Tips for Time Management at Work

Time is an integral part of everyone’s workday. Getting to the office on time. Punching the clock. Meeting deadlines. Yet most people struggle to some degree with time management at work. How do you stay on task amid constant meetings? How do you get your work finished when you are answering emails all day? Incorporating a few simple time management strategies into your day can make a big difference in productivity and reducing stress while you’re at it.

Review Your Time Management

Before changing your time management approach, assess how you are using your time now. Spend a few days or a week writing down each work-related task or interaction you have, as well as the time you spend on anything non-work related, such as checking social media or making personal appointments. What was the result of your actions and conversations? Did they support your tasks and goals or detract from them? Putting your minute-by-minute workday under a microscope can highlight problem areas. You may find one of your weekly mandatory meetings doesn’t apply to your work and you can talk to someone about sitting it out, gaining yourself an hour of precious time. Or you may discover you lose more time checking your phone throughout the day than you thought.

Create a Schedule and Stick to It

It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll use your time more productively if you set aside half an hour at the start of the week to write down what you plan to accomplish by the end of the week. Be specific about what you plan to complete each day. Each morning before diving into your work, review your schedule and tasks for that day to help sustain your productivity. Also, make a habit of only checking your personal email, texts and social media during breaks—you’ll be surprised how your productivity increases.

Plan for Interruptions

Positive interactions with your coworkers are part of an enjoyable and rewarding workplace. It’s perfectly acceptable to discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones, support a co-worker in the midst of a particularly difficult task, or head outside with the whole office to take in a rare and beautiful solar eclipse together, as most workers across the U.S. did this week. These small moments improve camaraderie and worker satisfaction, but they can add up and ultimately increase stress if you fall behind in your work as a result. When you set your schedule for the day, include a bit of time for unexpected interruptions—and then keep those interruptions brief.

Protect Your Time

If you’ve got a pressing deadline or have slipped behind on the week’s tasks, let your coworkers know you are going to put your head down and work until a specific time. Being upfront gives people the chance to avoid interrupting you, except when it’s truly pressing. With this approach, you’re also less likely to be short with co-workers as a result of stress and they’ll likely appreciate the heads up.

Time Management at Production Jobs

The workflow at construction jobsites, industrial kitchens, factories, and warehouses isn’t usually interrupted by emails or meetings, but time management is still important in these settings. For workers in physically demanding or repetitive jobs, creating efficiencies is the best way to make the most of time and improve productivity. This could include organizing your most commonly used ingredients, tools, and bestselling products, and placing them within easy reach, for example. Effective time management at these jobs also involves taking adequate breaks; working through breaks and rushing to complete tasks can lead to physical exhaustion and burnout.

Make Time for Self Care

To be more productive at work also means taking some time to disconnect. Establish a cutoff for checking your work emails after you’ve left the office. Preferably this should happen before dinner. Set your phone aside and spend quality time with family and friends, or pursuing a hobby you enjoy.

As much as we wish otherwise, time is a finite resource. But you can make the most of it by planning your work week and sticking to the schedule you create.

P.S. Taking this approach in other areas of your life can reap similar rewards. Put fun outings, lunch with friends, or hikes into your calendar so they don’t get pushed back when you’re too busy. And if you dream of changing careers, going back to school, or turning your side hustle into a full-time gig, schedule steps toward those goals—in time you’ll get there.