Are you under constant work pressure? Not enough hours in the day? Never get to the bottom of the To Do list?
Can’t say no to more work? You allow everyone (boss, colleagues even your subordinates) to slip another bit of paper, extra work on to your desk?
First, look at what you are actually spending your time on.
For the next week, keep a Daily Activity log with the following column headings:
“From Time: To time: Activity/Interruption: Downtime: Duration (in minutes):"
( Note: Downtime includes coffee breaks, personal phone calls/matters/internet surfing etc, stopping at other people’s desks for a chat! If it isn’t productive activity, it’s downtime.)
You will probably start getting the message after the first day but, in any event, look at your daily sheets after one week. Look at the breakdown of your time.
Look particularly at the downtime. Arriving late to work? Long lunch break? Leaving early? Too many breaks, chats, coffees, personal phone calls, internet activity?
"Activities and Interruptions." Are you initiating them, or is someone else influencing the allocation of your time? Does your boss regularly drop in with additional tasks that distract you from your main work? Are you letting others dump work on you?
Start on those activities that are within you power to control - chats, coffee breaks, internet activity etc. Are you allowing other people to vist you to shoot the breeze?
Then look at those activities and interruptions that are driven by other people. How can you bring them under control?
Put your phone on voicemail (but do check it regularly), keep your office door closed so that you can get on with your own work.
Keep a To do list and prioritise your time to get the important stuff done. As you complete tasks, tick them off to see the progress you are making.
Delegate work that is below you level of competence. Defer the work that is neither important nor urgent.
Watch out for people, above and below you, dumping work on to you which they should be doing themselves or allocating to other people.
Don't get drawn into meetings that are not relevant or productive.
Manage your boss. Find out what he/she needs from you and deliver it in the form and time he/she wants. Encourage him/her to give you plenty of notice when something has to be done so that you can do it in an efficient way. Discourage him/her from dropping in unannounced with lists of jobs that have to be done asap. It is in your boss's interest that you are working efficiently and seek their advice and cooperation in helping you to work better.
Eamonn Lawless is a Chartered Management Accountant and a Business Coach/Mentor. Through his company, Focus On Solutions, he offers business performance improvement services.