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How to manage your workday

Published:Wednesday | March 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Kareen Cox, Career writer

It's the end of the workday (4:30 for some, 5:00 for others) and you're wondering where the day went. In between all the phone calls and meetings, you just haven't accomplished your list of things to do for the day. For other persons though, this inability to complete assigned tasks during the work day can be attributed to just plain time wasting.

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the American website,
, approximately 73 per cent of participants indicated that they spend part of their work day on activities that are not work related.

According to the survey, the top five "time-wasting" activities were:

  • Internet use
  • Socialising with co-workers
  • Conducting personal business
  • Personal phone calls
  • Long lunches or breaks

This time wasting costs companies millions of dollars in wasted salaries, and a decrease in worker productivity, which ultimately slows down the economy.

It's safe to say then, that we need to find better ways of properly managing our time during the work day, since time means money. We often think that the solution is to go to work earlier or stay later. Some persons even work on weekends to make up for lost time. But the truth is, stretching the clock won't work; you have to rethink your approach to how you use your time on the job.

Start by creating a system of organisation for yourself. Designate definitive 'in' and 'out' boxes, and a 'pending' box on your desk or in another easily reachable place. If you find yourself recycling the same items in your 'pending' box, and you haven't done anything with an item for more than two weeks, you need to question whether it's a valid task at all.

Purchase a detailed daily planner (if your company doesn't give you one) to document dates, deadlines and meetings. When you need to record anything associated with a date, enter it into your planner, computer or blackberry, so that it gets onto your schedule.

Unproductive meetings are notorious time wasters, so attempt to set limits on how much time you will be able to devote to any single gathering. Request a written meeting agenda in advance, and try to stick to it. Because you are only part of the group, you can set your time limits, but your decision-making power is limited in the meeting arena.

Keep personal phone calls, Internet usage and time spent socialising with co-workers to a minimum. Perhaps, you could set aside your lunch break, or, if you get to work early, the time you have before the work day starts, for these tasks.

Once you learn to organise, prioritise and maximise your time at work, you will see that you will gain more out of your work day.

Kareen Cox is the resources co-ordinator in the career development services department, HEART Trust/NTA.

Other time management tips are as follows:

Get mentally organised. Use a notepad to write down everything you say or do during each day. Use a new page for each topic, and, whenever you get an assignment or project, write the date at the top of the page and document the critical details so you will have comprehensive documentation at your fingertips.

Create a schedule, and stick to it. Figure out what work needs to be done, and make daily, weekly or even monthly schedules

Group similar tasks like checking emails, returning phone calls, retrieving voice mail or reading incoming materials. Do these tasks the same time each day, and you'll find that you complete them more quickly than you did before.