How To Manage a Busy Schedule in 13 Steps
Busy schedules can include long lists of small tasks, fewer but very involved tasks, or a combination of both. There are many strategies for how to manage a busy schedule that can help ensure the timely completion of tasks. If you have a busy schedule, trying some of these tips can help you more effectively manage your time and complete your important tasks. In this article, we discuss the importance of managing a busy schedule and offer 13 ways to manage your busy schedule.
Why is it important to manage a busy schedule?
It's important to manage a busy schedule in order to increase efficiency and productivity. Implementing effective time management and scheduling techniques can help you optimize your workday for maximum performance. Managing a busy schedule can show current and future employers your ability to organize your efforts, self-supervise your tasks and complete both complex and simple responsibilities in a timely and high-quality way.
How to manage a busy schedule
Here are 13 strategies you can try to organize your busy schedule:
1. Divide large tasks into smaller ones
If a project could take hours, days, weeks or longer to complete, you can try dividing up the project's steps. Doing this can help you enjoy a series of small accomplishments and slowly work toward the primary goal. You can also avoid feeling overwhelmed by completing a complex task in smaller, simpler steps. For example, if you need to prepare a 50-page employee manual, you can break the manual down by chapters and sections within each chapter. As you complete each section, you progress toward the completion of the whole.
Prioritizing your work can help you complete the most critical tasks first, which may help relieve feelings of stress or uncertainty. There are many ways to prioritize tasks, such as by nearest deadlines, the importance of the client, personal importance to you and special requests by management. By completing these high-priority tasks first, you may find that you feel less pressure in your workday because the most urgent work is already complete.
Read more: How To Prioritize Tasks in the Workplace
3. Monitor your time
Monitoring the amount of time it takes for you to complete each task can help you more easily understand the areas of your schedule that need attention. You can keep a written log or use a time tracking application to monitor how much time you spend doing different things.
Once you know where you spend your time daily, you can think about whether you need to change any parts of your routine. You can more strictly control your time by setting deadlines for your tasks. Sometimes, having a deadline can encourage you to complete your tasks more quickly. You can set a timer to remind yourself to switch to the next task. If you noticed that you procrastinate at certain times, consider setting your schedule to overlap with the times you typically are less productive in order to optimize that time.
4. Plan your meetings strategically
There are strategies to reduce the amount of time you spend in meetings while still ensuring that you achieve your meeting goals. You can consider whether the topic requires an in-person meeting or if you can arrange a virtual or phone conversation to eliminate commute time.
If a meeting is essential, you can reduce the amount of time that the meeting takes by sending the agenda ahead of time, setting a strict schedule, including end times, reminding participants of the remaining time and keeping the number of people in attendance relatively low. With fewer people, everyone can share their input in relatively less time and you might find it easier to keep the conversation on task.
5. Set achievable performance expectations
If you have a busy schedule, it may be helpful to set achievable, realistic expectations. Sometimes, trying to complete too many tasks or complete everything perfectly can result in delays. When preparing your schedule, try to be as honest and realistic as you can about your capabilities. Your capabilities may vary depending on the day, so it's important to spend a bit of time each morning honestly reflecting on the amount of items you can reasonably expect to complete.
6. Delegate or outsource some of your tasks
In some cases, you can find another person who can do part or all of some of your tasks to help you focus on other responsibilities. Depending on your position, you may be able to identify who can take on some of your responsibilities and assign the tasks to them.
You can also pay an outside person to complete some of your tasks to free up your working time. One example would be hiring an assistant to manage your schedule and check your emails, as well as alert you to the urgent ones and respond to others.
7. Accept the amount of work you can realistically handle
You may feel pressure to accept more work than you can realistically complete. This could happen when if you want to impress managers in a new position or if you're being considered for a promotion. Taking on more work than you can realistically complete can sometimes lead to a decrease in overall performance, such as missed deadlines and reduced work quality.
To avoid this, you can refer to your schedule and consider whether a new task is one that you can work on to your standards. If you don't feel you can complete the task, be honest about your reasons when respectfully declining. Being selective about the jobs you take on can help ensure you can meet all of your deadlines and deliver on your promises.
8. Keep a central schedule
You might find it helpful to prepare a single schedule in which you keep all of your daily, weekly, monthly and longer-term tasks. By having all of your to-do items in a central location, you might find it easier to quickly check what you need to get done and whether you have time to take on additional tasks. This schedule could be digital or physical, depending on what you find most comfortable. You can further organize the schedule by color coding tasks by urgency, type or due date.
9. Group tasks
You may improve your efficiency and complete your tasks faster by completing related or similar tasks at the same time. Batching together related work can increase efficiency and productivity because it may be easier to swap between tasks that require the same type of work. These can include things like answering emails, outlining lectures, grading assignments or making schedules. For example, you could set aside a time on the last Monday of every month to make the budget for all departments you oversee.
10. Utilize unavoidable downtime
During your day, you may encounter times when there is no specific job to do while you wait for the next task to start. For example, you might commute on the train or have a 10- or 15-minute gap between a series of meetings. You could make use of that time by doing things like answering emails or reading brief articles.
Consider preparing a list ahead of time of smaller tasks that you can complete during these periods of free time. Over time, these minor tasks can add up to a significant amount of productive time that you might otherwise not use efficiently.
11. Plan every day
Some people find it helpful to make a daily schedule to make sure they have accomplished all important tasks each day. You can make your next day's schedule at the end of your current workday, at night before bed, in the morning when you drink your coffee or any time that you feel most ready to think about the next day's tasks.
When you prepare your schedule, there are several strategies you can try to make the most effective use of your time. You can arrange your tasks to fit around the time you feel most productive. For example, some people feel most energized in the morning, some after lunch and some in the evening. You could arrange your tasks to complete difficult or complex items first and perform tasks you enjoy more toward the end of the day. Or, you can set the task that will take the most time for the beginning of the day.
12. Avoid distractions
When maximizing the use of your time, it's important to limit and avoid distractions. You may find your workflow interrupted by a text or email notifications or by employees walking into your office. In these instances, you can avoid being distracted from your current tasks and try to increase your efficiency by putting your phone on silent, pausing your inbox, wearing headphones to indicate that you are busy or closing your office door.
13. Take breaks
Although procrastination can be a problem if it decreases your efficiency and productivity, scheduled breaks can be helpful for many reasons. If you plan for breaks and use them to relax, eat, take care of personal tasks or think about things other than work, you might find that you have more energy and focus when it is time to work again. The key is to schedule these breaks and make them time-limited to prevent them from becoming a procrastination tool.
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