Project managers are very busy people, and gaining an extra ten or twenty minutes can have a huge impact on our day. It’s easy to point to meetings, field work, and our mountain of tasks and say they suck up too much time. But we’re not always self-aware about our own habits and how much time they take. Even habits as seemingly harmless as the ones below:
By itself, there’s nothing wrong with stopping to chat with a co-worker. It relieves stress, strengthens your relationship, and can even be productive if you throw in a work topic every now and again. But it’s easy for a five minute chat to grow into ten, and then fifteen. Before you know it you’ve used up most of a morning!
Time yourself whenever you chat up a co-worker. Set a limit of five minutes—set an alarm, if you need to—and go straight back to your desk afterwards. This applies to phone conversations, too! Cut the small talk to a minimum and get right to the point. You can always catch up on things later when you’ve finished your tasks.
Deciding on Your Next Task
You’ve got a lot of things on your plate, and sometimes it can be hard to sift through them and decide which needs to be done first. After finishing one task, people often have to stop and re-review their pending tasks. The problem with that is memory is unreliable. You may be doing tasks out of order, or forgetting some entirely. As a result, there is a delay either on your end or on someone else’s as they wait for you to get to the task you’re supposed to be doing.
Before you begin you day, set up a written to-do list. Write it down in whatever order makes most sense for your workflow, but make sure it is in order. Don’t commit it to memory. Post it on your wall or on your desktop and refer to it every time you finish something. This will reduce the transition time in between tasks and help speed up your workday.
Not many people consider worrying to be a time waster, but it’s actually one of the biggest time sinks out there. This is because worrying affects you even when you’re ostensibly working on other things. It’s a humongous distraction, and saps your energy faster than the actual work you’re doing. You slog through the day with a heavy weight on your shoulders, and go home more tired than ever. Whether your issue is personal or work-related, the net effect is the same.
There are many ways of dealing with worry, but I’ve found the most helpful method is to talk it out with someone whose opinion you respect. This could be your manager, HR, a buddy, or your significant other. Sharing the load is a great way to relieve some of the pressure you feel, and knowing that someone else out there knows what you’re going through will help you get through your work with a clearer head.
Have you noticed any other little habits that eat up your day? How do you plan on changing them?