To become a strong career-minded professional, you need to solve a myriad of practical problems every day. From vetting processes to drafting budgets – the long list of tasks can easily take a toll even on people with effective time management skills.
Top pros tend to take their work deeply personal, especially when the job role demands empathy, patience, and a sense of purpose. Succeeding is impossible if you don’t complement your personal growth with the development of your professional skills.
Thankfully, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR professionals to have an overwhelming number of tasks to accomplish and still function productively. Keeping a clear head is key to productivity. So, to maintain elevated levels of efficiency, professionals must learn how to breeze through tasks in a meticulous way.
This skill is a combination of art and science and is called time management. It’s making time seem irrelevant when your attention is wholly at your command. Here are seventeen-time management tips for busy professionals to get you started on your journey to becoming a time wizard in highly demanding scenarios –
Understand How You Spend Your Time
One of the key time management skills for professionals is understanding exactly what you do with your time. Schedules and routines are like budgets.
Managing assets is impossible if you have no clue about your spending habits. So, make a note to –
- Log your activities every day.
- Use a calendar app, Excel spreadsheets, or other time-tracking apps to divide your activities into half-hour blocks.
- Include major interruptions in your daily calendars.
- Note how much time you spend on unplanned activities such as doing administrative work when you’re supposed to be talking to clients.
Find Patterns in Your Activities
A simple answer to the question, ‘What is effective time management?’ is an improvement. As long as you keep finding and eliminating negative patterns in your behaviors, you’ll keep amassing extra minutes.
- Analyze your logs and see how you’re distributing your time across various activities.
- Does your time usage coincide with your key priorities?
- What are you sacrificing to complete each activity?
- Which activities are worth sacrificing?
- Keep looking for activities on your routine that you shouldn’t dedicate your time to.
Create Goal-Driven Plans
Smart trade-offs are key aspects of time management techniques for professionals. Can’t figure out what activities or things don’t deserve your time?
Just ask yourself how much time you’d be spending on certain activities in an ideal world. Do you think you’ll actively choose to spend time on low-priority tasks in an ideal world? Of course not! Slowly start dedicating more time to your high-priority activities and stop investing in low-priority activities.
Launch the Plans
You’ve set out the boxes. Now it’s time to tick them. Start by reviewing your upcoming week’s schedule. Prioritize that task list. Note the important deadlines. Now put deadlines on all of your weekly activities.
Schedule low-priority tasks and your recurring obligations (e.g., staff meetings) in-between the most important deadlines and tasks. Make sure to dedicate most of your time to these high-priority demands.
Have a Clear Understanding of Your Roles and Responsibilities
Professionals have a clear set of objectives they must accomplish every single day. However, that’s a very simplistic way of looking at your profession. Your boss, peers, and subordinates all have different expectations from you at the workplace.
While your supervisors emphasize resource management or tackling corporate objectives, your subordinates will be looking to you to organize the group’s calculated goals.
Add your own career expectations into this mix and you have the perfect conundrum. Who do you devote your attention to as an individual contributor? One of the most basic time management tips for working professionals is overcoming confusion. If you’re confused about who you want to dedicate your time to, achieving your goals will seem impossible.
So, what is effective time management? It’s responding to complexity and change. Skilled workers can avoid distractions and set clear directions for themselves. Your personal goals and your professional responsibilities need not be in conflict.
The leading professionals in today’s demanding business environment leverage their time management skills to prioritize. If they feel certain responsibilities or tasks are taking up too much of their time, they let those tasks go. Or, they spend time evaluating their personal positions on the tasks at hand.
Do I want to be a good co-worker and spend half an hour helping my associates? Or, should I selectively use my time to take steps that benefit the organization? There are no right or wrong answers to those questions.
Your personal preferences will dictate how you spend your time every second of your professional life. But, one of the most important time management skills for professionals is knowing that they’ll have to make choices and sacrifices from time to time.
Helping out co-workers is acceptable from time to time. But, being able to draw a line in the sand at the correct time and “save time” as often as possible is a skill that all professionals need to learn.
- Your employers, coworkers, etc., will have different expectations from you.
- You need to reassess your role as an individual contributor.
- Don’t rely on positional authority to deny responsibilities. Instead, focus on prioritizing day-to-day responsibilities.
As you grow into this new time-conscious persona, you’ll find yourself with several free minutes every day. Use that time to reassess your decisions. Was your intuition correct when it asked you to pardon yourself from a task or a situation? Keep practicing, it’ll only get better.
Build Trust with Fellow Professionals
One of your first tasks as a professional is to build rapport with your co-employees. But, gaining trust doesn’t happen automatically.
Establishing a clear schedule for yourself is akin to establishing your character. Bear in mind – time management techniques for professionals don’t start working overnight. You need to self-teach certain habits and values. These habits and values will determine your character and your character will determine your day-to-day schedules.
- Are you in the job only for your own gain?
- Do the company’s long-term goals mean anything to you?
