In a fast-paced and evolving industry like technology, it’s easy to get left behind. Managing your time effectively can be a daily struggle, with productivity being the first casualty of procrastination.
Sometimes you can work around deadlines. But most of the time, lousy timekeeping can see daily tasks being pushed further into the week, throwing even the most organized of calendars out of sync.
As a technologist, you may have the technical skills and experience to attract potential employers, but without the necessary time management skills, you could miss vital career opportunities.
But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are some essential tips to help you improve your time management and productivity:
Don’t say ‘there isn’t enough time’
It is quality, not quantity, of the time you spend on work, meetings, or research. You can always make time for the projects essential to your career growth. “Quit saying you don’t have time,” thought leader Bryant McGill once wrote “You have time for what you make time for in life.” You need to get comfortable with allocating time for the things that can help develop your knowledge and skills.
With many new apps and technologies frequently hitting the market, getting distracted from your daily goals is easy. Technologists can often put all their assigned tasks into a metaphorical bucket and work on them on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of working on assignments that interest you the most and neglecting ones with a strict deadline or that aren’t as exciting.
What’s the most urgent task you must complete today? Is it the project you dread to begin or something you need to send to a colleague? Make sure it goes straight to the top of your to-do list. You have the most energy and focus on completing tasks in the morning. Also, finishing an essential piece of work first helps build momentum, so you can focus on things that interest you. A gentle morning ritual can also help kickstart your day. Do 30 minutes of exercise to get your circulation flowing, and eat a healthy breakfast to ensure you have the energy for the tasks ahead.
Learn when to switch off
It’s tempting to stop whatever you’re doing to reply to some WhatsApp messages. Sometimes you need to focus without a flood of notifications pinging through your devices. If you’re in the middle of a project and don’t want to be disturbed, update your away status on any communication platforms – IM, email, Slack, etc. so colleagues can see you’re busy. Switch off sounds and updates until your essential work is complete, and log out of any social media accounts. Once you’re free of any pressing tasks, you can enjoy – and appreciate – catching up with friends and colleagues.
Organize your habitat
Gretchen Rubin said ‘Outer order contributes to inner calm.’ The more streamlined your desk is, the more relaxed you are. And to paraphrase Marie Kondo, if it doesn’t spark joy, remove it from your working area. A sense of calmness and organization in your workspace can help boost your productivity.
If you spread yourself too thin, the quality of your work deteriorates. Only allowing yourself one hour to rush through a task that requires at least four hours means work standards can dramatically drop, particularly if you’re only speeding through to get to the next task on your list. Focus on one task at a time, giving it all your attention and energy through to completion, rather than packing as many projects as possible into your schedule.
Don’t burn out! Allow yourself ‘me time’ to recharge your batteries. Schedule breaks: Eat a healthy lunch, go for a walk, and ensure you rest your eyes from the glare of computer screens. Impose time limits on yourself so that your 5-minute coffee break doesn’t turn into 2 hours or that you aren’t stuck at your desk for 8 hours straight. Regular short intervals enhance your focus, which contributes to your productivity.
Learn to say no…
Create boundaries and focus on the work you can achieve in a day, making sure to politely decline or postpone work that you can’t manage. If you say yes to every request, you’ll soon be overwhelmed with tasks that aren’t on your priority list. It is your responsibility to prioritize your own work first. But during quiet times, please do offer your help and expertise whenever feasible.
…but also remember to ask for help
Sometimes you might be that person in need of a colleague’s help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers for guidance, and be mindful of their own time. Asking for help and reciprocating improves your bond with your team and overall productivity.
Effective time management is an essential tool for any technologist. By making necessary improvements to your organization, you can help enhance your productivity – and jumpstart your career.