No matter how many time management books you read, one of the most difficult parts is knowing how to make your own schedule. In some workplaces, the time is structured for you. In others, you have more freedom to set your schedule. Either way, you make decisions about how you do what you do and the efficiency of your effort.
Basically, creating a schedule requires that you take a realistic look at the time available and know the tasks that need to be done in that time. You have to allow enough time in your schedule to transition between tasks.
That may mean driving to a different location and dealing with traffic delays. For other tasks, you may have to gather additional research, calculate a budget, or meet with a colleague. When you fail to build enough time into your schedule for transitions, then you’re likely to get behind and stay that way.
Another problem in many schedules is over-committing. You only have so many work hours available. Considering the time needed for transitions plus unexpected interruptions with real or perceived urgency, you can’t work too many critical projects back to back without over-commitment. When that happens, something gets missed or everything is done half-way. That’s not good time management, that’s a train wreck happening right at your desk.
Remember to schedule time for yourself. You need a lunch break and a few minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon to take a break. If possible, take a walk outdoors or get away from your desk to refresh your mind as well as grab a coffee or refreshing drink. You also need to include meetings and community activities related to work.
If you are a manager, then your schedule must include time to coach and motivate your employees or team members. The much applauded “open door policy” can be an invitation to distractions as many visits to your office are more casual than business related. Your schedule may need a period each day for “closed door” work time.
Unless you are required to constantly monitor email, then you can schedule email checking for two or three times during the workday, not every five minutes. You can also sort email into folders and schedule times for different types of email such as for orders, client contact, questions, employee contact, personal, etc.
You may have a habit that’s common in offices to check email as soon as the envelope notice pops up on your screen. That’s letting a distraction into your workspace. Turn off the automatic notice and schedule the times during the day when you will check email.
Taking charge of your schedule is the first step to effective time management. Your schedule is the framework that tells you where you want to use your time and by reviewing the schedule, you can see if your plan was effective.