The new 9 to 5
Published: 29 Apr 2008
A company culture of long hours adversely affects our social life and may not necessarily mean we are working at our optimum level. However, with many companies perpetuating the idea that leaving on time means you are not pulling your weight, working a 9-5 day is not always an option. Time management is largely common sense but the discipline required to keep it up is not so easy.
Use your time wisely and you'll be able to leave on time
Draw up a to-do list
Every evening before you leave compile a list of tasks for the following day. Not only will it ensure that you are more organised and can get through tasks quicker, but it will also help you to switch off as you leave work - knowing exactly what is required for the following day. This should be consulted at the start of every day, with tasks being crossed off as they are completed.
Plan your day
Work with your natural peaks and troughs, not against them. Reserve your most important tasks for the times when you are at your physical and mental peak. When you become tired your concentration levels and productivity will decrease, so take a few minutes to relax.
Monitor your time
Compile a list of your daily activities and split them into half an hour slots. This will give you a clear idea of how you spend your time. Look at how much time you are spending on routine tasks compared to planning and development. If you are spending the bulk of this on routine matters it's time to move on to the next tip.
Consider whether you should delegate tasks to others rather than doing them yourself. We are all guilty of thinking it takes longer to teach someone to do something than doing it ourselves, but it is not productive in the long term. Be sure you assign responsibility to someone with the appropriate skills to do the task and make sure they know exactly what you want them to do and when. Be available to offer support and advice, but have the flexibility to let them do it in a different way - after all, their ideas may be better than yours!
Keep meetings short
Many working days are punctuated by unplanned meetings. When this happens, try to keep colleagues away from your desk so you can leave when you want to. Visit colleagues only when you have more than one issue to discuss, and don't volunteer options unless they are requested or relevant. Equally, don't fall into the trap of sending reams of emails when the problem could be solved with a simple phone call.
Our working day is a constant process of receiving new information. Every time you receive information it will change a task's importance. This may push an urgent job off your critical list, so be sure that when you receive new tasks you reassess your list of priorities.