How to manage your time so you can manage your work

“There’s just not enough hours in the day.” How many times, looking at stacks of records to update, calls to return or memos to file, have you said that to yourself? In fact, ineffective time management may be contributing to your ever-lengthening workday. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time at work:

Before going home at night, prepare a “to-do” list so you know what your two or three main tasks are when you come to work in the morning. Structure your day around your top priorities. Categorize your tasks as “urgent”, “important” and “needed by…”

Do your urgent tasks during your “peak” time. Some of us are at our best in the morning; others don’t really get rolling until the afternoon. Your best hours are too precious to waste on minor tasks.

You may want to set aside an hour or two during a workday for particularly demanding jobs. Try putting your phone into “do not disturb” mode during this period. Ask the front reception to screen calls or take messages.

Make sure your surroundings and environment are conducive to being productive. For example, you may feel more creative writing at a coffee shop than you are while seated at your desk in front of a computer demanding e-mail responses every second moment.

Take breaks – they help you stay productive and allow you to clear your mind for a fresh start, even if you’re going back to the same thing you were working on before you took your break.

Make sure your breaks are structured and that they are goals to work towards, not excuses to stop doing what you need to do. Acceptable break activities are: going for a walk, grabbing a coffee, reading an article, spending a few minutes to catch up tweets or make connections on LinkedIn and of course, eating lunch.

Do spend a bit of time getting to know certain technologies that will automate your life and make things easier on you. For example, a calendar program like Google Calendar will remind you when an event is approaching. Use it to set incremental deadlines to keep you on schedule. Use automated e-newsletters for your marketing and get a Blackberry or iPhone to catch up on e-mails during ‘down time’ (such as waiting in line at a coffee shop, or while on the bus).

Learn to delegate! Make use of office services available to you. Let the experts do what they do best so you can focus on your work. You will be working smarter, not harder.