You know that you're paid to do a job and you know that you've got a better chance of succeeding in that position if you're maximising the efficiency of your time, and making sure that you're ticking off as many important tasks as possible to impress your employer.
Popping out for a cigarette, e-mailing a family or friend or even playing a quick game can often lead to a key loss of time in your working day and, although breaks are important in the workplace and it's good that you stretch your legs, you still want your working time to be effective.
So, with this in mind, we've devised our five-point guide to managing your time and avoiding the pitfalls of failing to keep track of your working day.
1. Set both daily and long-term goalsIt's important to remember that when you're working in the office, everything you're doing is leading to an ultimate goal – from increased sales to increased website traffic, or even making sure that all of your employee records are up-to-date.
Therefore, a great tool to keep your mind on the job in hand is to set yourself a daily goal which you know that you can achieve, and to know that you've fully justified your day's work. Making lists of tasks is an excellent way of doing this, as having a tangible note in front of you when you start your day that you can check off can be a morale-building way to work through a hectic day.
This is also a good way of planning for the long-term. Obviously, nobody wants to have a desk full of post-it notes or scribbled notepads, but being able to clearly see what you're looking to achieve can often be a catalyst for success in the workplace.
Overall, it will help you to make sure that you have not missed any tasks and will help your day to not only go faster, but also introduce a positive structure into your day, rather than spending time needlessly obsessing over less important jobs.
2. Make sure you're forward-thinking during down-timeEven when you're away from your keyboard – whether it be for a trip to the loo or to make a cup of coffee, or even to post a letter – there's nothing stopping you from keeping your mind focused on the tasks that you have to complete. Often, getting away from your work station can be a good way to energise yourself and give you more impetus to get things done.
Fresh air is always a good way to relax when you're on a 5-10 minute break, and getting out of the office and into the public domain can often give a worker an excellent opportunity to take stock of what they've done for the day, whether they can improve on it and how best to forward-manage the rest of their shift.
Rather than playing a quick game on your phone, or checking your favourite website, why not make a quick list on your gadget or look at websites that relate to the work that you're currently doing? Why not have a look at a blog, if you're a salesperson for example, on best practice on how to improve productivity? You might just learn something new.
It could also mean that when you're back at your desk, you're not only a little more refreshed, but you've had chance to have a good think over what you're doing, and have gained more direction on where to go next with it – saving time on planning, and promoting best practice for completing more tasks and improving your productivity.
3. Avoid distractionsThere's nothing more detrimental to productive working practice than knowing there's something ultimately more enjoyable that you could be doing during working hours. We've all been there – we're having a bad day and we're wondering whether the rest of your friends or family are also having a bad time of it, so we take to our social media accounts to have a quick check on the outside world.
Allowing yourself to be within close proximity of a distraction could ultimately through your agenda into disarray and make your daily productivity take a hit as a consequence. It's not just that kind of distraction, though. Do you sit near a television screen with the news on? Or sit near a radio station that has a particularly distracting show on? Take yourself out of that area and put yourself somewhere which enables your productivity, and doesn't limit it.
This also goes for colleagues which you find particularly distracting. No harm is found when you're down the pub, having a catch-up on what football team has won the weekend before, but when you're at work, you know that what's on your computer screen has to be sole-focus, and not dealing with others' social issues.
Avoiding these distractions could see your personal level of productivity rise, and keep you focused throughout the day. Procrastination is a problem that many face throughout the day, especially if there's a background noise that you cannot avoid. Take yourself out of that scenario and you'll get more done in a more structured way.
4. Make sure to reward your hard workYour employer may not be the most forward-thinking place when it comes to giving staff regular rewards for achieving targets – in fact, you may have never received a reward for any work that you've undertaken, except your take-home pay at the end of the month.
That's why it's a good idea to reward yourself regularly when it comes to doing a good job. Whether that be a slice of cake that you've fancied for a while, or a well-earned pint with some long-lost friends, or even a new shirt at a local store. Tangible rewards can improve your productivity and give a feeling that you've earned such reward.
Why not also think of rewarding those around you, too? Getting into a team-habit of rewarding each other could have positive ramifications when not only looking at the team-building side of things, but also helping with future projects as it gives the impression that you're all in it together. You'll know what they like – reward them and they'll reward you for a job well done.
These daily, weekly and/or monthly boosts will help your day to go quickly, help to keep your spirits up and make you hungrier to exceed your own targets – something that will only impress your line manager.
5. Communicate with co-workersA good line of communication with colleagues could enhance your time management by keeping you on track, not just with tasks that you may have missed, but also using them as a sound board for any complications that you have faced with a specific project or programme.
Having a good relationship with those around you can be an excellent tool in keeping ideas fresh and making sure that you're fully focused on the best practice of the job. They may suggest something that you had not though of, or they may have dealt with an issue before that you're struggling with.
It's always a good idea to keep friends with those who you work with day-in, day-out, in order to make sure your time is used to its potential. You never know what nugget of brilliance can be extracted from a fresh pair of eyes. It's this new approach that could stop you obsessing on one task and help you move onto the next.
It might only have to be a quick chat at the water cooler, or popping your head above your screen to speak with a co-worker opposite from you. Inspiration can be taken from colleagues on different departments, too. Don't limit your working day to the thoughts that reside in your own brain, and use the knowledge of others to help manage your time better.
Do you agree? Have you found any better ways to improve time management? Or do you feel that we've hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments.