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40 hours may seem like a lot of time. But when you break it down into eight hours each workday—minus your lunch break, trips to the coffee pot, phone calls and meetings, checking email, stopping to talk with co-workers, etc.—all of the sudden your eight hours start to dwindle. If you’re like most professionals, you have a lot you want to accomplish each day, but little tasks start to nickel and dime your time away from you. And to get ahead, you have to meet deadlines, finish tasks and even propose new projects. So how can you manage your time every day to be sure you’re making the most of it? It just takes a few time-management strategies.

You can steal minutes and hours back from the clock when you understand a little more about yourself, how you may be losing time and what you can do to improve the way you spend it. Here are five expert tips for helping yourself stay on schedule:

  1. Track your time for a few days. Your first step in planning your time is understanding how you typically spend it. For one week, jot down how long it takes you to do each task during your day. Pay close attention to what takes up large chunks of time, and ways you may find yourself getting distracted. You’ll learn changes you need to make when you have a clear understanding of the typical path of your day.
  2. Prioritize your tasks for the week. At the beginning of the workweek, take a few minutes to think about what you’d like to—and can reasonably—work on or finish this week. Based on your meeting schedule, figure out what days you’d like to work on what, and stick to it.
  3. Understand your daily peaks. When do you feel most productive during the day? It may be first thing in the morning after you’ve had a cup of coffee, or mid-morning after you’ve had a chance to get into the swing of things. Or maybe you get a burst of energy around 3 p.m. Whenever you’re at your most productive, plan to do tasks that require the most focus and mental energy.
  4. Don’t check your email first. Many people find that their inbox can be a frustrating source of inquiries and demands that can be overwhelming first thing in the morning. Email can make your stress level increase and your focus decrease, providing a distraction that can derail your entire day. Instead, decide what you think you’ll need to do for the day, then open your email and see how your messages fit into the schedule you’ve laid out—not the other way around.
  5. Block off time in your schedule. If you need some distraction-free time to work on something, simply block off time in your calendar. During that time, don’t check email and set your phone to go straight to voice mail. Don’t multitask, focus on and finish the task at hand—you’ll be able to finish it much faster when you allow yourself to concentrate.

Time management takes practice

But the more you work at it, the better you’ll be. You’ll go from wondering how you’ll finish your work, to knowing when you’ll be finished with your to-do list. And you may find you’re much more productive.

Looking for a new job?

You can save precious time by working with a recruiter. And if you’re looking for an administrative, light industrial, IT, engineering or human resources position, contact McGrath Systems. We’ll work with you to find a placement that matches your career goals, skills and experience. To learn more, contact McGrath Systems today!

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