Busy schedules can include long lists of minor tasks, fewer but more involved tasks, or a mix of the two. There are numerous strategies for managing a busy schedule that can help ensure task completion on time. If you have a busy schedule, implementing some of these tips can help you manage your time more effectively and complete your important tasks. In this article, we discuss the importance of managing a busy schedule and provide 13 tips for doing so.
Why is it critical to manage a hectic schedule?
To increase efficiency and productivity, it is critical to manage a busy schedule. Effective time management and scheduling techniques can assist you in optimising your workday for maximum performance. Managing a busy schedule can demonstrate to current and prospective employers your ability to organise your efforts, self-supervise your tasks, and complete both complex and simple responsibilities on time and with high quality.
How to Keep up with a Busy Schedule
Here are 13 strategies to help you organise your hectic schedule:
1. Break down large tasks into smaller ones.
If a project could take hours, days, weeks, or longer to complete, try breaking it down into steps. This allows you to enjoy a series of small victories while gradually working toward the main goal. You can also avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking down a complex task into smaller, more manageable steps. For instance, if you need to create a 50-page employee manual, you can divide it into chapters and sections within each chapter. As you finish each section, you get closer to finishing the whole thing.
2. Set priorities
Prioritizing your work can help you complete the most important tasks first, which can relieve stress or uncertainty. There are numerous methods for prioritising tasks, including proximity to deadlines, client importance, personal importance to you, and special requests from management. By completing these high-priority tasks first, you may find that you feel less pressured at work because the most pressing work is already done.
3. Keep track of your time
Monitoring how long it takes you to complete each task can help you better understand which areas of your schedule require attention. To track how much time you spend doing different things, you can keep a written log or use a time tracking application.
Once you know where you spend your time on a daily basis, you can consider whether any aspects of your routine need to be altered. Setting deadlines for your tasks allows you to more strictly control your time. Having a deadline can sometimes motivate you to complete your tasks more quickly. Set a timer to remind yourself to move on to the next task. If you’ve noticed that you procrastinate at certain times, consider scheduling your day to coincide with those times when you’re less productive in order to maximise that time.
4. Strategically plan your meetings
There are strategies for reducing the amount of time you spend in meetings while still meeting your meeting objectives. You can consider whether the topic requires an in-person meeting or if a virtual or phone conversation can be arranged to save time on the commute.
If a meeting is required, you can cut the time it takes by sending the agenda ahead of time, sticking to 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 contribute in less time, and it may be easier to keep the conversation on track.
5. Establish reasonable performance goals.
Setting achievable, realistic expectations may be beneficial if you have a busy schedule. Trying to complete too many tasks or to complete everything perfectly can lead to delays. When planning your schedule, try to be as honest and realistic about your abilities as possible. Because your capabilities change from day to day, it’s critical to spend some time each morning honestly reflecting on the number of items you can reasonably expect to complete.
6. Delegate or outsource some of your responsibilities.
In some cases, you may be able to find another person to do some or all of your tasks, allowing you to focus on other responsibilities. Depending on your position, you may be able to identify and assign tasks to people who can take on some of your responsibilities.
You can also hire someone to do some of your work for you to free up your time. Hiring an assistant to manage your schedule and check your emails, as well as alert you to the urgent ones and respond to others, is one example.
7. Recognize how much work you can realistically handle.
You may feel pushed to take on more work than you can realistically complete. This could happen if you’re trying to impress new managers or are being considered for a promotion. Taking on more work than you can realistically complete can result in a drop in overall performance, such as missed deadlines and poor work quality.
To avoid this, consult your schedule and consider whether a new task is one that you can complete according to your standards. If you do not believe you can complete the task, be honest about your reasons when declining respectfully. Being picky about the jobs you take on can help you meet all of your deadlines and keep your promises.
8. Maintain a centralized schedule
It may be beneficial to create a single schedule in which you keep track of all of your daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term tasks. You may find it easier to check what you need to get done and whether you have time to take on additional tasks if you keep all of your to-do items in one place. Depending on your preferences, this schedule could be digital or physical. You can further organise the schedule by colour-coding tasks based on their importance, type, or due date.
9. Group projects
By completing related or similar tasks at the same time, you can increase your efficiency and finish your tasks faster. Batching related work can boost efficiency and productivity by making it easier to switch between tasks that require the same type of work. These can include tasks such as responding to emails, outlining lectures, grading assignments, and creating schedules. For example, you could schedule a budget meeting for all departments you supervise on the last Monday of each month.
10. Make use of unavoidable downtime
Throughout the day, there may be times when you have nothing to do but wait for the next task to begin. For example, you could commute by train or have a 10- or 15-minute break between meetings. You could use that time to do things like respond to emails or read brief articles.
Consider making a list of smaller tasks that you can complete during these periods of free time ahead of time. These minor tasks can add up to a significant amount of productive time that you might otherwise waste.
11. Make a daily plan
Some people find that making a daily schedule helps them ensure that they have completed all important tasks each day. You can create your next day’s schedule at the end of your current workday, before going to bed, in the morning while drinking your coffee, or whenever you feel most prepared to think about the next day’s tasks.
There are several strategies you can try when planning your schedule to make the best use of your time. You can schedule your tasks to coincide with the times when you are most productive. Some people, for example, feel most energised in the morning, others after lunch, and still others in the evening. You could prioritise your tasks so that you finish the most difficult or complex items first and the tasks you enjoy the most at the end of the day. Alternatively, you can schedule the most time-consuming task for the start of the day.
12. Stay away from distractions.
When it comes to making the best use of your time, it’s critical to limit and avoid distractions. Your workflow may be disrupted by text or email notifications, or by employees walking into your office. You can avoid being distracted from your current tasks and try to increase your efficiency by turning off your phone, pausing your inbox, wearing headphones to indicate that you are busy, or closing your office door.
13. Take frequent breaks
Although procrastination can be detrimental to your efficiency and productivity, scheduled breaks can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. If you schedule breaks and use them to relax, eat, take care of personal tasks, or think about things other than work, you may find that you have more energy and focus when it is time to return to work. The key is to schedule these breaks and limit their duration to avoid them becoming a procrastination tool.
Got any scheduling tips of your own? Be sure to let us know— for other great workplace insights, including How to ace your interview.