Life is busy, and chances are you’re always going to have multiple things on the go at any given time. Without a proper plan in place to prioritize tasks, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but with a few simple adjustments you could be managing your tasks effectively in no time.
In this issue of the Pulse, we share eight tips on how to be more effective when it comes to task management, specifically in the workforce, but many of these could easily be applied to other areas of your life as well.
Determine the urgency and importance of each task
The first step of managing your tasks effectively is determining the urgency and importance of each task. What absolutely needs to get done today? What can wait until tomorrow? Next week? If you’re unsure which tasks should be prioritized, it might be worth having a conversation about it with your team or supervisor.
Have one list
Having one lists allows you to see everything at a glance and plan accordingly when looking at the week or even day ahead. This could be a list in a physical or digital planner, or a work management tool. Larger projects may need to be broken down into smaller tasks still, which can still be done on a separate list, but including it on your main list ensures it doesn’t get forgotten.
Consider a software to help organize your tasks
If a physical or digital planner isn’t your thing, a work management tool might be a better fit for you. Trello is a great option for teams because it allows teams to collaborate on projects, organize workflows, and track progress visually, but there are lots of options out there.
Turn off your email push notifications
As of 2015, the average office worker received 121 emails a day, according to the Radicati Group. Having that many notifications pop up during the day is surely going to be distracting and take you away from the task at hand. Instead, consider checking your email a few times throughout the day at set times. This might mean checking your email at 9am, 12pm and 3pm, but the important part is finding a schedule that works best for you.
Block out time and set your status to do not disturb
If you’re having a hard time getting to tasks, block out time on your calendar, like you would for a meeting with your team, and treat it as such. Don’t be late to start or allow yourself to get sidetracked. This is important time that will allow you to get some quality work done without interruptions. This doesn’t have to be a long period of time. In fact, some studies dating from the 1990s suggest that due to natural variations in our cycle of alertness, we can only concentrate for 90 minutes before needing a break.
Don’t be afraid to say no or ask for help
If you’re too busy to take on another project, simply say no. This is easier said than done for Type A personalities, but again will leave you better off in the long run. Taking on projects you don’t have time for can leave you feeling overwhelmed and will likely either cause the project to take longer than anticipated or have you working long hours to keep up. Either way, no one wins. If you are having a hard time completing an already started project, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our workflows often ebb and flow, so while you may be feeling like you’re at capacity, one of your team members might have a more flexible workload and chances are, they will be happy to help, as most people are.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
It’s easy for your day to fill up, but are you spending your time on the right tasks? Harvard Business Review’s research shows that knowledge workers spend an average of 41 percent on discretionary activities that could be handled competently by others. “We instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important, while our bosses, constantly striving to do more with less, pile on as many responsibilities as we’re willing to accept.” However, if you can get past this and start delegating more often, you’ll be better off for it.
Don’t overwork yourself
By taking breaks throughout the day and not working past your regular hours, you give yourself adequate time to relax and recharge, which allows you to come back to tasks with a new sense of energy and motivation.
Managing tasks effectively can be a challenge, but there are several practices and resources you can use to make the most out of your day and ensure the most important tasks are being taken care of in a timely manner.