Successfully managing your time at work can make the difference between completing multiple projects instead of being bogged down in emails and office gossip. But effective time management is hard to develop due to office distractions like an overflowing email inbox, coffee refills, coworker interruptions, and workday minutia. And while some of these distractions will be ever-present, there are a few techniques you can implement to hone your time management and be more productive in the office.
1. Limit Workplace Distractions
We all get distracted at work. Whether it’s people physically tapping you on the shoulder or the buzzing of your phone, life happens and it’s challenging to block it out for a solid chunk of time. The problem is small distractions seriously affect productivity. A recent study from the University of California Irvine found it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus after an interruption.
In order to limit lost productivity try a few of these techniques to minimize distractions and stay focused:
Turn off phone notifications
Better yet, set your phone out of reach for a specific time
Use headphones to block out office noise
Limit open browser tabs to only the ones you’re currently using
Set a timer and work nonstop until it goes off. 20 - 30 minute increments are typically enough
Whatever methods you use to limit distractions, stick with them throughout the work day to stay focused and on task.
2. Get Organized and Stay After It
Organizing your workday is one of the best techniques for effective time management. A few small changes to your routine can make a big difference in your overall productivity and help you stay focused as the day goes on.
Related reading: How to Use the Pomodoro Technique to Optimize your Time Management
Make a plan
Take a few minutes with your first cup of coffee to develop a plan for the day. Figure out what to expect, what needs to get done, and what can wait until tomorrow. Writing out a plan for the day helps you navigate the pesky “what should I do next?” decision and gives your day a sense of purpose.
Emails take up a significant chunk of nearly everyone’s office day, and if you’re a manager or supervisor, they can consume hours of your time. If possible, set specific times throughout the day to check your inbox so you’re not constantly battling the influx of emails. Once you start a time-sensitive project, minimize your email window and check it before transitioning to the next task. It’s impossible to eliminate email distractions but with a few ground rules in place, you can control them from taking up huge chunks of your workday.
Designate times throughout the day to take a break. Take a few minutes to stretch, walk around, or step outside to give yourself an emotional and physical refresh. Stepping away from the computer every hour or so will leave you more energized for your next project.
Make meetings count
When you set a meeting, establish a clear purpose and stick to the agenda. We’ve all been in a meeting where a coworker hijacks the conversation and before you know it you’ve lost 15 minutes hearing about their last sales call which had nothing to do with the topic at hand. Set clear expectations and communicate them both beforehand and in the meeting if necessary.
3. Automate HR processes
The processes of human resources and effective time management may not instantly go together in your mind, but they’re more linked than you might think. The ability of HR to accurately pay employees and track their time is a huge factor in whether or not your employees can focus on the job. Plus, accurately tracked punches eliminate nagging HR requests asking you to verify if an employee was in the office or not.
If you haven’t automated your time keeping processes, Dominion’s Time & Attendance software is an invaluable application for organizations of all sizes. It allows you to simplify scheduling, approve and review hours worked, and collect time according to your organization’s policy.
Learning how to effectively manage your time is a growing process. By limiting workplace distractions, organizing your workday, and automating certain processes you can improve your ability to focus and achieve the results you want.