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How to get the most from your working day

How to get the most from your working day

The summer’s over. Was that it? It’s a new term and time to crack on with the marketing plan you’ve crafted and had signed off. Full steam ahead.

But with the phone ringing and e-mails pinging up every second, as well as having to attend meetings, it’s easy to get distracted from the job in hand.

How many of us have looked back at the working day and realised it’s not been as productive as we thought? A great many we’d guess.

Telling your boss a job will take so long, when it actually takes twice as long to complete won’t win you any brownie points. Oh despair!

But there is help. We’ve rounded up the experts to give you the utalkmarketing low down on how to maximise the time spent at your desk.

Director of marketing agency mabox, Julia Gosling admits, ”Marketing and advertising are the sort of industries where many unexpected and competing demands are thrown at the marketer throughout the day.

“It is very difficult to predict exactly what will happen and there are lots of last minute “urgent” deadlines that can emerge at any time.”

She added, “The key to managing this is to establish priorities, both on a macro and a micro scale.

“Looking at the bigger picture, an agency should be very clear about the type of clients that it wants to work with, and those that fulfil its key client criteria.

“More time should be spent on higher spending clients, or those where there is more opportunity to develop the relationship.”

Gosling went to say that whether you are in new business development or account management, account staff must avoid the slippery slope of spending eight hours attending to the fussy demands of a client who will never spend any money with the agency.

How to maximise your time on a day to day basis

1. Organise your day the night before

Careers advisor from, Corinne Dauncey, says, “Each evening it is a good idea to tidy and clean your desk so that you come in to a clear, fresh desk. At the same time organise the next day.

“Write down all the things that need to be done tomorrow whilst they are fresh in your mind and prioritise these. This will save you time in the morning thinking about everything you need to do. When you come in you will have it all right there for you to refer to. “

2. Make Lists

CEO and founder of recruitment company, Xchangeteam, Emma Brierley, says, “Make a 'To Do' list of tasks for each day and rate each one as either urgent, important or can be done another time. It is the simplest and most powerful of all ideas for effective use of time if used properly. It must.”

Julia Gosling adds, “Making a list at the beginning of the day is essential discipline. This helps to focus the mind on primary and secondary priorities, as well as to get an overview of how much time you have available to spend on each project or element. Adding deadlines to that list, and updating it week by week is also a good idea.

3. Planning is everything

“Recognise your productive and unproductive times and plan your day accordingly,” says Brierley.

“Recognise when you are at your personal best for certain activities. Recognise also when is good timing for the other people in your working life - colleagues and clients. Plan accordingly”

4. Manage time and work to time scales

Director of Converso Contact Centres Dino Forte, says, “Set achievable short term goals and write them down. I normally do this for the week and then on Friday afternoon review what I have accomplished.
“When setting goals be sure about what you are trying to achieve and why you are doing them. What impact will they have on the business, can they make the business more profitable, more efficient, or maybe help improve productivity.
He continued, “Be strong, focused and single minded about achieving your goals. I always use the well-known SMART method, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time-Related. This is nothing new but it works for me.”

Dauncey adds, “Setting goals and giving yourself time scales to work to throughout a working day will allow you to work more efficiently. You will be able to monitor what you will be able to get done and when it may be finished more easily.”

5. Break tasks down into smaller components

Dauncey says, “If you have a large project or job to do, break this down into simple and clear smaller tasks so that you can work sequentially through them.

“By setting yourself these mini tasks you will feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction each time you complete them and your day will feel more productive.

Brierley adds, “Don't prevaricate - do the tasks you don't like doing first and reward yourself with the ones that you do like doing.

“Don't spend time worrying - do the task and move on.”

Forte goes on to say, “Don’t put off until tomorrow certain tasks that can be completed quickly and easily, as they will make a big difference to fulfilling your weekly goals.
“Set certain routines that you know can work for you and that are achievable. For example I always allocate 8.30am – 9am each morning to deal with my emails, 10am – 11am to deal with internal issues and then meetings and other activity anytime between 11am and 4pm – I like to keep the last couple of hours as free as possible to deal with proposal writing etc.”

6. Learn to say “No”

Brierley says, “Who interrupts you and wastes your time? - If these are serious then you need to change your approach and learn how to handle these people better. They may have a right to interrupt you for work reasons, but they never have a right to waste your time.
“You can say NO sometimes too (this is particularly important for staff in support roles).”

Dauncey adds, “Sometimes when you are snowed under and more people ask if you can do something for them, be strong and explain you are extremely busy right now and if it is urgent then it is not something you can help with.

“If you are the only person who can do it, then just ensure they are aware of your busy day and let them know when they may be able to expect it. It is important not to pile up work and put yourself under too much pressure.”

Forte concludes, “Be accessible, but not so much so that it distracts your working day. Don’t be afraid to say no to people if their requests encroach on your time and don’t add specific value to the business”

7. Delegate

“Sometimes there will be so much to do that you just cannot physically get it all done by the due date,” says Dauncey.

“Do not be afraid to ask a colleague to help or even speak to your boss. If you are a manager, delegate your tasks effectively to those most able to complete each specific task.

She adds, “Working with others means you get things done twice as quickly so do not try to do everything on your own.

8. Avoid meetings when at all possible

Julia Gosling says, “Meetings are to be avoided during busy times. Much can be achieved through a conference call, and often this is preferable to making four or five people travel to a single venue.

“Another tip is to make your  agency a fun and hospitable place to visit, so that clients choose to  come to you instead of summoning you to them.”

Forte adds, “Plan meetings well in advance and only have a meeting if it’s absolutely necessary. I hate meetings for the sake of meetings.”

9. E-Mails

“Do one of five things”, advises Brierley, “Forward, reply, delete, file or action (and then file) - you should only have 'to do' emails in your inbox.”

Consultancy Director at Employee Advisory Resource, Tim Cuthell, adds, “Don’t be seduced by incoming emails unless they really are extremely urgent.”

10. Use templates

Brierley says, “Develop templates of documents you create regularly, and then modify them as needed.”

11. Use wasted time so it becomes useful time

“Think about all the times in the day where you could be doing something work-related, for example, when commuting,” says Dauncey.

“Try to use this time effectively by reading up on something or using your PDA to read your emails or do some brainstorming. Sometimes it can be refreshing to think whilst outside of the office and can result in even more creativity!

12. Get out and leave

“Having a set time to leave the office also focuses the mind, as extraneous pastimes such as FaceBook, chatting and sending personal emails fall by the wayside when the clock is truly ticking down, “ says Gosling.

“This is one of the reasons why people with dependents can be a very good choice as employees.”

Forte adds, “I never used to, but now I always try to take at least half an hour for lunch and preferably away from the office. This gives me a break from the workload and helps me re-focus for the afternoon.

“Finally make some time for yourself and your family. Without this your whole life revolves around work and that’s just not healthy!”

Perhaps the final word should go to Cuthell, who concludes, “Take at least one break during the day or the quality of your work will suffer.

“Remember it’s just a job or the quality of your life will suffer”

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