- Do you genuinely care about your fellow workers?
If you don’t, don’t pretend to. No matter how productive you are, if you don’t demonstrate your interest in the group, you’ll face internal conflicts.
These conflicts aren’t ideal for someone who wishes to be on-time all the time! That’s why being an ally and an advocate is a key ‘soft skill’ all aspiring professionals must master. You’ll need the allegiance of your fellow workers at some point in the future. Always keep that in mind.
Be Emotionally Consistent
Always be consistent with your emotional expressions at the workplace. Don’t behave out of character even if it means making unpopular decisions. Never compromise your model ethical behavior. Your consistent behavior will teach fellow workers to interpret your actions straightforwardly and your day to workplace conversations will be “drama-free.”
- Avoid extreme emotional displays. Although it’s necessary to show compassion for people in tough situations, never lose your emotional steadiness.
- Manners. At the root of complex time management strategies for professionals is the teaching that elders have reminded us about millions of times. Showing respect for people as individuals, be it by answering emails promptly or by finishing meetings on-time, is a very healthy habit.
- Ask questions and invite feedback. Emotional connections with your workplace and your coworkers are inevitable. Don’t fight these emotions. You won’t save much time by not promptly responding to a missed call from someone at work. You’ll only be feeding a habit that may unnecessarily damage your decision-making capabilities in the future.
Keep Redefining Your Success
Professionals who are individual contributors to organizations have gone through severe changes in the past year due to the pandemic. Most are stuck at home, with no one outside their teams ever seeing their work. Professionals are rarely getting the same amounts of instant gratification they used to get inside offices.
How can employees still feel motivated to stick to their routines under these changed conditions? You’ll have to redefine your personal performance goals. Simply doing the things you used to do at the office is not the be-all and end-all anymore.
You’ll have to take some time to reassess your conditions, feel the sense of satisfaction from time to time, and readjust your objectives because you’re totally removed from your previous working conditions. So, set yourself goals that fit your ‘work from home’ routine –
- Give yourself treats for achieving your goals in time, no matter how small they are. For instance, did you prepare for the next day’s work? It’s time for a small mental party!
- Hone the skills of your employees and direct reports. You’ll succeed only if your group succeeds so make in-group conversations a part of your work from home routines.
- If you feel unrecognized, don’t forget your main target – making the most of your time. Don’t let temporary emotions torment your work.
Set clear goals every day – reassess, readjust, and repeat!
Identify the Key Players in Your Organization
If your job involves collaborating with other people, try to recognize the key players. Who are the stakeholders with relevant positional power? One of the most fundamental time management tips for busy professionals is recognizing the fact that other people will have a huge impact on how you use your time. Don’t let these people fall on the wrong side of your personal calendar. Instead –
- Understand their motivations. Learn about the goals of powerful co-workers. Is there any material help or data that they can provide to make your job easier?
- Make the time to collaborate. Contrary to belief, time management techniques for professionals don’t involve isolation. If you want to be an effective “time wizard” you’ll have to collaborate with people who can help you save time. Even if you keep the meetings casual, let key players in your organization know that you value their inputs. If possible, collaborate with them to further your personal interests and the interests of your organization.
- Learn to negotiate. A skilled negotiator will always focus on his/her business partners’ interests. What value can a smart professional like you bring to their tables? If you have some good ideas to share, mention them to these people of relevance.
The true importance of time management lies in creating value. How much value can you create in a limited period of time? If securing collaborations with others helps you create long-term value in short periods, don’t refrain from sending the text message saying “I’d like to talk to you about something.”
In a recent survey, it was revealed that 89% of professionals view effective communication as key to their success at the workplace. But, only 14% of the professionals in that survey said that their own business’ communications were up to the mark.
You can hone effective time management skills in today’s frenetic business environment only if you can capture and keep the attention of your fellow workers. Be it in a business meeting or in an email – you must be able to give people simple but concise doses of information with authenticity to get the results that suit your personal schedules.
- Find your voice as a good communicator.
- Maintain consistency in your communications.
- Avoid using monotone voices.
- Make eye contact with everyone you speak with, even if the conversation is taking place on a video call for only two minutes.
- Affirm shared beliefs of the organization.
- Master the written word. Be it an email to a client or a report for your management team – try to be more concise and effective with your words every time you need to communicate via words.
Never Sacrifice Your Personal Productivity
Sure, time management is all about juggling your tasks as an individual professional. But you’ll also need to add your self-growth to this list of tasks you’re juggling. Think strategically and plan for your career.
Give yourself some time to reflect in-between your efforts to optimize your day-to-day activities.
- Limit your use of social media. Set goals like “No Twitter without four-hour intervals.”
- Use calendar apps to fit personal development goals into your routine. Take that taekwondo class you’ve always loved or spend two hours writing an email? I think you can guess which option a smart time manager would choose – both!
- Have enough sleep. Believe it or not, your mental health has a vital role in your time management skills. For instance, people don’t say “be a morning person” for no reason. It’s well-documented that people who wake up early and start planning for the day are able to manage time much better than those who don’t prioritize self-health.
