Are you part of the overwhelming majority who struggle with time management? Recent research revealed that the biggest barrier to SME growth is time management. Poor time management can have many negative implications for your personal life, most noticeably in your health. In the UK alone, over half a million employees suffered from work-related stress last year — the most common cause was attributed to workload.
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We are making several changes to adapt our work environments as more people go remote. Large organisations are also adopting this flexible way of working as a new offer for their employees. However, the physical work environment came much lower down on the list of reasons for work-related stress. In light of this, shouldn’t we be more concerned with finding ways to reduce our workload? This doesn’t just affect the regular employee. Sadly, 1.5 million SME leaders felt they couldn’t take time off for holidays in the last year.
In this post, we talk about turning to technology in order to get things done more efficiently. Automating or utilising digital interfaces can help us to make better use of our time so that work doesn’t become a dominant force in our life. Here are the five types of time management applications that will help you to shave some hours off your workday.
1. Track Your Daily Habits with Rescue Time
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Use a daily habit tracker, like Rescue Time, to perform an audit on yourself. Perhaps you are unknowingly spending too much time on a given task. By doing this, you might be throwing your whole work day out of proportion. The great thing about this type of application is that it can run in the background of your desktop while you work for a truly objective outlook on your day. It can be difficult to self-evaluate and challenging to take criticism from others. However, real figures don’t lie — this app is a way for you to be honest with yourself about how you are performing.
The results of the audit will highlight the areas of your work schedule that need more efficiency or where you might want to get help. You can ask for additional support from a team member, or if the task is data or admin-based, there is a good chance you can automate it.
For example, clearing out your inbox is a task that’s notorious for eating up work time. The average person can take up to five hours per working week checking their email. If you’re also spending an hour on average per day filtering through spam messages and thread conversations, consider prioritising this as a critical area to automate. To help you with your email productivity you can use Gmail filters that allow you to create rules for your email. This could automatically delete spam emails and send generic messages back to frequently asked questions or requests.
2. Schedule Your Calls with eReceptionist
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A call scheduling application, like eReceptionist, is a handy tool for communication on the go — this is great for those who have jumped on the remote work trend. We don’t recommend working while on your holidays, but if you do feel the need to check your voicemail you don’t need to traipse to the office to do it.
Schedule your calls using a time management trick that time blocks different tasks for the most effective way to get stuff done. This means that you fully commit to answering the phone or not, as opposed to getting stressed that it is ringing off the hook while you do other tasks. The art of time blocking is recommended by many management gurus as a way to reduce your daily distractions.
Did you know that the average person gets one interruption every eight minutes? This means 50% of your workday could be taken up by tasks that weren’t planned from the offset. Avoid this from happening by scheduling ahead of time on a digital interface where your agenda is updated and accessible by other members of the team.
3. Keep Track of Your Tasks with Remember the Milk
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Do you keep forgetting things? When people feel under pressure, it’s normal to feel like your short-term memory suffers because of it. Feeling stressed at work is likely to make you feel more distracted than usual. The correlation between memory and stress is complicated — but, at the very least if your stress is turning into exhaustion, this can lead to cognitive impairment, which reduces your attention span.
Using a to-do list application, like Remember the Milk, is a quick way to clear your mind so you can focus on the intricacies of each task. Trying to hold all of the days must-dos in your mind while working on the task at hand, is like juggling while painting a picture — and you probably don’t work in the circus.
You can make this process as personalised as possible by using colourful tags to differentiate various types of work or create parent tasks with subtasks to take you through each stage of a larger job. You are far less likely to burn out when you aren’t feeling overwhelmed.
4. Instantly Access Files with Dropbox
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We are lucky to live in the digital age where we don’t have to sift through endless physical files to find a single document. Work is simplified by the ability to instantly access and share various file types with a centralised application, like Dropbox. This type of application is especially handy if you are working in a creative field and need to send files that may be too large for an email.
File storage applications, where you can instantly access files, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For those who frequently use word documents or excel spreadsheets, Google Docs is a suitable alternative. In Google Docs, you can keep a check on who has made an edit and even interact with different users via in-document comments.
These applications help with time management and the email issue we previously mentioned since they offer an alternative to lengthy message threads and a large waiting time for upload.
5. Connect to Your Team with Slack
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Effective communication is essential in time management, specifically in tasks that are shared. If your workplace is entering into a new project, it is important for team members to communicate efficiently and when possible in one singular chat. Using instant messenger applications, like Slack, allows your project team to have what is essentially an ongoing meeting. This can go beyond one project as you can create different channels for separate teams within the workplace.
Email and phone calls are both traditional tools that work well for external communications. Internal communications, however, are benefitted by an instantaneous pace where the entire team can easily converse in a live chat as opposed to an ongoing thread of messages. In the long run, this can save a whole lot of confusion and time for everybody involved.
About The Author
Rory Whelan is a communications expert with over twenty years experience in consultancy, television, media and telecoms. Since 2012 he has held the role of marketing manager for eReceptionist, leading the product to become the favourite call management company for UK SMEs.