Have you ever had a day like this?
You get to work a bit early determined to focus today and power through as much as possible on your to do list. It starts off well (for about 30 minutes!) and then the phone starts to ring with people that need your help with problems. Next your inbox is being bombarded with more emails than you care to think about. Then a trainer drops by to ask you a question that turns into a half hour conversation about how much administration they have to do and one of your colleagues asks you how to enter a particular assessment outcome into the system. And to top things off your team leader decides to call an impromptu meeting about an upcoming deadline.
Before you know it, it’s 3.00pm, your head is spinning, you haven’t actually finished anything important from your to-do list, you haven’t eaten or drunk anything since breakfast and now you can’t even think straight and you feel overwhelmed.
If this has happened to you one too many times and you want a better way to manage your time, read on...
In RTO administration, you can often find yourself with a never ending to-do list. You add more items each day than you cross off and it becomes overwhelming.
You already know that not everything on your to-do list is equally important. So instead of starting at the top and working your way down, develop a system that shows you what is important and/or urgent and do these first.
Also if something stays on your list repeatedly but never gets done, perhaps it’s time to delete it or put it on a “one day” list.
Develop a written schedule for your days, weeks and months and stick to it wherever possible.
Use the schedule to keep on top of repetitive and routine tasks. Depending on your role, examples of these tasks are issuing certificates, entering assessment outcomes, processing new enrolments and uploading data.
If nothing else, on the crazy days, your schedule will save you from having to figure out what you need to do next....just check the schedule!
Be realistic about what you can do and say no (politely) when you’re tempted to take on more than is possible.
Sometimes you may find it easier to “yes and…” rather than “no”. So for example, if a trainer asks you to help them with a student’s file but you don’t have time straight away, you could say “yes and let me just make a time in my calendar when we can do that”.
It’s often better to say no than to take on too much and then be in a position where you’re unable meet your commitments.
It may be counterintuitive to take a break when you’re under time pressure. However when you give your brain a break and fuel your body with healthy food and some time away from your desk, you’ll work with more focus and be able to be more effective when you return.
Imagine you had a meeting with an auditor or the CEO. You’d make sure you didn’t miss it by putting it in you’re calendar and setting a reminder.
Do the same thing with important tasks or projects. For example, if you know you need to check errors on SVTS twice a week, set times in your calendar do this to ensure that you do it.
An added bonus of this time management strategy is that other people will see that the time is blocked out in your calendar and are less likely to interrupt you during these times.
Have you heard of Parkinson’s law? It says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
This means that if we don’t set a specific amount of time to do a task, it is likely to take longer than we expect.
Try estimating how long a task will take and then set yourself that amount of time to get it done.
This will also help you to stay focused on getting the allocated task finished and avoid distractions.
It’s been proven that multi-tasking is a myth!
You can only actually fully concentrate on one thing at a time. If you try to do more than thing at once, you’ll waste time switching between them and actually end up taking longer.
We’re all guilty of procrastination at times. Especially when it comes to tasks we just don’t like or challenging tasks.
Schedule these tasks in for as early as possible in the day. Set a specific amount of time for these tasks and stick to it.
Try watching this quick video “Eat That Frog”.
The problem with interruptions is that they rob us of time that we’d intended to spend on our priorities.
Try keeping a brief record of the interruptions you experience for a few days or a week. At the end of the time, analyse the interruptions.
Are there any patterns? The same person (eg. your boss or a colleague), group of people (eg. students who are about to start their training or employers wanting their employees results), computer notifications (emails or social media alerts) or similar topics (eg. how to do a particular function in your database or where to find spare stationery).
Once you’ve identified the patterns, strategise about what you could do to minimise them. For example, could you turn off email notifications, make a regular time to meet with your colleague once a week to catch up on issues or provide training for staff about that challenging database function?
Have you ever noticed that Monday mornings are often spent catching up with people and trying to work out what you need to do for the week? Before you know it the morning’s gone and nothing meaningful has been accomplished.
And on Friday afternoons we start winding down, it’s nearly the weekend after all, it’s been a busy week and you start thinking that there’s not really enough time to get anything done.
If you were to change your approach to Monday mornings and Friday afternoons and recapture them, you would have a whole extra day in your week!
Try taking some time on Friday afternoons to plan for the next week and then on Monday mornings, launch straight into some important tasks or plan meetings first thing.
If you implement some of these tips and adapt them to suit you, you will be more productive and feel more in control of your time. As Michael Altshuler, a speaker and performance coach, said:
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.
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Comment below and let us know if you have any other time management strategies that you'd like to share with other RTO Administrators.