Common career advice says that to get ahead, you have to control how you spend your time. But that’s often easier said than done. Time management isn’t difficult, but it does take resolve.
Here are 10 tips for making the most of your work hours and getting it all done so you can enjoy your personal time.1. Conduct a time audit
Monitor your schedule for a week by keeping a log that accounts for every minute you spend at work. By Friday afternoon, you should be able to identify patterns and have a better idea of where you are wasting time.2. Manage meetings
Ever wrap up an hour-long meeting and realise a group email would have sufficed? Meetings can be unproductive and easily eat up a large part of your day, especially if they happen often or run long. If this is a problem at your workplace, collaborate with your supervisor to rein in meetings.3. Clean up your act
Having a tidy and organised space, both physical and digital, in which to work and think can have a big impact on your productivity. When you know where everything is, you won’t waste time trying to find what you need.4. Go offline
When a task doesn’t require Internet access, turn off your computer’s Internet connection. This way you won’t be distracted by incoming emails or tempted to take a “quick” peek at Facebook. In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, 32 percent of U.S. CFOs polled said that web surfing was the biggest time waster at work.5. Cut the chitchat
Having good work friends is a major part of being happy with your job, but too much of a good thing can sabotage your time management efforts. Try to make your non-work interactions less frequent and more condensed, such as socialising only during lunch breaks and after hours.6. Turn to tech
Some mobile apps have a bad reputation as time wasters, and rightly so, but several of them are a boon for time management. Take advantage of those that organise receipts and expenses, schedule phone appointments (to avoid the dreaded phone tag) and keep track of important unanswered emails.7. Tame your inbox
A large part of many finance professionals’ day is spent dealing with email. To master this time drain, try these tricks:
Manually check email instead of having the system look for new messages every five or 10 minutes.
Check your inbox only a few times a day, such as morning, noon and an hour before leaving work.
Unsubscribe from e-lists you don’t read anymore.
Reply-all only when necessary.8. Break it down
Don’t become paralysed when facing a large project, such as preparing a shareholder presentation or auditing three years’ worth of financial records. To make the assignment less daunting, divide it into several smaller, more manageable chunks.9. Set a timer
If you’re frequently distracted at work, play this mental game: Impose deadlines for tasks and decide on rewards and punishments. For example, if you can complete the cost analysis by 3pm, you get to treat yourself to a piece of dark chocolate or five minutes of playing an online game. But if you miss the deadline, you have to do 20 sit-ups.10. Just say no
It’s not easy turning down worthwhile requests, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Decide what activities and projects are important to your career and personal life, and say no to the rest without feeling guilty. If you try to please everyone all the time, you will quickly burn out.