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MENTOR - CAREER CLINIC

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Question...
Question

I am incredibly overworked, rarely leaving the office before 7pm and often taking work home at the weekend. I have two young children and my partner is feeling the strain. I am quite badly organised and tend to waste time on unimportant things like checking my email every 10 minutes and saying 'yes' to everything. Do you have any tips for time management?

Answer

Effective time management is a key skill and, as ever, recognising you have a problem is always the first step in helping you to overcome it. Essentially, you need to start controlling your environment rather than let it control you.

So let's see how we can get you back in the driving seat and restore some equilibrium to your work/life balance.

The essential features of time management are planning and prioritisation, it may be difficult at first, but stick with it and you will reap the rewards.

First, you need to plan and allocate time to what work you are going to do and by when and have some clear criteria which will help you prioritise which work needs to be done first. This means being clear about what is urgent and what is important. As we all know, it is all too easy to focus on the urgent and ignore the important tasks that really make a difference.

As part of this planning and prioritisation exercise, you also need to consider where others can help. This could involve devolving tasks or parts of a task to someone else. It also requires you to manage the expectations others have of you. This will require you to be open and honest about what you can reasonably achieve and you will also need to be assertive and learn to say 'no' with tact.

You also need to get into the habit of managing those day-to-day interruptions such as email, and phone calls and visits from colleagues. One way of doing this is to allocate particular times to these tasks and inform people of your intentions. You need to stick to your commitment.

Finally, there is a plethora of time management courses and books around to help you, and if I were to recommend just one it would be Stephen R Covey's Seven habits of highly effective people.

Jan Parkinson

Managing director, Local Government Employers

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