Time management skills

Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for the things that matter? It’s a common complaint.

Today’s workplace is not exactly slow-paced. The combination of hefty workloads, competing demands and near-constant deadlines can make for a tricky balancing act. That’s why it’s vital to develop good time management skills and become as organised as possible — as soon as possible.

You may think you don’t have any spare moments to devote to managing your time, but the reality is, you can’t afford not to. Here are some time management tips to help you get on top of your schedule:

Devise a daily game plan

When you walk into a sea of assignments and feel like you don't have a second to spare, your first inclination might be to immediately dive headfirst into any task ­­– even if it's a time-consuming but low-impact one. While all of your tasks require careful adherence to the clock, one of the most effective time management skills is to take 10 minutes at the start of the day to create a more strategic plan.

Identify your most critical and time-sensitive tasks, and then make a prioritised to-do list. It's an upfront investment that'll save you time in the long run – if you stay disciplined and keep the constant mental shuffling (aka multitasking) in check.

Set (or reset) boundaries 

There are limitations on what a person can achieve in a given time period. Spreading yourself too thin day after day isn't healthy or sustainable. While it's terrific you want to be a team player, constantly pressuring yourself to "do it all" can have some ugly side effects, namely burnout, mistakes and that dreadful feeling you'll never get caught up. The solution: Be willing to tactfully say no sometimes.

Also, protect your time by guarding against scope creep. If you're a hard worker with a reputation for meeting deadlines and fulfilling obligations, don't feel guilty about occasionally delegating or pushing back against unrealistic expectations or an unmanageable workload.

Clear the clutter

While this may not come to mind when thinking about time management skills, having a tidy office space can affect your work. Clutter can lead to unnecessary stress and wasted time.

Many professionals tend to be more productive – and more at ease ­– when there's at least a modicum of order. If you frequently have to dig for files buried underneath piles of sticky notes and lunch receipts, perhaps it's time to make a clean sweep.

Quit procrastinating 

Ok, this is easier said than done. It's tempting to postpone less-desirable assignments in favour of tackling more exciting ones. But purposely delaying work on unappealing or highly challenging projects will only exacerbate your problems.

Chronic procrastination creates headaches for you, while potentially straining your professional relationships. Don't be your own worst enemy.

Have an active life outside the office 

Generally speaking, being dedicated to your job is admirable. But client meetings and brainstorming sessions shouldn't be the only events on your agenda. Schedule time to explore outside interests or simply relax.

Keeping personal pursuits on the calendar – whether it's hiking or just hanging with friends – can provide extra motivation to manage your time efficiently while you're at work. Plus, it's hard to gain focus and perspective if you don't have a simple work-life balance.

Be "time sensitive" 

When you show that you respect people's time, they'll be far more likely to return the favour.

Avoid scheduling meetings that aren't necessary – and keep them on track when they are. Likewise, there's no better way to build rapport and gain allies than by volunteering to assist overworked colleagues if you're able. By kindly lending a helping hand when you can, you'll generate some goodwill that could come in handy the next time you're feeling the heat.

Time management skills will change your working life

For many professionals, time management troubles are both pronounced and persistent.

Yet more often than not the number of hours in a day is less important than how you choose to use them.

Try to incorporate some of these time management skills into your daily life and you may start to find that you can accomplish more than you previously imagined.