Work Smarter, Not Faster: Time Management Tips

Posted: 9th September 2019 | Written by: Karen Passman


Time is an odd commodity. We can’t store it or save it up, it’s easily wasted, and if we do lose time, we can’t buy more – at any price.

There are those people who seem able to fit in twice as much into the day as you do, or make the time to do the things you only dream of having time for. Want to manage your time more effectively? Here are a few ideas to help you fit more into your day…

The early bird catches the worm. Successful people are often also early risers. That extra 30 or 60 minutes first thing in the morning can be hugely productive, whether you use it for study, exercise or to get a head start on your day.

Keep a log of how you spend your time. You will be amazed at how easy it is to ‘lose’ time. The process will also give you a means of evaluating how long various tasks take and help you in the future when planning and scheduling your work.

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Plan your day, make a list and prioritise. Be realistic and allow for the inevitable interruptions. Are you better in the mornings at certain tasks than others? How important or urgent are they? Those that are both need to be at the to the top of your list. There are a range of free apps which can help you, such as Todoist, Microsoft To-do and

Keep your workspace clean and tidy. This means you won’t be wasting time looking for things.

Manage the distractions. And there are many! From a fellow crew member who just wants a chat, to the ringing phone or pings from WhatsApp and social media. If you count up the number of interruptions you experience in an hour, such as radio calls (the majority of which are not even for you), e-mails, phone calls, texts, crew, etc, we can quickly see what they’re costing us. That one-hour job will now take two. Find a quiet space and turn off the phone for an hour. If it’s really urgent, someone will find you.

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Stay passionate and focused on the job at hand. If you like to listen to music, put the same song on repeat. How often have you stopped what you were doing to skip a track because you didn’t like it? In addition, as the song goes into repeat mode, you will become more focused on the work and the music will fade into the background.

Take regular (short) breaks. Set a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, stop what you’re doing and grab a breath of fresh air for 3-5 minutes, then get back on task. Knowing that you will have a break will help you to stay focused on the job at hand and hopefully avoid being distracted or checking your phone. And don’t forget lunch – it’s been proven that people who take a break at lunch time are more productive over the course of a day than those that don’t.

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Don’t procrastinate. There are several schools of thought for tackling this. One is to complete 10 minutes on each task that you are putting off, take a short break, then complete 15 minutes on each task again. Hopefully by that point you will have broken the back of it and it will no longer feel as daunting. Another is to plough through all the easy stuff then create the space that you need to tackle the monster you keep avoiding. Either way, try each tactic and see what works for you.

Keep your meetings tight. Stand up meetings are great for keeping everyone focused, and if you are leading the meeting, make sure you plan what you will be saying, prepare a few notes and check you’ve been understood. If you are a member of the meeting, don’t ask ‘irrelevant’ questions. Save them until the end - they may well have been answered by then.

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Catch your zzzzs. Waking up fresh and ready for your day can often be half the battle. It is said that an extra hour in bed before midnight is worth two after midnight. Getting up at the same time as far as possible is one of the keys. Lie-ins, however tempting, just throw our bodies out of sync and put us under time pressure before we’ve even started our day.

For your health as well as your time management, don’t multitask! The idea that multitasking improves performance is a fallacy. Complete one task before starting the next. Much research has been conducted on the subject of multitasking and found that people who multitask are less productive than people who focus on one task at a time. We’re actually unable to focus on more than one thing at a time, so each time we switch tasks we have a delay which ‘eats’ our time. York University in the UK found that frequent multitasking reduced performance in a standard comprehension test by 11% and when neuroscientists scanned the subjects’ brains, they found a reduction in the grey matter density.!

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Work smarter, not faster. Research has proven that the faster you work, the more mistakes you make and the longer the task will take to complete. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slowing down and thinking about what you want to do is the most efficient approach. When you have finished a task, review how it went and consider ways to improve the process for next time. Adopt Sir Clive Woodward’s Marginal Gains approach for bringing the Rugby World cup back to England -find 100 things and do them just 1% better. That’s a 100% improvement!

While this is only an introduction to time management and productivity, these tools and suggestions should be a stepping stone towards tackling procrastination and working more efficiently.

Email Impact Crew’s experienced consultants at for more information.

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