Whether working remotely or in the office, having a to-do list that is a mile long can get overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help keep you focused and on track.
As a mom of two (eight months and three years – more coffee please!) and project manager at Moncur, working remotely for the past few months has proven how crucial time management is in all areas of my life. Overseeing the fifth painting activity of the day while changing dirty diapers and leading Zoom status calls from home has made me rethink the way I manage my time. Whether working remotely or in the office, having a to-do list that is a mile long can get overwhelming. Below are a few tips to help keep you on track:
1. Create “Flow” Time
When there is a lot on your plate, it is easy to bounce around across multiple tasks. However, starting a million things, but not finishing anything will make your anxiety level skyrocket and will not make your to-do list any shorter. It takes your brain about 15 minutes to really focus in to what you are working on. If you switch from one task to another you’re wasting time as your brain plays catch up. Dedicate “flow” time – or uninterrupted time focused on one thing – to complete tasks more efficiently. If you have meetings all afternoon with a few 30-minute breaks in between, don’t use that time try to tackle a huge project. Knock out some of the smaller items on your to-do list and handle that larger task when you have a dedicated block of time. In the same respect, scheduling meetings in blocks to allow more flow time is a great way to create efficiencies for your team.
2. Understand your Priorities – or Ask for Help!
Sometimes it is hard to tell what is a priority versus what someone wants done quickly. If you aren’t sure, make a list of your to-dos and figure out what is driving each of those tasks. Is your work blocking another team member from getting started? Are you prepping for an important client meeting that is already on the calendar? Note which have hard deadlines and which have more flexibility. And when in doubt, talk to your team. At Moncur, we have a whole-team morning meeting to talk about the work moving through the agency that day and any client deliverables. Gaining this visibility and making a plan first thing in the morning helps the day go more smoothly, allowing our team to focus on creating quality work and delivering it on time.
3. Work When it Works for You
With quarantine in place working strictly between the hours of 9-5 is a thing of the past – use that to your advantage. Most people have certain times of day when they are more productive. Some of us are morning people and can knock out half a day’s work before the kids are even out of bed (hah – I wish!). Others really get in a groove late morning after the coffee kicks in. I find it helpful to catch up on work once the kids are in bed and I have fewer distractions. Figure out when you are most productive and tackle your most challenging tasks then. Be aware of what works best for you to set yourself up for success.
4. Minimize Distractions
These days working through distractions is the norm. Have you tried running a meeting with a baby on your lap and a toddler watching Frozen 2 behind you? Or maybe it’s that pile of dishes in the sink that is calling your name? We are all juggling distractions, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. Finding a dedicated work space – ideally away from the noise or mess, setting a schedule and planning ahead will help manage distractions to help you work most efficiently.
5. Keep a To-Do List (or Two)
Is it just me or is crossing an item off a to-do list so gratifying? One to-do list with everything you need to get done can get overwhelming – instead, try creating two separate to-do lists. One with the tasks that you are going to focus on accomplishing today, and another with everything you want to accomplish in the week. Seeing all of your tasks written down, and organized by priority, will help keep you accountable and make sure you’re cruising through your to-do list at a rate that will ensure you meet your deadlines.
6. Prep for the Day Ahead
At the end of each day, I find it really helpful to take 30 minutes or so to prep for the following day. Check your calendar to make sure you’re prepared for any meetings you may have, create your daily to-do list and clean out your inbox. Preparing for the day ahead will help give you peace of mind, and also help prevent any unnecessary fire drills. At Moncur, we have daily late afternoon meetings with all of our managers to discuss the priorities for the following day, which helps us help our team stay focused and ensure we meet and exceed all client expectations.
By utilizing some of the tricks above, you’re on your way to using time as efficiently as possible. Just like learning any other skill, learning how to manage your time takes practice. Play around and make these tips your own, and above all else, give yourself some grace as we're all navigating a new normal.
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