In the dynamic world of work and deadlines, countless challenges can arise that compromise our productivity and efficiency. Are there too few hours in the day for you and can't see the forest through the trees? Evi Melkenbeke, HR & Payroll Manager at staffing specialist Walters People, reviews some of the most common time management challenges, offering practical advice on how to overcome them and optimise your workflow.
Challenge 1: your colleagues come with requests or queries at busy times
During busy moments, it is tempting to ask your colleagues to send their requests via e-mail. However, this can quickly lead to an overflowing mailbox, which may cause you to lose track of things. "Instead, it is more effective to ask colleagues to come back an hour later with their questions or call at a more convenient time. Chances are, an hour later, the question will have been resolved, or turned out not to be so urgent or important after all," Evi explains. "It is important to remember that it is your colleagues' responsibility to get back to you, not the other way around. This keeps your inbox tidy and allows you to focus on what is important."
Challenge 2: You dare not say no for fear of coming across as unsympathetic
It's all about how you say no. "How you say something is often as important as what you say," Evi knows. "So it is crucial to be tactful in your rejections. For example, instead of saying 'no' immediately, you can make a suggestion such as: 'I am currently working on an important project, perhaps someone else could handle this?' Or you can suggest another time. By being helpful despite the rejection, you give the other person space to think and avoid being perceived as unsympathetic."
Challenge 3: Your colleague is rarely available for consultations
Evi: "It is important to plan contact moments when working with others to avoid colleagues being unreachable when you need information. Instead of simply sending an e-mail and waiting for them to respond, it is useful to set appointments to exchange information. This will bring more structure to your workflow. Of course, it is also essential to agree on deadlines in advance."
Challenge 4: Your deadline turns out not to be feasible
How do you avoid disappointing your supervisor because you are not going to meet a deadline? "Effective planning and clear communication are essential here," says Evi. "Take time to assess if and when you can fit the task into your schedule and then link back to your supervisor. It is important to honestly indicate when you see that you will not meet the deadline and come up with a new proposal, for example: 'I can't manage to finish this today. Would it be possible for someone to help me with this?' Your supervisor will appreciate this, as opposed to a last-minute notification that you won't make the deadline."
Challenge 5: You easily fall into non-efficient habits
We all tend to fall back into old patterns from time to time. Awareness is the key here: learn to catch yourself in inefficient habits. For example, if you notice that you repeatedly reach for your phone while working on an e-mail, you can make a choice: do you stick to this bad habit or focus on the task at hand?
Evi: "Remember that nobody is perfect, and it's okay to fall back into old habits from time to time. We are not robots."
Challenge 6: You are too preoccupied with ad hoc things and don't get to your to-do list
Ad hoc things are often things we either could have done earlier or they are not urgent and not important. Finishing a to-do list from top to bottom doesn't actually work. "You can think of it as a bin of boulders and gravel," Evi explains. "The boulders are the big, important and urgent things that really need to be done. The gravel are the ad hoc things, the red tape. If you are not paying attention, soon you are only concerned with the gravel. So it is important to take a step back and list for yourself which things are important to do. These are those boulders, the things that are priorities. Make sure you schedule these things. That way, you will really get down to it. You can then do the ad hoc things, the pebbles, in between."
Challenge 7: Poor planning by your supervisor leads to extra work for you
This again comes down to good planning and communication. "See if you have time in your daily schedule to support your supervisor and be honest if you don't," advises Evi. "In doing so, explain clearly why you don't have time. Again, you can subtly wrap your no in a question: 'I don't have time for this in my schedule today. How would you feel if I push this to tomorrow?' Remember: your manager's poor planning is not your problem. Of course you should be flexible, but if necessary, you can also say no to your supervisor."
Challenge 8: You often have to reschedule for urgent tasks
Make sure you factor urgent matters into your schedule so that there is room to shift. For example, consider scheduling an hour daily to deal with unexpected matters. It is important to evaluate afterwards: was this indeed urgent and important, or was it delayed and could I have done it earlier? This helps you become aware of your patterns and plan more effectively in the future. "For example, while working on an important project, imagine you get a phone call. Then ask yourself: should I prioritise this now, or is it better to get on with my project first? Often things are important but not urgent, and can be scheduled later," concludes Evi.
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