Time Management Tips for a Healthier Work-Life Balance
The idea of working flexible hours has been tantalizing employees’ imagination for decades, but, if not done properly, it can cause more harm than good.
I have lost count of how many times I have heard friends, colleagues, neighbors and family members saying things like “I am so busy; I don’t have time to do everything I need to do; I have to work at home tonight,” or variations of the above. In fact, we have become so used to hearing this that, not only we think it is normal, but we have come to falsely think that busy people are more hardworking, successful, committed, ambitious, in short: “better’.
But, are they? If it were so, we would all be Bill Gates – but we are not.
We already know that working long hours does not increase productivity, but what is worse is that an employee’s inability to efficiently manage time negatively affects their health and private lives, and it potentially adds more work to other colleagues.
There is not a pre-packaged step-by-step guide to follow for everyone is different, however, here are some of the most common mistakes and tips on how to solve them.
1) Be aware of when you are procrastinating.
People procrastinate for a variety of reasons. It could be because the task ahead is too boring so they easily get distracted. It could be because what they have to do is too daunting and they do not know where to start; or, the opposite, it is too easy and they can postpone it for they think they will be able to complete it in no time (I fall in the latter category).
It seems obvious, but acknowledging that you are not doing productive work is essential to tackle the issues below.
2) Tackle distractions
In a digital world, where we have countless of apps on our phones, and where our social media pages are always open, it is easy to turn our attention to the latest feed on Facebook or to check if our WhatsApp message has been read or to reply to a simple text message. This attitude can, not only be costly to companies, but it gives us the impression that we have been working all day and not achieved as much as we thought we would.
3) Listen to your body
It is often believed that we are more productive in the morning (the truth is that our brain usually reaches its peak around noon). However, some people find that they are more focused and active in the afternoon. Knowing when your energy is at its peak helps you allocating the hardest tasks on those times.
4) Make and keep track of your to-do list
Writing down deadlines and tasks, either for the day or for the week, forces you to think about what can be realistically achieved on any given day. I personally find it useful to tick off and review at the end of the day the things that I have completed for it gives me a sense of achievement, especially on those hectic days when I have to drop some of the tasks I had planned.
Finally, do not fall into the Zeigarnik effect. Formulated by Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, it is the tendency that people have in remembering more the uncompleted or interrupted tasks over the completed ones.
5) Break down big assignments
The feeling of not knowing where to start when facing a big assignment is familiar to all. Breaking it down in smaller tasks over a period, instead of trying to do everything in a short period, is more realistic and achievable. Also communicating with your colleagues and managers on your time frame and deadlines of the tasks can help for others are aware of your progress and can help when possible.