I recall the first time I watched a magician on stage. Pulling rabbits out of hats; making flowers suddenly appear out of his hand; and the card up the sleeve tricks. Pretty amazing until I figured they were either slight of hand or illusions. But one trick that wasn’t an illusion was juggling. How can he manage to toss three, four, or five objects in the air! Amazing! I gave up on the rabbits and flower tricks. Juggling balls seemed doable. Started with two oranges in one hand, then two hands. I upped the ante to three objects. Easy as pie! But when I tried four…frustration set in. I can easily juggle three balls. I can even juggle three apples and chew them as I juggle. But four!!! Four took more concentration. Four took more practice. Four took time.
Sometimes work can feel like a juggling act. Having to choose one project over another becomes a roulette. The ball falling in the slot you weren’t hoping for, can lead to either not meeting deadlines or quality of work not meeting your own quality standards. At times, it may seem that one project seems to drain your time and intellectual endurance. It seems that there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all or you get scattered and lose focus.
If you find yourself maneuvering and shuffling projects, try out any one of these strategies to better manage tasks and time.
A key to budgeting your time is getting a hold on how you handle your schedule. This is crucial whenever working in the office. Phone calls to answer or return. Emails that need responding or need to be sent. The many projects to begin or wrap up.
For me, the first thing was to prioritize my time to make it more efficient. In order to do that, I pinpoint what my big “time mynocks” are. (Yes, whenever possible always make a Star Wars reference). If you find yourself viewing lots of epic fail videos like I do, then maybe it’s time to reign it in… a little.
Even email can become a time mynock. I have easily found that I get distracted when an email appears and begin responding to them, which can take 30 minutes. So, instead of doing that, I’ve set a goal to respond to emails at certain times so that I can focus and decide time to tasks that are priority. When I do respond to emails, wherever possible I’ve begun using canned responses to avoid having to retype same thing over and over. Gmail has a great Lab for that.
Try to include small breaks to catch your breathe in between long intervals (minimum couple of hours) of work to avoid being sucked into the social media mynock (Facebook). Doing this will help you avoid falling into rabbit holes that can take up productive hours away.
Kobe Bryant recently retired from an illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers. There is testimony of Kobe arriving at 4:00am for workout while the rest of the players slept. After 70+ minutes he worked out with the rest of the team when they arrived at 8:00am. That extra time allowed him to focus on what he needed to fix (which I doubt he needed any fixing) and still have time to work on other things.
Now I’m not saying to wake up at 4:00am, but maybe waking up earlier isn’t a bad idea. Whatever time you choose, use that extra time to check and respond to emails or get a headstart on daily to jobs. Over time, those few minutes in the morning can add up. By knocking out a chunk of your recurring tasks early in the day, the day becomes more manageable.
There are times when I get bogged down working on a project that I forget or ignore other ones that need attention as well. Partly because I tend to stick to one thing until I get it done. What I have come to realize is that I get mental fatigue and lose stamina. Although I have a list of projects at eye level, it doesn’t seem productive when it takes days to strikethrough items as finished.
I came across the Pomodoro Method. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, time management expert, the pomodoro technique works by setting a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) timer in increments of 25 minutes and measure how much time it takes to complete a task using pomodoros. By doing this you can improve on your efficiency of completing tasks and create some free time. This is something I’m going to try out. Seems worth a try. Maybe you can join me?
For many of us, our workload can sometimes make us become the next highlight juggler at a three-ring circus, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is setting aside time to work on those smaller tasks that can take you into detours. Getting up few extra minutes early or staying up late (if you’re a night owl) can free up more time for projects at work. Also, give the Pomodoro method a try, you never know it may help.