How are your time management skills? Do you go to work thinking that you have laid everything out in such a way that you will get through it in record time, only to find yourself behind schedule at the end of the day? Maybe it's time to tweak those time management skills and learn how you can take control of your day and increase productivity.

First things first

The first thing you need in order to accomplish this is an understanding of where your time goes. One of the best ways to do this is to document every hour of your day for an entire week-this will help you visualize it and analyze how your workday is spent.

The final analysis

The results of this tracking may surprise or even shock you:

  • How much time do you spend talking to co-workers?
  • How much time do you spend checking email?
  • Do you spend time on social media?
  • How often do co-workers interrupt you?

By following some of these suggestions you will learn how you can take control of your day and increase productivity:

Plan ahead & prioritize

Make a point to take 15-20 minutes at the end of each week to itemize and prioritize the tasks and projects that need to be completed during the following week. Block out the time necessary to accomplish the most important ones and don't accept any last-minute meetings during that time unless they are of an urgent nature. Help others, including your manager, understand your priorities, and ask for their cooperation.

Push back the non-essential tasks

Cleaning out your email "Inbox" is a great example of a non-essential task. Once you have itemized and prioritized your projects, revisit them and rank them in order of importance on a scale of 1-3. If it's something that has zero impact on anything else of importance and it can be rescheduled, then push it back on your calendar.

The importance of setting goals

While you may not always have total control of your day, you can take as much control as possible by following some of these guidelines:

  1. Set daily goals for yourself on what you plan to accomplish that day.
  2. Schedule a certain time of the day to check and reply to emails-refrain from checking again unless you are waiting on time-sensitive information.
  3. Focus and avoid multi-tasking; you will accomplish more and increase your overall productivity by doing one project at a time.
  4. Constantly think about how you allocate your time. Would you consider the task at hand "billable",which means the company is benefiting from your activities or "non-billable", which means the tasks don't necessarily contribute to the bottom line?
  5. Learning to say "no" is one of the hardest lessons to learn. We all want to play nice in the sandbox and help others. We don't want to appear uncooperative or get a bad mark on our reviews. However, if your productivity is suffering, your colleagues will understand if you simply say: "I wish I could help you with that, but I have 2 other projects that I'm working on at the moment. Would you like to schedule a time to work on it?" Chances are, you will gain their respect for your honesty and discipline; they will look forward to having your undivided attention during the scheduled time.

By practicing these tips and making them a part of your daily ritual, you will find yourself managing your time more effectively and becoming more disciplined. These are some proven approaches on how you can take control of your day and increase productivity.

Click here for additional reading on how you can take control of your day and other topics of interest.

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