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Work planning pays

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21 Jul 00:00 by Simon Bruce

Planning your working day really pays and offers you many benefits. 

We have included below, some important guidelines. Follow them and you will find your day goes more smoothly, you may even find spare time, you will certainly be identified as someone who is organised. This is a mark of someone with management potential. If you do not try to take control of your day, then stress and fatigue are typical symptoms. Stress and how to handle it, is a well-documented subject. It is often a subject in management training courses, with techniques explained to help you keep control of your day. 

One of the reasons for stress is lack of work planning and not prioritising the tasks in your to-do list. In sales training, special focus is given on planning your work and also your journeys to customers. This includes carefully working out the best route to each customer so you are not going back and forth adding more distance and wasting time. The aim is to maximise time actually being in front of the customer and selling. It is an interesting exercise to count up all the time spent, driving, preparing for meetings, filling out expenses, writing reports, entering customer details into a database, THEN compare this total to how many minutes per day are actually in front of a customer. 

Divide your salary by this total number of minutes and you can see how valuable those productive selling moments really are! Whether you are in sales or in other jobs, keeping a focus on what are the key tasks and completing each one in order of priority is really important. Here are some valuable guidelines. 

Identify the time consuming tasks Review how you are spending your time each day and identify which tasks are the real time consumers. You may be surprised. By identifying and focusing on the tasks that are the culprits, you may be able to find a quicker way to do them. 

Think about the process, how you do the task, is there another way, a better way? One way to do this is to have a blank sheet of paper, or a page on your PC, and mark the start and finish time for each task. Alternatively you can find activity recording software on line. There are many free products you can download. These have the advantage of adding up the hours automatically for each piece of work. Consultants do this all the time and lawyers and accountants, as this is their fee calculation process, based on work for each client and time taken. You can do the same and become more efficient. Your benefits By getting more efficient, you will see that it is not only your boss who benefits. You may be able to get home earlier Your productivity will increase, you will stand out from your peer group as a top performer - this could lead to promotion You work will be more satisfying 

The right office layout, posture, desk position For most of us, our job is desk based so it is important you have the correct posture, desk height, perhaps even a foot rest if your boss will get you one and good lighting. Do not have bright sunlight from outside directly behind your PC screen, nor shining onto the screen. Can you do anything to make your office space more attractive? Avoid clutter, get organised. Can you get a plant, or some colourful objects? Chairs! There have been recent studies that warn of the issues that result when you are in a chair for hours and hours. 

The advice is to get up and walk for a few moments, just to get out of a position, stuck in front of the PC screen! Ideally try to get up and about, ideally at least every 1.5 hours. Take a break. Many find going to the water fountain is a good solution, others, if the boss allows, can take a breath of fresh air outside. This is not allowed in many offices but do what you can to change your position and take a break. Prioritise your task list and focus on it Mark the tasks that must be done first, prioritising is important. There are many benefits when this task is achieved and regularly completed. For one thing, it means you can see on a piece of paper (or on a screen) a list of what has to be done. Place some dates alongside each task to show the due date or time for when the work has to be completed. If they all have to be done today or if the work is coming in, via a constant stream from your boss or whoever, choose a time limit for each task and tell yourself you are going to do it by a certain time, and stick to that target time. If you can, avoid other activities, telephone calls etc, and just focus on that task. You will be surprised. You will feel less stressed and know that at the chosen deadline time you can take a break! Do take that break. 

Avoid interruptions It is important, if you get interruptions during your task time, to try and make these interruptions short, offer to come back to that person later, or take notes as to what is needed, and get back to the task in hand as quickly as possible. Another time consumer is when you are asked to attend a meeting. Experiments have been completed, where meeting rooms had no chairs, and the results were clear. Meetings finished quicker, attendees were more focused. This all means less time lost away from your planned tasks for that day. 

One of the benefits of voicemail and email has been the ability to obtain staff comment on a subject and reduce meeting numbers. Don't forget as far as the company is concerned these meetings are expensive. If the average daily wage is y dollars per hour, then that meeting costs the company y dollars per hour multiplied by the number of people in the meeting. So try if you can, to avoid meetings and get on with your chosen task. When the task is done perhaps you can take a short break. When you come back, have a look if there are some easy tasks to complete that will only take a few moments, and get them done. Ideally, you will have planned your day well and you have your to do list for that day, with ticks alongside completed tasks. Move to the next task and complete it. At the end of a busy day, you can then also see how much you have done! This is better than perhaps some days in the past when you have been so busy you cannot remember what you did do! We mention the task list, the to-do list. You can make the time when you travel to work more productive by using this time to write your to-do list. 

Remember preparation and planning are important. During the day try to stick to the allocated tasks - avoid those unexpected telephone calls if you can. Allocate a time for your calls and or emails and other paper work - list tasks, prioritise tasks. Place alongside each task the date or time it needs to be completed. If you do not know, ask whoever asked you to do the work when do they need it completed. This fact alone, if it is some time away, will reduce your stress levels because you know you have time to do the work, and your boss will see you are organised. 

One of the hardest jobs is in a reception area when there are multiple things going on at the same time...a visitor signing in, telephones ringing, a person needing information, your boss asking if his visitor has arrived yet...All the while when you are also looking for some information on your PC for someone else. You get called away then come back to the PC and ask yourself, now where was I? Sound familiar? It is quite normal and just one of the reasons, if you can, to focus on just one task at a time and get that done. Of course you may not be able to do this, depending on your job but have a look at how your days work out and see if there are ways you can segment tasks of the same type together. Well that is the blog written for today. I was looking forward to writing it, and was aiming to finish it at tea time, and it is tea time now! So not only do I have time for a cup of tea, job done, I can also mark another tick on my task list for today, and on time. 

More job satisfaction! Cheers.