Make the Most of Your Workday

Bob Larson, CPC
Bob Larson, CPC

Organize to Make Most of Workday

If you find yourself logging long hours in an effort to get ahead, it might be time to consider organizing your day more strategically, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. By doing so, you may be able to further your career without sacrificing your personal life.

“You have a finite amount of energy and talent, and you need to protect it,” said Karlin Sloan, chief executive of Karlin Sloan & Co., a global leadership-development firm in Chicago, and the author of the book, “Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring and Fulfilled Leadership.” She added: “The goal is to be able to sustain a career throughout your life.”

For starters, to get the most out of your workday, figure out when you work best. Many professionals are more productive at certain times of the day than others, said Dee Soder, founder and managing partner of CEO Perspective Group, a New York executive-coaching firm. Tackle challenging tasks during those hours and leave the easy ones for when you have less energy, she explained.

Jason Chupick, for example, said he is “not a morning person,” so he avoids scheduling important meetings or client calls before 9:30 a.m. Chupick, a vice president at public-relations firm Bliss, Gouverneur & Associates Inc. in New York, told the newspaper that when he is fully alert, he is less prone to make mistakes that need correcting later.

If you are an early morning person, though, and leaving work early isn’t an option, handle tasks that require little mental energy late in the day, when you aren’t 100 percent. For example, you might prioritize your to-do list or tidy up your office, suggested Sloan.

Among other strategies recommended by career counselors are setting deadlines on all projects, controlling your work environment, and deciding what tasks are most essential, the article pointed out.

Concerning deadlines, Jo Bennett, a partner at executive search firm Battalia Winston International in New York, said she gives herself a time limit to complete assignments even if they aren’t due by a certain date. “Then I tell people I will deliver something, and that forces me to work to the deadline,” she explained. “It’s better to get things done while they’re fresh in my mind. If you wait a week, you’re going to forget a lot.”

Then there are the distractions that workers have to deal with in their work environment. In fact, the average full-time knowledge worker loses about two hours a day to office distractions, such as pop-ins from colleagues, according to a 2005 survey from research firm Basex Inc. If possible, to avert such interruptions, consider devoting regular times during the day for colleagues to stop by with questions or concerns. That strategy encourages visitors only during those times, unless their needs are urgent, the article noted.

If your job allows you to, you can also select certain times during the day to check all your messages at once. Paula Balzer, a founding partner at New York marketing-services firm MKTG partners, said she disciplines herself to ignore emails and calls while working on projects. “If you get distracted all the time, then it’s hard to get anything accomplished,” she told The Wall Street Journal.

Identifying low-value and inefficient tasks that you can remove from your plate is also key, according to Marcee Harris, a senior associate in advisory services in San Francisco for Catalyst, a nonprofit based in New York that researches women’s career issues. “We recommend that employees partner with their managers to ask the question of what is taking away from their work effectiveness,” she said.

For example, maybe you are writing memos that colleagues don’t need, or you can combine several reports, Harris told the newspaper. “There may be relics of work that used to make sense but no longer do” she said. The effort will demonstrate that you are taking the initiative to streamline your workload.

And while there are risks that come with multitasking, mobile communications can indeed turn downtime into productive time. Recruiter Erika Weinstein said she sends about 10 to 15 emails during her 30-minute subway ride to and from work. “It’s taking time that’s normally nonproductive and making it productive,” she added