Managing time wisely is a challenge to many people, and the Internet is full of solutions and tips. When I was a student, I remember how our professors used to tell us (the class) about a new assignment — the deadline of which would be just a couple of days later — and that “if [we] managed our time well, completing the assignment shouldn’t be hard.” And after a short quiz when I would look helpless, they would always remind me that I needed to prepare by “managing [my] time well for all the subjects.” To be honest, I never had a clue what that "time management" was and what “managing the time well” meant. I always promised myself to study systematically, by making an elaborate time table and giving an equal amount of time to all the subjects, but afterwards I always forgot even where I even kept that time table.
Professional life wasn’t very different either. In the earlier part of my career as a developer, whenever my manager (who had the habit of breathing down our necks) would ask me why some task wasn’t finished yet, I couldn’t tell him (despite desperately wanting to) that he had assigned a separate task to me that was “to be completed on an urgent basis.” I knew that even if I told him that, he would just raise an eyebrow and dismiss my protest by telling me that I needed to properly manage my time.
Years later, working in management myself and telling my team members to manage their time was not easy, since I too had come from the same seats. But I learnt to do it after some introspection and by focusing on how to achieve it. It isn’t rocket science (so to speak, and also because nothing is rocket science except rocket science itself). You can also learn to effectively manage your time, and the Internet is full of related tips and tricks (and some cheats too, if you are so inclined). Here are a few tips from my personal bag of tricks for managing your time in the office:
- Limit the use of social media. Yes, you just want to update your status and see a couple of latest posts on your wall or your timeline, but that won’t be all: You will see something interesting, and the will decide to share it with your friends, and then tell it to your co-workers, and then respond to a comment, and so on.
- Calls and text messages: Use them only for important or critical matters. We normally don’t notice it but time flies rather quickly when we are on the phone.
- Daily goals: Take a look at your remaining tasks, and set a goal to finish them (or to make some percentage of progress in certain tasks).
- Breaks: Do take a short break; nobody expects you to sit down and keep working for the whole day. But make sure that the break is a small one and that you don’t nag your co-workers, who might be busy trying to meet their own deadlines. Also, assign a time and duration limit to all your breaks.
- Be punctual.
- Avoid unnecessary meetings. Don’t call a meeting unless it is necessary.
- Call the right people for the meeting. Don’t invite people who would just sit there and wonder why they were invited in the first place.
- Start and end your meetings at the designated time.
- Take note of the time you are spending on things unrelated to work, and try to minimize it.
You do not have to necessarily agree with or act upon all of the above. Just observe your daily routine, come up with your own plan, and experiment until you find something that works for you.