When I made the transition from classroom to cubeland, the biggest bear I faced was time management. Students usually have the luxury of having at least a few days before turning in an assignment, whereas professionals schedules are never constant, and often have tasks that were due 10 minutes ago.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed, be prepared for these moments by practicing good time management.
Use these tips as a reference:
1. Find A System That Works For You
There are countless ways to systematically organize your time and responsibilities. Choosing the system that works best with your personality will make adding agenda items easy to maintain, ensuring follow-through of tasks. Checklists and calendars are two common examples, but even the components within these systems are complex (e.g. digital vs. notebook, color coding vs. separate pages). For me, Outlook’s built-in checklist feature makes it easy to link specific emails to tasks, which I can assign a priority and deadline. For my more personal tasks I keep a little notebook where I list my "to do" for the day. As I finish a task I cross it off. Any task I don't complete I carry on to the "to do" list for the next day. I write the list the night before, right before going to bed. Keeping it visual allows me to set short term goals and long term goals.
2. Get It Right The First Time
So much of your day can be wasted if your work requires heavy revisions. Successfully completing tasks the first time will not only allow you to keep your other deadlines, it also helps your colleagues keep theirs. Ask your supervisor questions before you begin an assignment to clarify what the end product should look like. If you feel a task is taking longer than necessary to complete, ask another staffer if they know a shortcut. Discovering efficient methods rewards you with more time in your day to accomplish other tasks. Don't do work just to get it done, do it in terms of efficiency.
3. Prioritize And Manage Expectations
Working on multiple accounts or having multiple supervisors is a recipe for miscommunication. Managers rarely discuss the things on your plate, so it’s your job to raise flags when you have competing deadlines. Talking through assignments will sometimes uncover some flexibility in deadlines; maybe your supervisor has a long meeting at the time you were originally tasked to turn something in for review. I don’t recommend you challenge every assignment, but do speak up when it is necessary.
If you find yourself struggling to get things done, you might not be realizing, or keeping track of where your time is going. Back in Sophomore year of college, a coworker of mine introduced to me a tool titled "Where does your time go?" The application records where your time is going, and how much time you have left over to do things you wan to do.
In searching for life organization methods, I came across an article written by Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes. The article provided some answers to achieving a better work life balance. Here are some of the tips that she offered:
Learn Your Employer’s Policies. Inquire about your company’s policies on flextime and working from home. If you’re a strong performer, you have a better chance of negotiating an arrangement that works for both you and your employer.
Communicate. If you won’t be available for certain hours during the day or weekend because you’re dealing with family issues, let your manager and colleagues know, and get their full support.
Use Technology to Your Advantage. Technology should help make your life easier, not control it. Ban technology at certain times so that you can focus on your family or friends.
Telecommute. Telecommuting a few times a week could help free up valuable hours. You’ll be able to focus on work for long stretches at a time and use the extra hours to meet personal responsibilities.
If this is of interest to you I recommend going on to Forbes and reading the article.
Hope this is helpful! If you have any time management, work-life balance tips post them in the comments! If you ask me, this is an ongoing project, and the type of thing we can all get a bit better at!