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Time Management Habits for Future Success

As the new year begins, many professionals vow to improve their productivity and time management skills. Unfortunately these types of skills take time to learn and many give up when results do not reveal themselves after a few short weeks. While it’s crucial to stick to your time management efforts, it’s also important to learn and develop time management habits for lasting success. Here are some tips to help you achieve your goals this year.  

Start with simple, easy tasks. The brain needs some time to warm up to the idea of working productively. Tackling high-level requests and projects at the start of the workday will only cause stress and panic. Instead, ease into your work with quick and easy tasks like checking emails, prioritising the day’s work, and connecting with teammates on work status. Once you have given your mind a chance to get “in the zone,” shift your focus to the more difficult tasks. 

Learn to prioritise. Contrary to what you, your manager, or your teammates may believe, not everything at work has the same urgency and importance, nor does someone else’s priority necessarily translate to a priority for your daily responsibilities. On a daily or weekly basis, list your target deliverables and prioritise them by importance, either due to deadlines or collaborative need. Revise your list as often as needed when new developments arise, but use it as a roadmap to chart your progress and direct your focus.  

Forget about multitasking. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking actually leads to reduced effectiveness and productivity because it forces people to spread their focus too thin across different tasks or thought processes. Instead of trying to work on various tasks simultaneously, allocate time for specific projects. Once that allocated time is complete, shift your priority to another project. By streamlining your attention to a lone goal, you will find yourself better able to complete your work in less time than before. 

Avoid scheduling late meetings. The time most people dedicate to preparing for meetings is actually just wasted time. Instead of scheduling meetings in the afternoon, which gives people the impression that they should spend time earlier in the day preparing, conduct meetings in the morning to avoid this loss of time. As an added bonus, the afternoon is also when most people experience a slump in their energy levels, as well as their ability to focus. Ensure that your meetings are productive and your colleagues are alert by scheduling your sessions together earlier in the day. 

Take breaks. The mind can only handle so much before it tires itself out. Pushing through will not eventually lead to any real accomplishments or breakthroughs. Give yourself a much needed break from work when you start to feel burn out. A few minutes walking around the office or getting a coffee or tea will allow your mind to recalibrate and regain the focus you need to tackle the next project with renewed clarity. Just be sure that you are taking these short breaks as needed, and not as a distraction from work.  

Stop checking your emails. Checking your inbox and responding to emails throughout the day is one sure fire way to destroy your rhythm at work. Instead of reading and replying to emails as they come in, allocate specific blocks of time in between productive work sessions to check your inbox. This will allow you to stay on task and avoid any unnecessary distractions. 

Stick to your routine. Creating and maintaining good time management skills takes time and practice. Persist in your efforts to better utilise your work time until these habits become second nature. It’s understandable and inevitable that you may slip or have trouble keeping to your new time management habits, but keep trying as you will eventually see your efforts pay off.