Just like anyone else who has held a job at some point, I have also struggled with managing my time at my workplace. At any given moment at work, I am juggling six different tasks, thinking about what to make for dinner and possibly answering a text – all at the same time. It is obviously stressful, sometimes difficult to manage, and just plain overwhelming. Overtime however, I have realized that micromanaging my time and organizing work accordingly is ten times more effective than just dealing with everything at the same time.
The very first thing I do (after getting coffee, of course) is make a to-do list for the day listing tasks by priority. It gives me direction, helps clear my brain and is basically an excellent way to direct attention on the work at hand. Use calendars, planners, pretty markers and cute stationary - organizing can be fun! Don't forget to set aside time-slots for breaks, especially for coffee and food!
For someone like me who is not a morning person, it can be a little difficult to get in the right zone for work but when I list things out, I don’t feel as overwhelmed and my brain can focus more easily. I also allot each task an approximate timeframe, leaving some buffer room for coffee intervals or maybe five-minute procrastination breaks. This way I can keep track of my speed, calculate how much time each task takes and streamline the rest of my day accordingly. Also, since I am more productive in the afternoons, I start with projects that require less concentration and progressively move on to the more complex chores that need to be taken care of. However, a lot of people I work with prefer to finish big chunks of their work in the morning and then save the easier tasks for the post-lunch period.
No matter what your method, the idea is to work in a way that maximizes your productivity and allows you to move through assignments quickly but efficiently. Another trick is to get up and move around a little, even if just to go to the bathroom. It keeps you awake and ensures adequate blood circulation especially in behind-the-desk jobs.
In addition, I also sometimes, in the face of especially urgent deadlines, lock my phone (and all other distractions) for a good amount of time just to minimize distractions and focus. While this method might be a little arbitrary, it actually works. Out of sight, out of mind!
In terms of asking for more responsibilities, I usually evaluate my own workload first before taking on additional work. On slow days, I am happy to lend a hand but at times, when I am unsure of how much more I can do, I politely refuse more work. Taking on more than you can do will only lead to stress and poor outcomes.
Professional life can be challenging and taxing on your health. Some days may be pleasant, but everyone has bad days – maybe you got into an argument or had to cover an extra shift despite being overworked. During such moments, it’s necessary to remind yourself that while very important, it’s still just a job and your mental and physical well-being come first. It is imperative to maintain a work-life balance and take out time to destress regularly (treat yo self!). It could be anything you enjoy doing – maybe watch a movie or take a walk along the beach or ride your bicycle in the park. And of course, get a good night's sleep!
The idea is to manage your time in a such way that you have pockets of time to actually enjoy yourself while getting through your to-do list at the same time. Most importantly though, remember that managing and utilizing your time efficiently are actual skills that need to be honed over time. Different things work for different people - you may make yourself a schedule, realize it cannot be realistically achieved and discard it - only to start over, which is perfectly okay. Allow yourself the time and space to procrastinate, make mistakes and miss deadlines because it's all part of the ongoing learning process.