By Christine Hayhurst, Chartered Management Institute
Time management is the key to efficient working.
Q: I'm spending too much time in the office. What can I do about it?
A: We're often told how much time we all spend at work and that it's unhealthy. But most of us are quick to recognize the need to adopt a professional approach to our jobs, colleagues and client demands. That might mean working hard, but it should not mean you won't have time to play hard.
The answer lies in how you manage your time at work. Do it well and you will achieve control over activities. Your organization will benefit as efficiency clearly leads to cost-savings. And ultimately your workload will become less stressful.
The first thing is to establish how your time is spent. Look back through your diary breaking down tasks depending on whether events were planned or impromptu.
It sounds straightforward, but it is too easy to get caught up in the rush of getting work done, without organizing yourself and setting achievable goals. So ask yourself whether tasks were completed within deadline? Could you have delegated anything? Were you diverted by interruptions and what time of day were you at your most productive?
The answers will enable you to identify problem areas. They will also help you make constructive use of your time, by thinking in a structured way. Make a plan to begin with by mapping out activities a week in advance. Allow five minutes each morning to review your list and adjust priorities where necessary.
And build in some slacking time! No, it's not an excuse for idle chat over a coffee (though no-one is suggesting you can't have a break!), but not filling your entire day gives you leeway to handle interruptions.
After all, if you set an unmanageable number of tasks, unrealistic goals only increase stress levels, reducing your ability to manage time effectively.
It's also important to prioritize your workload. Avoid high ranks for tasks you enjoy but are not vital. If you can, delegate -- and that means upwards and downwards. But be sure that colleagues know what to do, otherwise time will be spent re-doing work at a later date.
And be true to yourself. You may work best at the start of the day, so save your hardest tasks for the morning.
And don't forget to have fun! You spend so much time at work that it's important to remember to enjoy yourself. Overwork is counterproductive.
Remember that no matter how well organized you are there are still only 24 hours in a day. You may spend one third of them at the office, but don't neglect the opportunity to sleep, or see friends and family!
-- The Chartered Management Institute shapes and supports the managers of tomorrow, helping them deliver results in a dynamic world. With 74,000 individual members and 500 corporate members, the Institute helps set and raise standards in management, encouraging development to improve performance.