Once you have listed your long- and short- term professional goals, you need to arrange them in priority order. Each goal will involve the successful completion of a number of tasks. Decide which are the most important and need urgent attention.
Analyzing Your Work
Be honest as possible about your current job. How much of your time is spent doing the wrong task at the wrong time, and missing the goals you have set for that day? If you have 10 objectives to achieve each day, ranging from the mundane and routine to the urgent and complex, which of these takes priority? Analyze your working day, and decide which of you projects are routine, which concern mid- to long-term projects, ad which are extremely important and urgent, or due for imminent completion. Whatever your position in your workplace, the careful planning and planning and organization of your day will make all the difference to your efficiency at work, and how successful you are at achieving your goals.
Make a list of all your current, upcoming, and routine goals and tasks. Then divide them into three categories – Type A, B, or C:
- Type A: tasks that are important and urgent;
- Type B: tasks are either important or urgent, but not both;
- Type C: tasks that neither important nor urgent, but routine.
If you are in any doubt about how to categorize a specific task, consider it a C-task, or discard it.
Prioritizing And Delegating Work
To work out your specific priorities, look again at your task list. Now make three separate lists – one each for A-, B-, and C- tasks. Starting with the A- tasks, work through the lists, deciding which tasks need input from others, which ones only you can do, and which can be delegated. Consider whether any tasks are unnecessary, and discard them. Involve people with the task that require outside input, and hand over jobs that can be delegated immediately. This will leave you with three shorter lists of A-, B-, and C-tasks that only you can do, enabling you to go to the next step: planning your day. By estimating how long it might take you to complete each of these tasks (noting down timings next to each item), you will be better placed to begin coordinating contributions from colleagues, fitting your tasks around organized meetings, and planning longer-term projects.
Planning Your Day
Any working day should include a mixture of A-, B-, and C-tasks. Plan a selection of tasks that you can realistically achieve in one day, while making sure that the working day does not stretch to 20 hours. Spread the three types of tasks throughout the day, rather than working in sequence through all the A-tasks followed by B-tasks, and so on. This way, you can intersperse blocks of intense concentration (devoted to A- tasks) with periods of less demanding B- and C-tasks.
Priorities change all the time because we receive information all the time, whether from the Internet, the telephone, or a colleague popping their head around the door. New information may change a task’s importance or urgency. It may push an urgent job off your critical list. Why prepare a report for a meeting scheduled for tomorrow when it has been postponed for three days? When you receive any new information, quickly reassess your list of priorities.
There are few things more stressful than exaggerated expressions, so be realistic about what you can achieve in a given period or time. You will not benefit yourself or your colleague by embarking upon a punishing ad overambitious schedule that you cannot maintain. Learn to recognize the limits of your capabilities, and do not undertake on a project you know you cannot complete successfully. Likewise, try to be realistic in your expectations of others. Do not demand too much from your colleagues or you will be frustrated by their inability to complete the jobs you have given them, and they will soon become exhausted and demoralized. Once you have established what is reasonably achievable – whether for your self of for others – stretch your expectations from time to time. People sometimes need to feel stretched and challenged when at work, and they want to enjoy the satisfaction of having achieved something that is a little bit beyond their expectations and experience.
Booking Quiet Time
You need some time to yourself – time to collect yourself, assess priorities, and concentrate on difficult and high-priority tasks. This quiet time will not be available unless you schedule it into your day. Do not feel guilty about shutting yourself off from your colleagues. Explain that they can have your full attention once you have had that short period of time free from interruptions and distractions. This is particularly important if your workplace is noisy and chaotic. Try to be self-disciplined, and use this time constructively to tackle A- or B-tasks that needs your undivided attention. Remember that even a short period of quiet time will help you work more efficiently.
Points to remember:
- Your employer’s priorities may not be the same as your own.
- Priorities change. They may need to be reassessed at the beginning of each day.
- Time management is doing things more effectively, not just more quickly.
- Food is vital for concentration levels and health – regular refreshment breaks are important
- Quiet times in the office, such as before everyone has arrived, can be used to great effect.
- Ask for a second opinion if you cannot prioritize competing tasks.
- Identify conflicts of priority between you and your boss
- Find out whether your colleagues’ priorities conflict with your own.
- Classify all work engagements in your diary according to their importance.
- If your schedule is full of A-task, then delegate or redefine them.
- Alter priorities continually in line with change or new information.
- Yo keep discussions short, avoid open-ended questions.
- Ensure that you have a quiet time every day.
- Do not be afraid to leave the phone off the hook.