On Wednesday, I received a text from my good friend who once again had to postpone our date for the evening because she have to do overtime at work for the third time this week! She’s all apologies and I could understand after all, I have done it to her in the past especially whenever I am working on a huge project or I just started out training a new team. It’s fine doing a little overtime now and then…
Until she confessed that she has been doing overtime almost everyday since last year and the work she’s struggling to complete are her normal workload not add-on projects or one time assignments. That to me is not fine at all. So I managed to sneak a short chat with her over the phone after she knocked off and in between her munches of instant noodles to make up missing her dinner to find out what’s going on.
Her problem is she does not know where her time flies to. Yes, she had taken over some responsibilities last year but nothing too time consuming or too big to handle. I got her to go through her day-to-day activities for two whole weeks and both of us realised that she needs to tidy up her rescheduling, work on her multi-tasking skills and curb some of her bad habits.
Let me share some tips that I have shared with her here.
1. Tidy up your Calendar
Please do not overcrowd your calendar and delete those appointments that you already decided not to attend. Be brutal as well when comes to accepting Calendar invites, ask yourself this: do you really have to be in that meeting? If no, you actually save yourself an hour to do something else. If you are not sure and you really do not want to offend someone else, do approach the organiser of that meeting and check with him or her the agenda. Give the reason that you would like to see if you need to come to the meeting prepared. Usually organisers will appreciate your initiative and you can take the chance to bow out if you are not really needed.
2. Learn to Say “I’m sorry but I’m busy…”
You do not have to go to every meetings that you are invited. In fact, if it is a meeting by other departments, check if there are any other person from your team invited to the same meeting. Strike a deal with him or her and get him to go to this meeting while you can take turns to go to the other meeting. Just make sure that the meeting is not something that you needed to be brief on specifically, just need representation from your team. If you are not sure, approach the organiser.
If someone is to approach you for a discussion that is impromptu, you can always stop whatever you are doing and listen for 5 mins and if it is a discussion that is urgent, let the speaker know you will finish whatever task you have on hand and come look for him later. If the discussion is not urgent, you can request the speaker to schedule an invite on your calendar for an undivided attention from you.
Alternatively, you can do what I usually do… I will multi-task. BUT I will definitely let the speaker know that I am listening and ask for his permission to continue to complete my task while I listen to him. Usually, it works fine for both of us and I only do it to people I am familiar with, alas they think I am rude or arrogant.
3. Work like an Octopus
There are articles out there saying there is no such thing as multi-tasking or one could not multi-task as no one can fully concentrate unto two tasks. The trick actually is to choose your tasks wisely before you begin. You need to have an easy but time-consuming task paired up with a task that requires concentration.
For example, I can draft a regular email while listening to someone. Regular email usually do not require my full attention and I can always do a quick read through before I hit Send meanwhile, I can concentrate listening to the speaker.
Another way is that I love to group similar tasks together and see how I can kill two birds with one stone and complete the tasks within a single time frame. For example, I may need to coach two persons from my team, with both having the same problem. As long as the topic that I want to reach across is not sensitive or confidential, I may hold a discussion or a debate with the two of them at the same time instead of a one to one.
4. Choose your time wisely
If you really am bogged and need to work overtime, rather than work one extra hour each day, consolidate and hit overtime hard in one day and left the rest of the week free of overtime. I learnt a tip from someone senior early in my career to choose when I do my overtime wisely. Always choose to do it when the office is empty or near empty. This way you will never have any distraction.
If your office is never empty, you can try what I did. I used to work in call centres and you know call centres are usually round the clock, so I used to lock myself with my laptop in an isolated toilet cubicle and finished up what I need to do. Or I will borrow someone else’s room, sometimes my boss’s and locked myself in with a do not disturb make shift sign.
I realised that there is some more tips to share with you all. I shall continue in my next article on the rest of the tips on how to save time.
Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend and should you have thoughts on the above article, feel free to drop me a remark below or I’ll love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.