Early Career Psychologist Column

Time management tips

Useful time management tips are offered.

By Diann Gaalema, PhD, and Adriana Falco, PhD

Even though this newsletter sees us a few months into 2015, many of us are still battling with the resolutions we made. As I do every year, I resolved to use my time in the office more efficiently. Many of us, especially those of us early in our careers, struggle with time management skills. How can we make the most of our time in the office, using it as effectively as possible? To help all of us, let's talk time management tips. Here are some tips that I find particularly useful.

  • Take the first 30 minutes of the day to plan your day. Even though this may seem like a large expenditure of time at first, figuring out how you are going to spend your day cuts down on wasted time later.
  • Create a schedule. This goes hand in hand with #1. If you are able to work according to a schedule, you have a better chance of keeping yourself on task.
  • Allot specific times to answer email/return phone calls. Turn off the email and phone (if you can) while you're working. Not being interrupted constantly will greatly improve your productivity.
  • Stay off Facebook/Instant Messenger. If not needed to generate business, these applications are an easy way to waste your time.
  • Stop multi-tasking. We all think we are great multi-taskers, but we're not. We perform tasks more efficiently when we dedicate ourselves to one task at a time, complete it and move to the next.
  • Start with your most important task. Get the most important work out of the way while you're still fresh. However, as a caveat, this may depend on your work cycle. If you're like me, I actually work best after I've been in the office an hour or so, so I schedule a smaller task to warm myself up, then I get to the more important work of the day.
  • Batch similar tasks together. This way you can move from one task to another without greatly altering your mindset or work materials.
  • Leave a buffer in between tasks (5-10 minutes). This serves multiple purposes. Sometimes you go over the allotted time on a task, and this way your schedule won't be greatly altered. Also, it greatly increases productivity to take breaks periodically.
  • Create organizing systems. Even though this is towards the end of the list, I cannot stress this enough. I used to print articles I needed for a manuscript/project and then pile them on my desk with a separate pile for each project. This was a disaster. Now that I read everything on my computer, I am able to create subfolders for groups of articles and I access what I need in seconds rather than minutes.
  • Sleep. A good night's sleep has lasting effects on your productivity and time management. If I don't get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, all my time management is useless because I can't focus on anything the next day.

While I'm sure these tips are merely reminders for most of us, let's take the reminder and continue to practice our time management skills. It sure would be nice to leave the office tonight and get some recreational time in.