HIGHER EDUCATION

5 Tips For Effective Time Management

Michael Cosgrove Principal, CPA, MSM

10 July 2018

The most common remark I hear from friends, family and colleagues, is that they wish there were more time. Unfortunately, we cannot create additional time within the day, so we must understand and utilize different techniques to effectively manage our time. The end result of effectively managing our time is a much more productive day.

Step 1: MAKE AN INITIAL PLAN

If I told you that you’d be 42{dbc2a7977897ed6bb279211f092ba1f542e4cbaf62b292c7a918387c014c548c} more likely to accomplish a goal or complete a task, would you do it? Studies show that if you write something down, you’re 42{dbc2a7977897ed6bb279211f092ba1f542e4cbaf62b292c7a918387c014c548c} more likely to complete the task. A 42{dbc2a7977897ed6bb279211f092ba1f542e4cbaf62b292c7a918387c014c548c} spike in productivity would be extremely significant and quite frankly, even if the studies were incorrect, and the true number was only half of what they show, wouldn’t a 21{dbc2a7977897ed6bb279211f092ba1f542e4cbaf62b292c7a918387c014c548c} improvement be a significant enough increase? It’s really as simple as making an
initial plan. Some people believe the best time to plan for what they want to accomplish for the day is the morning, and it’s the first thing they do when they get to the office. While I think that is certainly a good approach, I feel it’s best to make the initial plan the night before. All the work is fresher in your mind, including the recent conversations you had with colleagues. For this reason, it can be easier to make that initial plan in the evening. This initial list can serve as a guide when you first arrive the following day and it can be revised for anything that may have come up since making the list.

Step 2: PREPARE A SCHEDULE

The schedule for the day should be one of the first tasks you complete. The schedule will be your roadmap for the day and is based on your initial plan. The schedule will help you organize your tasks in categories of what requires immediate attention, what can be completed at a later date and what tasks will need additional resources that you will need to then coordinate. The schedule should include existing deadlines so you can adequately prioritize tasks. Assign deadlines to tasks that do not have existing deadlines so they can get accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. When making your schedule be sure to incorporate the timing of when you’re at your peak performance. If you’re someone who is at your best in the morning, when you first come into the office, then you should be working
on your most critical tasks at that time. However, if you’re someone who would rather ease into your day and as a result produces your highest quality of work after lunch, then you should be scheduling your day to incorporate the
most difficult tasks at that time.

Step 3: COMMUNICATE

As mentioned, some of the tasks you’ll complete will require additional resources. In terms of coordinating the resources, you should always communicate the expected deadlines right from the start. This will help keep other
staff members on target, give them the opportunity to prioritize these new tasks into their current workloads, and will help hold everyone accountable. It is also important to ensure your deadlines match the assigned supervisor’s expectation as well.

Step 4: FOCUS

Now that you have your schedule set and have communicated the deadlines with other team members, it’s time to get down to business. People work best when they are truly able to focus on the subject matter in front of them. Multitasking, while common, doesn’t typically yield the best results. At this point in your career, you should understand how you work best and try to use that to your advantage. Some people work best in a very quiet office where they can really think and won’t be interrupted. Some people work best with some background noise (music, other team members engaging in light conversation, etc.). There are times when you need to take the email pop-up message off and let your phone go to voicemail to be extremely focused and produce your best work. It’s critical to understand what your ideal working environment is in order to regularly achieve the best results.

Step 5: TAKE BREAKS

A portion of your schedule must include breaks. People often feel that breaks are their least productive time, but they are necessary to give your brain a rest after you’ve been working for a certain period. The time in between tasks that you need for a break can be productive i.e. getting a drink, using the restroom, etc. It can also provide your brain an opportunity to come out of extreme focus and relax a bit before you begin working on your next task. Some educators are starting to instill required brain breaks in their classrooms by including exercise or some other type of activity that is different from the subject matter.  This is teaching the students that their brains should be extremely focused and then given a break. It allows them to stay focused for that time because they know that a scheduled break is coming.

These are 5 simple tips in order to try to maximize your efficiency and to best utilize your time. It is critical to manage your time effectively in order to produce optimal results. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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