Do you manage your time differently on busy days?
Every job has periods with more to do, tighter deadlines and more significant responsibilities. Are you busier during a particular time of the month or year? Does it depend on projects or company goals? Or is a lack of resources in the team causing everyone to be busier than they should be?
Whether your busy season lasts a couple of days, weeks or longer, it’s essential that your time management habits support you. How you manage your time, energy and attention make the difference between feeling frazzled and drained or focused and energised during this time.
These five time management tips will help ensure you are performing well and looking after your well-being when you are busy at work.
- Find a work buddy and review your to-do list
- Take regular micro-breaks
- Set a time boundary around your workday
- Keep your productivity system simple
- Reflect and course-correct
Tip #1: Find a work buddy and review your to-do list
It can be tempting to keep your head down and focus exclusively on your own tasks when you are busy. If you work in a team, this might mean you spend most of the time on your to-do list and attending meetings with your agenda front of mind.
However, this could lead to tunnel vision, missed opportunities and time spent on low-value activities.
I expect you to minimise meetings when you are busy, but I encourage you to set 30 minutes aside a couple of times a week to review your to-do list and the work you are doing with someone else.
It could be another team member, a peer in another team, or even your manager if you prefer.
Share what you are working on, including why you prioritise different tasks. Talking aloud to someone else brings your awareness back to what you are doing and allows you to reassess your priorities through your discussion.
Reviewing your work with someone else will help prevent your to-do list from getting out of control and give you confidence that you are spending your time on the right things.
Tip #2: Take regular micro-breaks
Do you skip your lunch break when you have a busy workday? On days when you find yourself eating lunch at your desk or running back after scoffing down a sandwich, taking regular micro-breaks is vital.
A micro-break is five to ten minutes long and is an opportunity to reset and recharge during the workday. Whether it’s a guided meditation, a few minutes outdoors, or simply savouring a cup of coffee, these moments will leave you feeling rested and ready to focus for the next session.
Tip #3: Set a time boundary around your workday
Setting time boundaries around your workday is critical in a world where you can work almost anywhere. If you have ever found yourself thinking about work while prepping dinner or mentally drafting an email in bed, then you know how it feels when work seeps too far into the other areas of your life.
Working late into the evening is tempting when you are busy, but it doesn’t support your performance. Instead, you will finish with a fuzzy mind, a tired body and lower energy to perform well the next day.
Your time is better spent relaxing and recovering from work so you can return with fresh ideas and sustainable energy.
Decide what time you will finish work and set a 15-minute reminder alarm on your phone to signal the workday is due to end. Include an end-of-workday routine that helps you switch off and stick to it no matter what kind of day you have.
Tip #4: Keep your productivity system simple
When you are busy at work, the last thing you want to do is spend hours updating your progress in different places and then more time trying to find the information you already entered.
There are hundreds of tools available to manage your time at work, from simple spreadsheets to dedicated apps. Choose a tool that is “good enough” and then stick to it.
If you are looking for a simple and easy way to keep all your important work in one place, download the My Desk template for free.
Tip #5: Reflect and course-correct
If you want to be sure that you are managing your time in the best way possible, you need to set aside time to reflect on the day. This is time for you to ask yourself, “was I busy being busy or did I get things done?”
Suppose you make progress during the day; great! If you got caught up in a busy loop, this is the opportunity to change your approach for the next day.
Above all else, it is important to keep things simple during a busy season. Avoid the temptation to procrastinate by looking at new, novelty items and be slow to take on any new responsibilities that weren’t already on the horizon. Focus on getting the job done and then switching off to enjoy the rest of your day.