Do you often find that at the end of your working day or week you haven’t achieved many of the things that you had planned?  Perhaps this is because you have too much to do or it might be because you are doing too much!  Whatever the reason try the following tips to get more from your working day.

1. Don’t accept other people’s problems.  The first tip will be key for many people.  Too often at work and in life we pick up other people’s problems in an attempt to help them out.  However, the instant a colleague, member of staff or friend’s problem becomes yours they will no longer have a problem and you will have one more than you had before.  Just think, if you let 10 people each give you a new problem to resolve every week then in 3 months you will have over 100!

Consider the following problem:

Walking through the office one of your supervisors (Cathy) approaches you about a problem with a member of her staff.  She says to you:  ‘I cannot believe Fred’s attitude towards customer service.  He is curt on the phone to our corporate customers, does not return their calls and will only help them if he really has to.  I have told him several times about it, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.  Can you talk to him and see if he takes it better from you?’

Who’s problem is it?  While you will want it resolved it is not actually your problem, it is Cathy’s problem.  As soon as you take it from her not only do you now have an additional task to do but you will undermine her authority by talking directly to Fred.

The trick is at no time while you help someone with their problem must you let it become your problem.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help them, it just means that you help them to deal with it and resolve it themselves.

2. Rethink the way you manage emails.  Email is a great communication tool, but it is also one of the greatest challenges to business today.  Just think – if you have 50 emails a day and just spend 2 or 3 minutes on each, that’s a couple of hours on emails before you have even started work!  No wonder many people find emails frustrating.

However the key to managing emails is to be proactive.  Change the way you think about emails and manage you emails in a proactive and not a reactive way.  Remember that you are the one that should decide when to look at and action your emails.  Sadly many people allow this control to be with the people who send them in the first place.

To achieve this, turn off the sound, bleep or other notification that you have on your PC that notifies you of an incoming email.  The problem here is that email notifications interrupt what you are doing and you subsequently become distracted by looking at the email and dealing with it.  What’s worse is that you then need a few minutes getting your mind to focus again on what you were previously doing.  Think about the time wasted dealing with 200 emails in this way every day.

Establish the habit of looking at your emails at specific times in the day, for example when you first start, at lunch and just before you leave.  Make this a discipline and it will make a massive change to the way you manage both emails and your time. Remember – if someone really needs you they can always phone!

3. Control how you use the phone.   As with emails the telephone can be responsible for eating vast quantities of time, so you need to control how you use it.  Firstly, batch all your outward calls.  By doing this you will not be distracted from other work, you will remain focused and keep each call to a minimum.  So keep calls polite and businesslike but terminate then once the business has been done.  Secondly, delegate calls that you don’t have to make personally to one of your team, this can also be a good way of developing their skills and network.  Finally, for incoming calls set up a rota with others for handling them.  Messages can be taken and you are then in control of when you return the call.

You cannot manage time, you cannot make time or get time back.  However, you can manage yourself and how you spend your time, and this is the key to getting better results!