Personal productivity management techniques and time management techniques for professionals are eerily similar. You can’t become an effective time manager if you’re not growing all the time!
Keep Improving Your Intellect and Your Emotional Intelligence
Since the concept of “emotional intelligence quotient” (popularly known as EQ) was created in the 90s, it’s become crucial to how we assess successful professionals. Emotional intelligence is the skill of accurately perceiving your own and others’ emotions at the workplace.
It’s the science of understanding the signals that people send all the time. Don’t think this “soft” skill will help you realize the importance of time management as much as other skills like delegating or budgeting? Think again! Here’s how someone who balances technical competence and EQ can save time –
- Self-Awareness – The ability to recognize your own emotions. Realistic self-assessment can help you save a ton of time every day. Find yourself staring at your phone too much? You’re not emotionally intelligent enough to redirect your disruptive impulses!
- Self-Regulation – Once you start a journey of self-judgment, you start thinking before acting. Effective time managers are always comfortable with ambiguity and open to change.
- Motivation – Having the passion to pursue objectives with energy and persistence is just as important as having technical skills. Even in the face of failure, your mind needs to be trained to be committed to the responsibilities at hand.
- Empathy – One of the key time management tips for work is treating people as per their emotional reactions. Smart time managers specialize in building profitable relationships. Skills like cross-cultural sensitivity and the ability to connect with others will not only help you service your clients and customers better, but they’ll also help you save time in your day-to-day interactions.
If you can read the emotional signs your co-workers send, managing professional relationships becomes much easier. If your professional relationships are in line, your brain will be able to focus on the tasks at hand in a much better way.
According to the 2020 “Future of Jobs Report” by the World Economic Forum emotional intelligence is a top-ten job skill. 82% of global companies now put their employees through EQ tests. Why all this rush to have emotionally intelligent professionals, even in entry-level positions? Because emotional intelligence is a foundational skill that helps people manage their own motivation and make the right professional decisions under stressful conditions.
Learn to Say No
One of the most basic time management skills for professionals is the ability to say ‘no’ on command. However, professionals are their own commanders. To avoid wasting countless minutes on mundane activities, know when to say no.
“Is this activity valuable to my personal schedule?” If the other deadlines on your calendar are more important to you, focus on them and say no to the tasks that you don’t feel are important for your career objectives.
Master the Art of Exiting Conversations
Once you learn how to say no, you’ll find yourself deciding that some activities or actions just aren’t for you. Managing personal commitments for instance is one of the key time management strategies for professionals. Politely decline all offers you’re not interested in. Be prepared to have some awkward conversations that contain sentences like –
- “Thanks, but no thanks.”
- “Let’s continue this conversation sometime later?”
- “I have to get back to work!”
- “Don’t call, send me an email.”
- “Sorry to be rude, but . . .”
Avoid Situations Where You Feel Burnt Out
A recent survey revealed that 70% of employees feel distracted while working. Every year, these distraction-related problems cost companies $200-$300 billion in lost productivity. To manage your time properly, you must avoid distractions, sources of stress, and situations that make you feel burnt out.
So, never forget to have enough sleep. Your mental health dictates your judgments both in your professional and personal lives. Routines to regulate stress are just as important as your lists of daily goals. So, whenever you feel burnt out –
- Take timely breaks to refresh your energy.
- Use tools to note how much off-time you take every day.
- Check in with loved ones.
- Go for walks around the block.
- Stay free on weekends. Establish “no email” rules if possible.
- Avoid surfing the internet from time to time, especially social media websites.
Instead of sitting on your couch consuming TV, take consistent breaks from your digital devices. Don’t forget the “me time” in your time management plans!
Gallup recently surveyed leaders from some of America’s fastest-growing companies. Their study revealed that CEOs with good delegation skills achieved 112% of more organizational objectives over a three-year period than those with poor delegation skills. Delegation is the perfect tool for people looking to manage their time.
Top professionals spend less time “doing” and more time planning their moves. Organizing resources and delegating responsibilities are key parts of these plans. Delegation lets you focus on high-priority tasks. It also relieves your stress and gives you the managerial experience you’ll need in the future.
- Make sure your delegations are planned. Don’t assign tasks to people with the wrong skillsets.
- Talk and listen to subordinates. Do they really understand the assignment? Clarify these details before handing them your responsibilities/
- Conduct routine check-ins to ensure the tasks you delegated are being properly carried out by your subordinates.
Establish Rules of Self Conduct
- Lastly, and most importantly, all time management techniques for professionals are dependent on self-conduct. Set out ground rules for how you behave at the workplace
- Respect all members of your workforce.
- Listen to their ideas and assumptions from time to time.
- Value varying opinions.
Sounds too simple right? That was the aim of this post – making modern-day generations believe in the power of time management. Hopefully, this seventeen-step guide will inspire you to become a better professional!