by Maya Black
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a retail cashier or a company CEO; without effective time management and a plan for maximum productivity, a workday can quickly spiral out of control, leaving the most important priorities unaddressed. In fact, workplace expert Lynn Taylor, in a Forbes interview, suggests that the way you start off your work day sets the tone for the whole day, and consequentially is a deciding factor in how productive your work day will be.
With a little advance preparation, you can organize your day to get your work done efficiently.
Transitioning from home to work can be challenging, whether you have a two-hour commute across town or a short walk down the hall to a home office space. And after you get to work, it’s all too easy to spend too much time chatting with colleagues at the coffee machine or catching up with friends online. You can start a productive day by, greeting your colleagues briefly before you excuse yourself to focus on your tasks for the day. Consider signing in to social media only during your break time.
After you arrive at your workstation or desk, Michael Kerr, author of Humor at Work, suggests taking a few deep breaths and re-focusing on your workday. This way, you can leave the “home stuff” truly at home, and be fully prepared to give your tasks your full attention. Then, write a clear, detailed to-do list of your priorities or tasks from most to least pressing and allocate an amount of time for each task. Keep the list where you can get to it easily—attached to a clipboard, pinned to a corkboard or saved on your smart device—and refer to it throughout the day to stay on track.
Depending on the nature of your job, you may be responsible for communicating important information to colleagues and clients, which requires checking email and voice mail and responding to the most pressing requests before you do anything else in the day. If you’re in leadership, plan a quick meeting to ensure your staff are aware of the work priorities. Don't linger in the meeting—make it short and focused. If you’re a staffer and your boss doesn’t do morning meetings, consider popping in to his/her office to give a quick update on your plans for the day before you start on them.
Near the end of the workday, assess what you’ve accomplished and take a few minutes to plan the next day’s work. Priorities can change rapidly in the workplace, so making a detailed checklist may not be effective, but jotting down a general plan in your daily planner can give you a head start on the next day.
Maya Black is a small business owner with over 10 years of experience writing and editing business and finance topics. She’s been featured in various top publications including USA Today and Yahoo Finance.