Are you really swamped...or simply disorganized?

Tips on maintaining control of your workday

Are you really swamped...or simply disorganized?

organize

By Karin Eldor
Monster Contributing Writer


Here’s a common scenario: Your coworker asks how you’re doing as you cross each other in the hall. Your response? “I’m swamped! I’d love to do lunch but I’m going to be eating at my desk.” And repeat.
 
Of course it’s normal to be overloaded at work every now and then, especially during peak seasons. Throw in a day of back-to-back meetings and sometimes you're even looking at working after-hours and burning the midnight oil.
 
There might be an issue, however, if this is your normal. Your raison-d'être. And if your default response to “How are you?”, is “Very busy, as usual (insert a “sigh” for added dramatic effect).
 
You could be giving the impression that you’re actually just disorganized.
 
Let’s take it back to your personal brand for a second: the perception of being “busy” can be positive, as it shows that you’re “in demand” as a capable person with expertise, which is why people are constantly entrusting you with tasks.
 
But according to your audience – whether it’s colleagues, friends, family, or even your social media followers/network – you might just sound like a mess. People who are in control of their tasks are time management pros , and this, my dear friends, is the perception you want to create.
 
So let's dive right in: learn how to remain in control of your time and become the boss of your schedule.
 
Digital tips: Make the most of every minute… and get it together!
 
Here are some digital tips and techniques to help you stay organized and therefore more productive:
 
List-making apps (there are apps for that!): Evernote and Any.do, just two of the popular task-listing apps available today, can help you track your priorities and to-do lists. Take advantage of the tagging and folder options to organize and prioritize all your tasks and have fun actually crossing thing off your list (as you can with Any.do).
 
Bookmarking apps: It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the content available out there – you know, everything you stumble on while researching online and all the fab articles your coworkers and friends send you. Trouble is, you rarely have time at that exact moment to read and delve in, and doing so just serves as a major distraction. Here’s where “read-it-later” apps come in: between free apps like Pocket and Evernote Clearly (part of Evernote), you can bookmark and consolidate all your reading material in one visually appealing app. This way you don’t get distracted by articles you want to read and you can maximize your productivity while waiting in lines or during your daily commute.
 
Cloud technology: One of the greatest organizational inventions is the cloud concept. Make sure your calendars and “Notes” are all synced up, from your computer and tablet to your mobile. This avoids duplication of work and ensures that everything you need is at your fingertips when you need it. Have a great idea for a project while in line at the grocery store? Grab your mobile and jot your ideas in your “Notes”. You’ll then be able to access them on your tablet during a brainstorming meeting.
 
Turning off notifications: Avoid the temptation of getting distracted by a flurry of social media and e-mail alerts by turning off your notifications while working on a project that requires full concentration (otherwise known as a “high bandwidth task”). All the comments and replies to your Facebook and Twitter posts are not urgent issues! Schedule time throughout your day to check into your social media accounts (unless it’s your job to manage social media accounts or customer service via social media).
 
Traditional work tips: How to stay focused and efficient
 
Create a buffer in your week: Why do some of the most successful people radiate control and seem to have free time to spare? Here is a common trade secret: they create a buffer in their week. Block off some time in your calendar every week in order to get organized, tie up loose ends, or focus on a project that involves high concentration. By blocking off time for yourself, you give yourself the time to take your work even further and avoid wasting time going from meeting to meeting. Whether it's a few hours in a day or avoiding meetings on Fridays (if possible), this is crucial to your productivity. This may seem counterproductive, but this avoids you looking like a tornado that storms into every meeting, 10 minutes late. Which is the perfect segue-way to...
 
Avoid (long) meetings if possible: Meetings have earned a reputation of time drainers. If a coworker or someone on your team sends you a meeting request, it's okay to ask whether you need to be there. If you do, then attend of course. And if you must attend that super important meeting or phone call, make sure to warn the others that you have a “hard stop” at a specific time, if you have another meeting or call lined up right after. It’s a good idea to train your coworkers and teammates that your time is precious – it is literally a currency that cannot be wasted! If you are the “owner” of a meeting, make sure the meeting stays focused and to the point. Don't let a meeting go over the scheduled time - if there are other topics to discuss, take note of them and "park" them on a board as topics to be discussed at a later time.
 
Learn to focus: What do you do first thing in the morning? You might assume the world’s most successful people get down to business right away. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Just like any sports coach, it’s important to have an action plan before tackling the day headfirst. Turns out some of the world’s top CEO s and entrepreneurs take a few minutes to themselves to clear their minds and just think first thing in the morning. This is a healthy and effective habit!
 
Think about your top 3 to 5 priorities for the day (jot them down if it helps). Give yourself the chance to reset and refocus your day. This can also be done in the shower or during a morning jog. And if possible, don’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning while still at home.
 
Just say “no”: I know this can be a tricky one, but sometimes you need to say “no “ to tasks that will end up costing you too much time, when you don't have the time to give (this can end up as a deficit, as it eats into other tasks and meetings, thereby causing a snowball effect). There could be nice ways of saying “no” if it’s simply not a good time for you and you have tight deadlines to meet -- it’s all about wording, after all. 
 
Here’s a classic example:
 
Coworker: “Hey Bob, you mind helping out with the Smith file? Come to my office this afternoon, I’d love your input.”
 
You: “Actually, I’m committed all afternoon. How about tomorrow morning?”
 
Using a word like “committed” is a great way to put a positive spin on the word “busy”. You can’t always say “yes” to everyone when a request is unrealistic and you have your own deadlines to meet.
 
Manage your time like a boss
 
When it comes to your personal brand and reputation, the last thing you want to do is tarnish it by looking like a harried mess. It makes you look out of control, which can be detrimental to your career. Take control of your professional (and personal) life by using another “B” word: breathe. It will help you look calm, which in turn helps you stay focused on any task at hand.