find it helpful to lay everything for the day out with deadlines. Check email from 8-8:30am, conference call from 8:30-9:30am, short break from 9:30-9:40am, etc. It’s your schedule. It’s up to you. Just be sure to have your calendar somewhere very visible to keep you at task and on time.

Be the early bird. The early bird usually catches the worm because he or she has more energy in the morning. You’ve had your coffee, maybe gone for an early morning stroll with the pup. Now, you’re at work and it’s time to seize the day. Schedule your most important things for early on and reward yourself with the easier portion of your workload for that latter part of the day when your energy levels might be a bit lower.

Just say no. It’s one of the first words we learn as infants but the word “no” is one of the most powerful words we’ll ever know. Why? Because “no” gives us the authority over what we do (or don’t do) and what we commit to. We’re not suggesting that you make “no” a habit but when push comes to shove, if you simply don’t have time for another thing “No, I’m sorry. I can’t help today.” is a good backup plan to keep you on track and get the imperative things done.

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