Task management skills are crucial for effective people (and therefore effective teams). It is the effectiveness of what you do in each hour of your day, not the number of hours you do that determines the results you and your team accomplish.
The number one excuse for not getting something done or feeling stressed, anxious and overworked both professionally and personally is not having enough time.
If the number one excuse is a lack of time and we all have the same 24 hours, 1440 minutes, or 86400 seconds in a single day, how is it that some people can get so much more done in much less time?
They do this not through managing time but in managing themselves in relation to time; in other words, effective and highly efficient task management.
Effective task management requires commitment and consistent effort. That being said, some small changes can have huge benefits. For example, if you can convert just ten minutes of wasted time per day to productive work, you gain back almost an hour of productivity in your week and an additional week of productivity in your year. If you can convert 45 minutes of wasted time a day to productive work, you gain almost four hours of additional productivity a week. That’s half a work day!
And if you think you don’t have time to focus on task management then consider this; mastering your tasks will allow you to better control your workload and functionality even under intense pressure liberating you from much of the stress and overwhelm plaguing your work day.
1. Create A Daily To Do List. Start with a weekly plan at the beginning of the week identifying what needs to be done this week to ensure you are on track towards meeting your goals. Break your weekly plan down into daily tasks. Before you leave for the day, write out your daily task list for the next day. Build this list based on what you didn’t get done today that needs to be carried over and completed tomorrow and what needs to be done to ensure you reach your weekly goals. And schedule your least favourite task first to get it out of the way. (see 5)
2. Set Priorities - Priorities are often based on a deadline or who is yelling the loudest. Schedule deadlines for important tasks and break them down to ensure they get done and are not overtaken by urgent tasks. Prioritise your task list with a simple A, B and C and allocate your activity to spend 70% of your day on priority As, 20% on priority Bs and 10% on priority Cs.
3. Develop Effective Scheduling Habits - Schedule your day based around what you need to get done. You have as much control over your time as you exert. Leave your time open-ended, and you will consume it with low-value activities. Put a time frame on your work activities, and you will be surprised how quickly you begin to get things done. For example, a primary time waster is giving attention to email as it arrives. Schedule time at both the beginning and end of the day to read and respond to email. Have an automatic reply set up to advise your email hours and if it is business critical then to call you.
4. Manage Distractions - As things come in during the day use the 4 Ds
If it can be done in less than 5 minutes then it fits the ‘one touch rule’ so do it now
If it doesn’t require your attention or is not worthy of your time i.e. tasks that you are being advised about as a ‘keep in the loop’ let it go
Schedule a time and space for it then put it out of your mind
Especially if it’s not your responsibility but ask for a note that it has been completed especially if it is part of a larger body of work for which you are responsible.
5. Stop Procrastinating - Make a list of all those things you are currently procrastinating about so they are out in the open and can no longer be ignored. Prioritise in order of how much you don’t want to do the task and put the one you don’t want to do on your daily To Do list as a Priority A and then do it. Once one is out of the way, you’ll feel better equipped to deal with the rest. Aim to complete one of your procrastination tasks every month.
6. Learn To Say No - Say no to time wasters such as meetings that are not critical for you to attend. Meetings that are called at the last minute, meetings with no agenda, those with no designated meeting place arranged, have a vague topic or a simple subject matter that could be resolved by email are most likely a waste of your valuable time and are best avoided.
7. Take Breaks – a break will allow you to refresh, recharge and refocus making you significantly more productive. We were not designed to work at optimum levels without a break. Scientific studies have shown productivity drops over time if we force concentration. Go for a short walk in the sun and grab some water or lunch, you’ll be better for it.
Focusing on better task management will make your day more productive, but more importantly it will free you to wave goodbye to the office that bit earlier. And getting home at 5pm instead of 7pm means more time doing those things you’d rather be doing with those you’d rather be doing them with.