The promise of technology was that it was going to make our lives easier, meaning we would work less and have more leisure time. Some early academics even predicted that by the 21st Century we would be working as little as 15 hours a week. Absolute lols. Our work and technological lives have blurred into one giant mass of emails, Slack notifications, WhatsApp chats, and more. At times, it can feel overwhelming, but there are ways to cope.
You probably feel like you don’t even have enough time to be reading this article right now, which is why we’re just giving you five of our top tips for getting on top of your workload. So let’s get started!
- Make a list.
This might seem incredibly basic, but it’s the first step to climbing that mountain of work that you are staring at with fear in your eyes. Just the very act of listing what you need to do can reduce feelings of anxiety and the sense of being overwhelmed. Write it all down, get it out of your head and onto paper, and then you can work out what you need to get done. If you want to take this to the next level, you can digitize the process by using an app or online platform. We use Asana, but if you want something simpler To Do is pretty sweet.
Once you have your big list of to-dos, you can start sorting out what the most vital things are. Not everything on your list will have equal importance so you need to push the most pressing and urgent tasks to the top. This is often not as easy as it sounds. A great method is to place each task into one of four categories - 1) Important and urgent 2) Important but not urgent 3) Urgent but not important and 4) Not urgent or important. Once you have done this, you can formulate your next steps.
- Do the most important things first. In the morning.
Now that you know what your most important and urgent priorities are, do them first. Right away. Like now. This might seem obvious, but we’re all human beings and doing something that is enjoyable and fun is much more tempting than doing something that is boring or difficult yet incredibly important. Avoid this by sticking to your list of priorities and smashing them out of the park. After that, you’ll feel much better about spending two hours grazing on Instagram dog content.
- Set time limits for tasks.
“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” This is known as Parkinson’s Law, and it was coined by British scholar Cyril Northcote Parkinson back in 1955. As a proverb, it sounds drier than a bread roll, but it is essentially a massive truthbomb. If you’re given a day to do something, you will take a day. If you’re given a half-day for a task, often you can get it done in this time. Of course, there are limits to this (something managers often fail to understand), but setting times for tasks in this way ensures that you get them done faster. The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to do this.
- Eliminate distractions.
You’ve got your list, it’s prioritized, you know what’s happening first, you even know how long each task is going to take, amazing! Job done! Why not take a quick break to check your Facebook notifications on your phone? Oh, someone has invited you to an event? Nice. What is it, a gig with a cool new band? You should probably check out some videos to see if it is your thing. Someone also just liked an Instagram photo of yours, maybe you should check that too, and your mum WhatsApp-ed you last night (she is so online) so you better reply to that too. Bam! There goes your morning and all of your careful planning and your gorgeous to-do list. To avoid this, try a few simple things, like putting your phone out of reach and logging out of all of your socials. If you use your personal computer for work, you could set up a different user account. If you need to be online for work, you can also set up a blacklist of web domains on an app like Self-Control. That way you can eliminate the temptation to read that entire Twitter outrage thread that seems to be demanding your attention.
This list of tips is by no means exhaustive and there’s an endless amount of books, podcasts, and articles all dedicated to the topic of time management. Different things work for different people. But we think these five tips are a great place to start.