My biggest piece of advice is to manage your email and/or internet time! Though they're vital for work, they're also huge time suckers and a major source of distraction! I'm a natural early riser so I set aside at least the first 1-2 hours (offline) to work on current projects or even brainstorm over coffee before logging on. As noted in other answers, everyone's workload (and body clock) is different..but I find keeping this one point under control has made a huge difference in my work productivity/output.
I take 10 minutes out of the start of my day to plan out my goals according, prioritizing them according to significance.
If you break down a true day of work you will find that there is a lot of free time.
I dont believe in taking work home but if you truly look into your free or personal time, there is a lot of free time that is wasted on watching TV, sitting, TV, music, sleeping.
My day starts out with a morning work out.
My family is usually sleeping so it allows me time to reflect on my previous day and weeks activities focusing on the accomplishments of that time. Also thought of was there anything I could have done better?
By the time I leave for work, I have a clear idea of what my days focus will be.
Never sit on projects. When a task comes in from my clients or corporate office, I prioritize these.
People are amazed I finish project early. What they dont know is that I finish them even earlier so I can review them again to ensure everything is completed properly then again. Compulsive? Maybe. Crazy? Yes.
Using the simple rule of writing down your tasks, goals and prioritizing them is essential. Always reviewing them to see if they are really important to your success or not.
Also understanding that stuff happens that will throw you off schedule or goals. If you shift, take care of it, and get back on your tack you can meet your targets. Don't dwell on how much you have to do, put that energy on how you will complete things.
As for emails and phone calls, set two specific times in your work day and commit this time for these. Do not check emails through out the day. Let people (your peers and company) or clients know your times committed. Make them follow your busy schedule.
As busy as I am, I find time to go on here, read, write and hopefully contribute ideas to others.
As general approach, it is most effective to keep an actionable "Things to do" list.
You can do this at the end of the day for the next day or first thing in the mornings.
It is most effective to identify each task as a priority level. "A" tasks are the actions that you must get done that day; "B" tasks are things that would be best accomplished that day, but could go to tomorrow with little or no compromise, and then the "C" tasks are items that are on the radar without any impacting time restraints. The "email hounds" are less productive. Set times of your day to address email other than immediate dependencies. I find that every two hours of your day can work for most.
Your goals should be part of a more defined plan that has been written out with timelines, benchmarks and other critical path matrix tools. You can take the due dates of a given deliverable and reverse schedule them into your "A" and even "B" action items. Reverse scheduling involves allocating time slots back from the set due dates of that task or deliverable. Knowing what and when is factored by hours or days required. Goal setting itself is a complete topic all its own.
This approach allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your day and deal with the unexpected issues of the day while staying on track. While a broad view, I hope this helps...Make it a great day!
Take time to assess your work to determine what really provides value. Don't hesitate to eliminate or delegate tasks so you can concentrate on work that really matters.
I came across this article...
Made a lot of sense to me.
There are many excellent answers here, and each situation can vary; therefore, I would ask first of all that you consider all of the recommendations offered to you and see what makes sense for your situation. Remember, this is not something new, and has been an issue for people for MANY years (not just business people) - so you may want to review different tools that are available as well. There are several PDAs, Software, and other manual registries that can assist with this.
In addition, do what is required of you. You are most likely part of a team, or organization, and you have a role - you are a cog in the great machine. Focus on what you need to do, and be professional, prompt, and excellent in all that you offer. Your accountability offers self-respect, and reliability/credibility to those around you, and will model this to others; hopefully instilling drive for them to be accountable for their work as well. Be encouraging to others, instead of stepping in to do their work for them. Be helpful toward results, and reinforce accountability to others, and delegated work if appropriate.
With that being said, I will offer my 2 cents into the hat as well, and give an overall statement that tracking is the key... here's my method.
I stay very busy throughout the day managing multiple projects, and juggling multiple agendas. I personally have developed my "to do list" by utilizing my email inbox, and post it notes for my tasks. The email stays in my inbox, and the post-it note stays in front of me until it is completed.
If the task is something that requires followup or tracking, then I request it be emailed (even if they call me). I can then respond to the email, and cc others that have common interests or shareholders in a project, as well as bcc myself to refer back to, which I file in my email folders.
POST IT NOTES:
Quite honestly, I use old business cards; nonetheless, the technique is the same. For tasks that are "one-offs" and do not require follow-up, I write them on a post-it note. You may even want to get 2 or 3 different colors of post-it notes to show urgency/priority of tasks. Once the task is completed, I can throw away the note.
Why does this work, because it is a system that I have developed and communicated to those that need to work with me. In addition, I am consistent with this system and am in an area where others will not be touching my notes, etc. This is important, because if I walk away from my desk, I can sit down and very quickly pick right up where I was at, and with a glance understand what needs to be done first.
I sincerely hope this helps you as this can be frustrating.
Prioritize and multitask and keep lists!
I use a daily checklist and I prioritize my day at the start of my morning. This way all my to do's are in one place and I can add to them if need be. By Multitasking, for example, if you are on the phone, get that email to John Smith out. Then you can check him off the list. I have to do everything at my current employment and so far these little things have helped me very much!
A lot depends on how dynamic your workload is and how much is "single source". By that I mean tasks that you can complete yourself without input from or reliance on others. Because of the nature of my work (IT consulting and sales support) I have frequent varying amount of new tasks every day. And, much of what I have to do is linked to other coworkers and requires collaboration. But here are a few tricks I have learned that help me track and manage my day.
1 - I keep my shared calendar (we use Outlook) as up to date as possible. When I get scheduled for a meeting that requires travel i block the travel time as well. I make sure that the location information is always accurate so that others viewing my calendar can see that i'm in the car, or at a clients office downtown.
2 - I use the read/unread feature in my email (high percentage of my tasks come in through email request) as a way to determine what i have not addressed. A boss of mine once said "dont even open the email if you are not sure you have the time to complete the request". Great advice.
3 - I use the quickest and simplest tools to track my open items, hot lists, etc. For example, I use the Windows Sticky Note just like you would the paper kind. I keep only the most time sensitive items on it, and I keep it maximized on my desktop as frequently as I can.
4 - for achieving goals ( in my company we have quarterly MBOs) and for less frequent but repeating events I put in a reminder in my calendar to check in on the status of them. Just a simple "MBO" calendar appointment at the begining of say every other Wed keeps it top of mind.
Hope some of these help!