3 Ways to Successfully Manage Multiple Priorities at Work

Are you feeling stressed by your workload? Feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list? Have so many top priority tasks you don’t even know where to begin?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re not alone. The good news is there are easy techniques you can incorporate into your routine to feel accomplished at the end of the day and manage multiple priorities at work. Remember what Gandhi said, “There is more to life than just increasing its speed.” You don’t have to work harder if you begin to work smarter.

First, it’s important to determine the cause of the obstacles: is it something out of your control (external), like traffic, a coworker who is unreliable, or having an unrealistic workload? It could also be technical issues, such as your computer not working properly, or lack of knowledge with your computer’s filing system to help organize things. Maybe it’s a psychological barrier such as perfectionism, the inability to say ‘no’, or lack of confidence.

Did you know that we spend an average of 6 weeks a year looking for something, whether it’s your car keys, an article of clothing, or a specific email from someone? The average person spends 23 hours a week on social media sights, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TV, texting, and emails. Once you evaluate what barriers are affecting your organization and time, you can then progress to finding ways to better manage your day.

You are always going to have 24 hours in a day. That’s not going to change. What can change is how to use that time more efficiently. Here are some tools you can use:

Organize your workspace. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to break your project into pieces, starting with one area at a time. It’s also helpful to give each item a home, so you know there is only one place it could be when you need it. Have agreements with family members and coworkers to put items back where they belong after using them to keep things organized and running smoothly.

Keep in mind that 80 percent of what is filed is never looked at again, so go through files and delete items you aren’t using anymore, keeping filing systems simple and uncluttered. Some people like using color-coded folders or boxes to distinguish between items. Delete or ‘unsubscribe’ to emails that are cluttering your email box, or create special files for documents and other items you want to save. Keep your workspace uncluttered and only have items you use regularly on your desk.

Use a time tracking log. Most of us like to see what we have accomplished and what is left to complete. A time tracking log is a great visual for those who want to see how they are using their time, prioritize their tasks, complete the most important ones and to see if there is a pattern of wasted time. The log should be written in 15 minute increments. The most effective way to use a time tracking log is to write down everything you do in a day. This includes unexpected disruptions from coworkers, restroom breaks, lunch breaks, looking for things, meetings, checking voicemail, emails, chats, and your personal phone. When you see what your day looks like, you can then make some adjustments or changes in your routine to add some valuable time back into your day. Check off the tasks you completed for a sense of accomplishment. Group similar tasks together for better time efficiency, and stick to the time you allotted a particular task to keep the day manageable.

Create boundaries. Can you delegate some of the tasks to others? Can you delay starting on some less pressing projects? Are you minimizing interruptions but setting aside specific time to check emails, voicemails, Facebook, etc? Are you creating boundaries at work, like signs or closed doors, to minimize distractions? And, most importantly, are you taking time for yourself to create a healthy work/life balance? Make time to take a lunch break away from your desk and preferably out of your work building.  Adding some physical activity like taking the stairs or walking during a break can recharge you and make you more productive and focused. You can also make time for deep breathing throughout the day to rejuvenate yourself and be more productive, which also improves time management skills.

Evaluate what is working for you at work and what isn’t working well. Once you have assessed your barriers, you can then put into action one of the tools discussed in this article. There is a big correlation between organization and productivity, so be the best employee you can be!