Time and task management – Making the most of your day

The daily struggle for almost all employees across any industry, is time management. As the list of tasks ‘to do’ grows, time ticks faster. So much so, that it’s become the norm to work outside of ‘normal’ hours, just to get the job done. Some people are able to balance their time well, whilst others are left with much longer days due to an ever growing list of tasks.

It’s easy for managers to encourage better time management, after all the perks are widely known – better time management leads to reduced stress, improved productivity, time for value-add activities, and ultimately more time to do the things we want to do. But being able to put the theory into practice is a challenge in itself; and the first step is understanding the difference between time and task management.

Time is a continuous unit of measurement. Time will keep on moving at the same pace throughout the day, and as such is pretty hard to control in itself. A task is a piece of work assigned to be completed within a given timeframe. Managing time is a result of managing your tasks; greater control over your daily schedule gives you the balancing power.

Below are three tips to effectively time and task manage:

1. Task Planning – the power of a ‘to do’ list is key. Writing down a list of things you plan to accomplish in a day, is one way of limiting yourself to a manageable level of work. By setting a realistic timeframe against each task also puts the day into perspective.

2. Prioritisation – simply writing the ‘to do’ list is the first step. Working through it you should focus on the most critical items first; the ones with the earliest deadline, or have the highest pay-off through delivery. Priorities do change throughout the day and the list can be amended to reflect this, keeping you one step ahead of the clock.

3. Bundle by Type – if, for example, you know you have 3 phone calls to make, and 6 emails to write, do them in blocks. This is similar to using the popular theory by Smith, ‘division of labour and specialisation of skills’. It may be on a much smaller scale, but will reap the same benefits.

With better time management, not only do individuals benefit, so do the companies we work for. Just a small change to the way we start our day, such as setting out a ‘to do’ list, enables us to plan more effectively. This is a key element to increasing productivity, and hopefully ensures you get out of the office door on time!