It’s about time
Are you managing time, or is it managing you? Today’s high pressured 24/7 world of email, phone messages, social media, and office intranets have people more irritable and anxious than ever before. Ironically, employees have become slaves to the technology that is supposed to keep them connected and make their lives easier, and the price is more physical and emotional stress, reduced work quality and productivity, and burnout.
No work/life balance
Many of the people I coach complain about how being constantly “on” cuts into their personal lives, family time, fun, and health. They feel pressured to keep checking their email, and typically have more work than they have time to do. It’s a common complaint, and though you can’t necessarily change corporate cultures, you can look at how you manage your projects, email, meetings, and overall time, and consider making some simple changes that may help free you from some of those time shackles.
What are your habits?
To get a handle on your time, start by examining your habits: For example, how much time do you spend looking at emails, and when? Instead of reviewing them constantly – which is a huge distraction – or putting them off for the evening, can you set aside planned time throughout the day, in half-hour increments, to only review emails? Do you have a system for accurately determining which are strategic, and which are creative or fall into another category? How do you prioritize which ones are most important, or most timely?
Prioritize and just do it!
Making lists is a good practice for prioritizing your work. But what if you were to slightly reinvent that A, B, C priority grid so the “A” list becomes something you can do to make your job more constructive and to help you reduce stress? Then the “B” list represents the hottest projects and deadlines, and the “C” list becomes whatever else has to be done today or shuffled off until tomorrow.
Break it down
Procrastination is another common problem. One solution is to do bigger jobs in smaller pieces, and to delegate more effectively so you don’t get overwhelmed. There must be certain tasks you can reasonably part with to allow you to focus on pressing issues, or to even relax a little to reduce stress. Reward yourself by setting reasonable goals, like reaching a half-way mark, and then celebrating that accomplishment with a coffee, a walk, listening to music, lunch with a friend or co-worker . . . whatever floats your boat. And tell a friend or team member what deadlines you’ve set for yourself so he or she can check in on your progress.
Finally, always take the time to ask yourself, “Is there a better approach for getting this done?” Making sure you have the right systems, devices, and software is critical, and so is learning to set reasonable boundaries or to be courageous about asking for the time you need to get something done. Separate real deadlines from artificial deadlines, see what is flexible, and commit to meeting the most important assignments first. And don’t forget to include yourself, your physical and mental health, and your time away from work on that list.