Time Management Techniques for Office Workers

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August is the official vacation month for many European countries as well as the United States and Canada. There’s nothing like enjoying a few weeks of sun and relaxation after an entire semester of hard work in the office, right? Well, taking vacations is good, but the problem is returning to the office in September. For many of us, going back to work after long holidays feels like being thrown back to earth from another planet and, of course, the fall hurts. What usually happens in the first day is that we spend precious hours trying to process a large amounts of work (and all those emails in your inbox) in order to catch up. This might lead to a lot of anxiety and frustration, because it’s obviously pretty difficult to be productive when you have a lot of things on your desk whilst trying to come to terms with that post-vacation crush.

The best way to go through that without having a panic attack? Organizing. First of all, try to get into the office earlier than usual on your first day back. Tidy up your desk, get a coffee, breathe deeply and then start the day. You can also do a quick session of Yoga before work. For some “Asanas” inspiration, check out our post on business Yoga and its benefits. Ideally, it’s better to not book important meetings on the first day. Try to block some time in your calendar so that people know you are busy catching up. What to do with the huge amount of work you have ahead? Prioritize, and get yourself a good timer. The use of a few time management techniques for office workers will help you smooth your return into work. We selected (and tested!) 3 different methods for productivity and time management. Check them out and make your own choice:

Top Three Time Management Techniques

The Pomodoro technique

Yes, this one is old (most precisely, from the 80s), but it’s a classic because the technique is simple and does not demand too much preparation. The process is easy to learn: you work for 25 minutes non-stop, and then take a break for 5. Each 25 minute slot is called Pomodoro by the mentor of the method, Francesco Cirillo, who apparently used to have a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato when he first tried the technique. After you’ve done 4 pomodoros, you can take a longer break from 15 to 20 minutes. The idea behind it is to spend less time procrastinating and get a good refresh during the breaks.

Who tested: Pauline Reuter, Content Marketing Manager

The work was more productive. I am trying to stay hydrated all day so I really need a 5 min pause every 25 min for a water refill or a bathroom break.

++ : I think it is flexible and the break itself is short enough not to get distracted

— : Slots of 25 minutes are quite short for long tasks, such as writing an article e.g

Are you gonna use it again?Actually I might. I could spend more time timing myself in general.”

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18 minutes

From 25 to 18: you’re still going to need your timer for this one. The 18 minutes technique was developed by Peter Bregman, the CEO of the consulting firm Bregman Partners. The method consists of:

  • Before work: Spending the first 5 minutes at your desk thinking about what you need to do during the day; write down the topics and prioritize tasks.
  • During: Taking 1 minute after every 1 hour of work. Go away from the computer, take a deep breath and think about how the last 60 minutes were for you. Not as productive as expected? Than give full gas in the following hour.
  • After work: Spending the last 5 minutes in the evening thinking about how the day went. Turn off your computer and ask yourself questions about how you can improve the next day.

Who tested: Alberto Andreetto, Interaction Designer

I think you need to use this technique for a longer period so that you can understand it deeply and use the method like it’s your normal way of working.

++ : you force yourself to work on something for one hour nonstop

— : the pauses were super useful but too short, just 1 minute is not enough to rest from 1 hour of full work

Are you gonna use it again? No! 🙁

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Getting things done

The title of the method is named after the best-selling book written by David Allen. It’s actually more a productivity tool than a technique that focuses on real time, but it is definitely worth trying. GTD is based on 5 steps:

  1. Capture everything that occurs in your mind. From personal to work-related tasks. Write them down to have a big overview of everything that goes on in your mind.
  2. Clarify your to-dos by turning them into actionable tasks. It’s not just about “Writing the blog post”. It’s about setting your deadline, breaking this into small sub-tasks, specifying what you have to do in each step, etc.
  3. Organize everything by priority. Assign dates, set reminders. Organize tasks by groups of priority so that you can visualize everything properly.
  4. Reflect on the list you created. Is there something that you can start off right away with? Then…
  5. Do it! Engage to get things done. By this final step, your brain should be able to plan what to do and how to begin. Katharina Schätz, Lead Quality Assurance Manager

Who tested: Katharina Schätz, Lead Quality Assurance Manager

I definitely felt like my work was more structured. By taking the time to figure out how something should be done beforehand, it felt like less effort afterwards to just tackle the tasks.

++ : I like that my head doesn’t feel as stuffed as usual. I take the time in the morning to write everything down and can be sure I’m not forgetting anything.

— : You actually have to make the time to lay out your day and break everything down beforehand, not just when and if you get to it. And it is a bit difficult to factor in ad hoc requests because you’ll have to re-prioritise everything.

Are you gonna use it again? Yes 😀

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As you can realize, pretty much all different types of time management techniques for office workers, freelancers or students are about writing down, prioritizing and giving yourself time for a break and reflection. Whichever method you choose, try to keep it as a long term habit rather than just a technique for not getting crazy after holidays. The improvement in terms of productivity are easy to perceive. And that’s a great way to keep up with the motivation.

How do you organize your day? Do you have other methods to suggest? Share your insights with us!

|By Thalita Milan – PR & Communications Manager Brazil|

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