SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
I don’t know about you, but proper time management is something I struggle with in all aspects of my life. I find myself scrambling to get everything finished after realizing that I haven’t done anything that I’m supposed to do. The one aspect of my life I wish I was better at managing my time in is my professional life.
With bad habits comes bad behavior and inadequate performance. Like most anything, I know that if I give myself more time on each project, I will be more satisfied with the finished product.
Before jumping into the best ways to handle your time efficiently, let me define what proper time management is.
Proper time management is the process in which you plan and practice control over the amount of time you spend on an activity.
Of course, all this is easier said than done. So how do you properly manage your professional time? Here are three simple ways to manage your time efficiently.
1. Plan ahead and know your goals
As an employee, you should ask yourself what your goals are. Set daily, weekly, monthly and long-term goals for yourself In addition to planning your professional goals, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for anything happening in your life in general. When setting your priorities make sure that they are on the same page as your professional goals.
I know that if I don’t make a to-do list before making my schedule I find myself thinking about grocery shopping in the middle of a project. Before making a schedule, try writing out a to-do list and prioritizing what’s more important before working your schedule around what you come up with.
Prioritizing is the hardest part of time management for me. I find myself doing tasks that are less important first, which leaves me scrambling to complete the more important tasks on a time crunch.
When setting your goals, be sure to create a timeline for completion. If it’s a big project, break it down into small increments and milestones. Be sure that when creating your goals to figure out which are more important than the others.
2. Learn how to Schedule your Time
One of the most important skills that often go overlooked and are underdeveloped, is the ability to determine how long something will take and planning an appropriate deadline with that timeframe. A good suggestion to overcome that bump in the road might be to time yourself while working on projects to determine how long it takes you. By understanding how long it takes you to complete tasks you will be able to more efficiently set goals and plan ahead.
This is an opportune time to utilize a calendar! I find that whenever I use my online calendar, I get my tasks done on time more frequently. With an online calendar, you can set the priority of the task, time, date, and alerts. By syncing your calendars, you can avoid scheduling a presentation and a dentist appointment on the same day. It’s also a good idea to link your Google calendar to your phone.
When scheduling your tasks, try to schedule tasks during your ‘peak performance times’. For example, avoid setting difficult tasks first thing in the mornings if you aren’t a morning person. By practicing the art of scheduling, you will be able to balance your life.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
I lied. Procrastination is probably my biggest problem. I recently watched a TED Talk on procrastination, where he explains that procrastination has a root. Procrastination is often linked with laziness, however, it often starts from somewhere. Surprisingly enough, procrastination is just a result of poor time management.
According to an article published by UCSC, procrastination is caused by poor self-care. Take a look at your sleeping patterns and eating habits. Are you getting a good night’s rest and a healthy breakfast, or are you rushing into work slurping down a coffee? According to the article, procrastination can be the result of emotional and psychological factors. Keeping healthy by having adequate sleep, staying hydrated, eating well, and exercising can help you when you're feeling anxious or even insecure.
Often times I find myself procrastinating before a big task. Getting started on it is the hardest part. However, if I really look into why I’m procrastinating, I often realize that I might not be confident in my ability to get it done well. Being able to utilize your scheduling skills and breaking that task down into small increments can really make a difference when facing starting a new project. Start doing the first couple steps, and see how you feel then.
I know that before writing an article I procrastinate endlessly, and when I finally get to it I find my stride. Another good idea might be to set a timeframe for which you’ll be working on that project. Set a reward for yourself after that timeframe like a yummy snack.
4. Stay Postive!
Don’t go to work with the mentality of “I hate work.” With that mentality, you’ll never be able to get anything done. Instead, imagine how you will feel when you finish your project. Although some people have suggested that imagining the bad feelings that might come with an unfinished project might be motivating, I don’t agree. You will feel more motivated by surrounding yourself with good and positive feelings.
In my spare time, I rock climb. As much as I would love to tackle the hard climbs first, I know I will burn out if I do. So I start easy to warm myself up before tackling the harder ones. Start with some easy tasks first to warm yourself up, then get to the hard ones. That way, you'll be able to keep the positive mentality throughout your tasks. Nothing’s more satisfying than finishing up a huge project at the end of the day and know that you are done and that you have done well!
5. Avoid Interruptions
I confess that I love working in front of the television with a good snack. Often times though, that work session eventually turns into a full out veg session. In order for me produce the best work possible I have to turn off the television and even sometimes keep my phone away from me; especially when I am supposed to be doing an unpleasant project. This is especially important when working from home.
When scheduling your tasks be sure to schedule them at a time when there will be as little interruptions as possible. Of course, interruptions aren’t completely unavoidable, but they are well within your control; save for the rare earthquake. In that case, feel free to drop what you are doing and take cover. The first thing you should do to avoid interruptions is to turn off all interruptions! Put your phone on silent, and turn off email notifications. It’s easy to get distracted and off topic by an email or text message.
It’s a good idea to schedule your appointments with a little extra time in order to prepare for anything that might happen. For example, if you have a task that you think will take an hour to complete, try scheduling it for one and a half or two hours to prepare for the unexpected. As much as you can manage your personal space, how do you control those around you? Do you have co-workers that stop by for a quick chat? One of the best ways to avoid incidents like that is to signal that you are in the middle of a project, by putting in a pair of headphones, or shutting the door; or even just simply letting them know.
Another good suggestion to avoid interruptions like that is to stay away from gossip. If you find yourself constantly gossiping with your co-workers, your desk will become the hub for gossip. Not only is gossip mean and unprofessional, it’s unproductive.
Lastly, if you are able to have a flexible schedule, work when others aren’t working. As undesirable as it might sound to either come in early or stay late; remember the early bird gets the worm.
At the end of the day, having bad time management is essentially having bad habits. Although habits can be hard to break, it isn’t impossible. By following these steps and keeping a proper balance between all aspects of your life, you will be proud of your work and keep leadership happy. Remember time management starts with balancing out both your personal and professional life.