Time stress has become an epidemic in today’s workplace. Since the coronavirus lockdowns, many office employees have adjusted to working remotely with long hours of screen time, surrounded by online and physical distractions. Many remote employees have limited time and energy to work through seemingly endless to-do lists.
This time poverty is compounded by the fact that many teams are now returning to in-person office work, forcing employees to make significant adjustments to their daily routines.
This creates a host of new time management challenges, such as attending often unnecessary in-person meetings, dealing with distracting coworkers, and juggling projects with team building activities.
Global studies show that employees only spend 53% of their work time truly engaged in their daily tasks due to distractions, fatigue and miscommunication with supervisors. Most workers are also unsure how to prioritize their wellbeing and career needs effectively.
However, by carefully planning your days and proactively looking for opportunities to save time, you can avoid burnout and time stress in the office. Effective time management habits will also help you achieve your professional goals and give the best of yourself to the team.
When you understand how to prioritize tasks to serve yourself and the organization best, you save yourself significant stress. In today’s fast-paced work environment, this means carefully planning your days and discriminating between multiple high-priority tasks.
But what if you don’t have time to plan?
While organizing your schedule can be a complex and time consuming process, task prioritization tools such as the Eisenhower Matrix can guide and simplify your planning.
Below is an example of how you can quickly categorize items based on importance and urgency with the Eisenhower Matrix and develop a prioritized task list.
Using this matrix, you can quickly sort items into four quadrants based on their importance and urgency to develop a prioritized task list.
Read on for an example.
Urgent and Important
Examples of important tasks include:
- Routine activities such as chores and housekeeping
- Professional networking
- Self-care practices
- Learning and developing professional skills
Neither Important Nor Urgent
While knowing how to prioritize tasks is critical to mastering your time, you won’t complete them properly if your work environment is full of distractions. If you are now returning to the office but used to schedule personal tasks during your remote work days, you will need to make some sacrifices.
Social media, email, Netflix and even chats with colleagues can help you unwind in breaks. But in your working hours, they take up time you should be using for more essential items and ultimately cause you to procrastinate more rather than engaging with the important tasks on your to-do list.
To maintain a productive work environment where you can give priority tasks your full attention, turn off notifications on your phone and avoid checking your personal email.
It is also important to set strict boundaries with colleagues sharing your space. Let your co-workers know to not disturb you for a few hours when you have pressing work to complete.
Delegate Where Possible
Find Your Best Working Hours
Studies show that 79% of employees aren’t actively engaged every hour of their shift.
Even the most efficient employees produce their best work for less than three hours in an eight-hour workday.
This is because your diet, biological clock and circadian rhythms all factor in your energy levels at different times of the day. If you are a morning person, for example, you might experience a rush of energy at the start of the day and start to feel tired in the afternoon. Highly productive workers know their optimal working hours and use them for their most draining projects.
To tackle complex tasks efficiently, determine which hours of the day you complete the most work or need the fewest mental breaks. Save cognitively draining tasks such as meetings and challenging projects for these hours where possible.
When you find yourself tired and getting distracted, use that time for other tasks requiring less mental exertion.