From XU Magazine, 
Issue 24

Work Smarter: Time Management Techniques to Improve Your Workflow

The time management experts at MinuteDock take a look at how you can squeeze more value out of your work day...
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It’s been said plenty before, but it’s worth repeating that time is perhaps our most valuable resource. Managing our time effectively is critical to keeping ourselves productive when it comes to work.

Whether you are looking for time management techniques for students or for the office, there are a number of universally effective time management techniques you can utilize to make sure you are getting the best use of this limited resource.

You will quickly notice the large difference that being organized around time management can make to your work and personal lives. There are enough hours in the day, for those who know how to use them!

First things first: track your time! Whether you use a time tracking service or even just run a stopwatch from your phone, you will get value out of keeping track of your time.

Time tracking is not just about good time management – it’s about informed decision making based on clear and accurate data. The value is beyond the time itself, and while time tracking services provide useful data reporting tools, you can extract at least some value regardless of whether you invest in a timesheet solution by just running a clock for yourself.

Having espoused the virtues of tracking your time, let’s get into the nitty gritty of a couple of interesting time management techniques you might like to try out for yourself: S.M.A.R.T goals, Kanban boards and the Pomodoro technique.

‘Work smarter, not harder’ is the fundamental thought behind the Italian Pomodoro technique. You might think of it as something similar to interval training in physical fitness. The essential core of the technique is to break your work down into small intervals with small breaks between to reset your mind and refocus onto the next task. By breaking work down into small periods like half hours you can give yourself short-term productivity targets to gun for and create a feel of positivity and productivity by completing short term targets over your working day.

The Pomodoro technique lets you create a healthy sort of self-competition, where you can race yourself against the clock to improve your methods of completing everyday tasks, while also giving you short breaks to refresh yourself with a quick coffee or water break. Having clear and equally sectioned work intervals will give insight into your comparative productivity across different tasks or during different parts of the day. You will likely find yourself spending less overall time working while increasing the output of your day!

The next technique we’re looking at is less a time management technique and more of a general workflow technique which will have a strong impact on time management.

A Kanban board is a project management tool to help optimize workflow by creating a visual and clear representation of work in progress, completed, and yet to do. Office work can be very intangible at times – it’s hard to get a quantifiable grasp of work being done in the cloud.

A Kanban board can keep everybody aware of what others in the team are doing, up to date on what has or needs to be accomplished, and generally more aware of the flow of work through the team as a whole. This allows the team to really see what the individual tasks completed are contributing to the overall projects being undertaken. Having an overview of how the pieces fit while being able to focus on the smaller tasks which build into the whole is critical to being able to create a successful overall workflow.

Our last technique, S.M.A.R.T goals, might at first glance sound like something from a primary school classroom, but wisdom often comes from the mouths of babes. But these sorts of clever acronyms exist because they are useful.

Every goal you set yourself should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Or, in other words, smart. Why? It’s important to have a specific goal in mind in order to know exactly what you are trying to achieve in any given time frame – if the goal is not specific, it can lead to confusion with your team members and wasted time.

It should be measurable as this will allow you to have a clear understanding of progress, of when you are finished, and of how far short you have fallen if the goal is not reached. There’s not much point in striving towards a goal if it is not relevant to your work and success.

Finally, it needs to be time-based: you can use effective time tracking techniques to give yourself a very clear overview of success and failure, as well as allowing great comparison between goals so you can see what your team needs to improve on and what you’re doing well.

These time management strategies may not be useful for every situation or workplace, but they are worth trying out – we’re living in a time of rapid change and any opportunity to improve on the way we do things should be looked at. Work smarter, not harder.

Why leave it there?

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