1. Urgency Matrix
To make the best use of your time, you should set time-limits for your tasks and group similar or related tasks together. It is better to finish one task completely before moving on to the next. It is tempting to jump from one task to another, as and when they come in but this creates a lot of inefficiency.
The Eisenhower Matrix above is a useful starting point to batch tasks and prioritize.
Important > Urgent. Try to focus on important tasks rather than urgent tasks and you will find that you will get much more done rather than just getting bogged down with minutiae. You may also start to realize that many “urgent” tasks resolve themselves without you.
Research shows that only around 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time. Start tracking time spent, and then use this knowledge to set reasonable time-limits for each task. This will allow you to organize your day much more effectively.
2. Adopt the 2-Minute Rule
Follow the "two-minute rule." Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends that at work, if you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Completing the task right away takes less time than having to get back to it later.
Bearing in mind the Urgency Quandrant in #1 above, the exception is for small, easily-doable tasks that can be completed in under 2 minutes. If something can be done immediately, Just Do It.
3. Remove distractions and minimize interruptions
Having a colleague pop by to chat can be a pleasant bonding experience, but even brief interruptions will disrupt your workflow and decrease productivity. Minimize interruptions by setting office hours, keeping your door closed, or coming in extra for time-sensitive projects.
Your phone is the biggest distraction of all. Minimize all notifications and put your phone away. Break the habit of scrolling through social media even when you have a break. If you work in an open-space layout and you find other peoples’ conversations distracting you, bring your own headphones. Wearing headphones can also be an easy way to signal to others that you are busy and don’t want to talk.
4. Schedule meetings effectively
Meetings are the greatest time-wasters in corporate life. If you have the opportunity not to have one, don’t. Try to accomplish the same goals or tasks via email or phone, or make an excuse not to attend by simply saying that you will catch up with the minutes or the relevant persons after. You will find that you can get the essence of the meeting and what needs to be done in a nutshell very quickly without having to actually sit in the meeting.
Another tip is to circulate an agenda before every meeting and to make sure that there is a clear direction and purpose of the meeting. By doing so, the meeting can be over much quicker and with actual results and actionable steps to take.
It may be difficult for you to control how and when you need to attend meetings if you are in a relatively junior role. In that case, you should then come prepared. Bring a laptop with you to take notes or even to start working on the tasks assigned so that you get a head-start.
5. Take advantage of your commute
The best way to be organized and productive is to have a strategy. On your commute, make a list of your most important (not just urgent) tasks of the day. You can create this list every morning on your way to work or in the evenings on your way home for the next day. By setting a clear agenda on what you need to get accomplished for the day everyday, you will be much more effective at work.
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