Being productive at work is one of the most crucial parts of being an effective employee or manager, but it is one that eludes many people. Years ago, we just had to worry about a nosy neighbor poking his head over our cubicle or into our office. Today, we have to deal with the constant bombardment of the online world, from personal gadgets (like smart phones), emails and the even more abrasive instant messages. Here are 5 ways to improve your time management--even in a 24/7, "now now now" world.
Show Up Early
There is really no downside to getting to work 30 minutes early. Who wouldn’t give up 30 minutes of sleep for a 100 percent less stressful 8+ hours at the office? In those 30 minutes, you can attack your inbox without other distractions. You’ll have time to thoughtfully respond to messages that came in over night--and clear your inbox before the morning onslaught of new ones arrives. Bonus: you’ll be able to savor your morning cup of coffee with a side of peace and quiet.
Maintain a Daily Planner
Time management may be threatened by digital tools, but that same technology can keep you to your schedule. Think beyond your digital calendar. Do you have a To Do list 20 items long? Plan out how long each should take, enter it into your online scheduler, and set it to "ping" when you need to move on--or it’s time for a 5 minute water/coffee/bathroom/co-worker chatting break. You’ll be more likely to power through until the alarm "tells" you it’s time to stop.
No matter how much you want to focus, meetings can seem made for web-surfing. The problem? You’ll spend more time after the meeting catching up on the content than if you had just focused in the first place. If at all possible, turn your phone off when you’re in a meeting and tell your assistant or a colleague where you are and how to reach you. If you really need to be directly accessible, put your phone on vibrate and put in your pocket, where you won’t be tempted to check game scores or the upcoming weekend weather.
No activity is more efficient at helping you procrastinate than the internet, particularly social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. But according to a new book, "The Power of Habit" by New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg, we can thwart their pull on our productivity. The key is recognizing why you’re web-surfing. If you just need time to clear your head, scheduling it in (see Maintain a Daily Planner) will help you stick to 5 to 10 minute ESPN.com or People.com breaks--not hour long ones.
Protect Your Private Time
Too often, workers that are on crackberries or other smartphones can feel like they’re on a digital leash to the office. Sure, you may not be able to turn off your work device immediately when you leave the office. But it’s probably reasonable for most busy employees to turn it off for dinner or to get children ready for bed. Decide what is your necessary "unplugged" time of day--and protect it fiercely by being efficient while at work. Knowing you have that time set aside for you and your family or friends will make your work to be more productive all day long.