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Effective Time Management Strategies For Busy Work Environments

Do you feel that you are running from meeting to meeting with barely any moment to breath? Do you feel that you can barely find time for deep-thinking and strategic-planing at work? Do you wish you get to have a moment of quiet during your day?

In my clinical work, one of the most common challenges I see for those who work at a busy work environment is time management. You may find your calendar to be filled with meetings and you don't seem to have control over it. You may also feel inundated with emails, chat messages, meeting requests, and calls. The time you have during a work day can become fragmented and it is difficult to block out a period of time to allow you to do the type of work that required sustained attention. You may find yourself needing the time for deep-thinking about the important part of your work--this may be for long-term strategic planning, for problem-solving, or for exploration and research. When our attention is divided and we are constantly getting distracted by notifications and to-dos, it is hard for our brain to concentrate on one important item.

Here are a few time management strategies for those who have a busy schedule at work.

  • Prioritization based on importance and urgency At the start of your week, list the tasks that are on your to-do for the week. Rank them based on the level of importance they are and the urgency. Important and urgent tasks go first, followed by unimportant but urgent tasks, then come the important but non-urgent tasks and the unimportant and non-urgent tasks. After ranking the tasks, take a look at your schedule for the week--how much time do you have for these tasks. Make an estimate about how much time you need for the important and urgent tasks, as well as the unimportant but urgent tasks. Be realistic about how much time you have and how much time you need.

  • Goal setting I know it is very easy to have high expectations of yourself in regards to your effectiveness in completing these tasks at hand. However, I do find setting low expectations and build a sense of accomplishment as you go as a very helpful strategy to increase motivation and avoid feeling overwhelmed. After ranking your tasks, break the top 1-3 tasks down to smaller action-items that can be check off on a daily basis. Schedule these action items throughout your week. Remember, be realistic and set your self-expectation low--this can help you complete the tasks more effectively. Prioritize completion of these action items during your work day. Whenever you complete your action items for the day, give yourself a reward--whatever would bring you a sense of joy. This process can give you a sense of intentionality, ownership, and control over the tasks you are working on.

  • Boundary-setting Many people may say that they don't have control over their calendar and when meetings happen. I would encourage you to explore and see what IS within your control--do you find yourself having more flexibility during certain hours in a day or certain days in a week? Do you have a say in rescheduling some of the meetings on your calendar? Or can you negotiate the length of certain meetings? Find an area where you have control over and set boundaries with yourself as well as with colleagues. For instance, if you find the first 2 hours in the morning is the time when you feel the most productive, then make sure to block your calendar for certain mornings. Consistently communicate with your colleagues that this is the deep-working time you need, and do not accept meeting invitations unless it is very important or urgent that require your participation. Mute your email notification, clear your work desk, and minimize other distractions you have in front of you--this will allow you to get into the deep-thinking/deep-working mode more quickly. This seems easy from surface, but when it comes to application there may be a lot of psychological blocks we will have to work through to actually implement the boundaries. If you would like professional support, our trusted therapists can help you explore your blockers and find ways to move past them to set healthy boundaries for yourself.

  • Customize your schedule and establish a routine Allow yourself time and space to try out different routines that work best for you. Once you identify a routine that fits your unique needs, write it down and be intentional in practicing it for the next month. Having a routine helps our brain to identify when it's time to concentrate and when it's time to interact with others. This way our brains are prompted to get into the concentration mode much faster and can help make our use of deep-thinking time more effective. At the beginning, it can still be difficult to adjust and concentrate, but as we practice the routine, our brain will slowly get used to the schedule and work better in our favor. Just like when we get into our bedroom, a lot of times our brain will automatically go into a resting mode--it's a result of conditioning.

Allow yourself some grace in this process of figuring out what works for you and what does not. We are here to support you every step of the way. At Sunburst Psychology, our clinicians specialize in working with professionals in demanding jobs and industries. We help you explore what you need to work through the time-management struggles and find true peace. Reach out today to schedule your free consultation and get the support you deserve!


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