If you want to be the best professional possible, making the most of your time is essential. But many people fall into the same old habits, which may not be making them as productive as they think.
Here are six time management secrets to allow you to get the most out of your day:
1. Take regular breaks
Studies have shown that regular breaks are a crucial part of being more productive and having higher levels of concentration.
One formula suggests the key to success is 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break, while the increasingly popular Pomodoro Technique has people dedicate 25 minutes to a single task before taking a five minute break and then repeat. Other research indicates that your body enters psychological fatigue every 90 minutes and so no one should work for longer than this without a rest.
Whether you choose to adopt these structures strictly or more loosely, what's clear is the importance of giving yourself regular breaks. This means taking yourself out of your working environment and allowing your mind to unwind, and absolutely no skipping your lunch breaks.
2. Structure your day well
Structuring your day to complement these short burst-styles of working will help you get the most out of your 9-5. This isn't just because you're being more productive but splitting your day into a number of hour-long segments allows you to focus on one particular task at a time rather than spreading yourself too thinly over multiple jobs.
3. Take control
The process of working intensely and then taking a period to unwind only works if you dedicate the same level of attention to both parts. Working hard for your regimented 25 minutes, 52 minutes or even an hour and then browsing Facebook or checking your emails for a few minutes won't be effective.
To properly rest, you need to take as much control over your downtime as you do the hour-long working slot. Remove yourself from your working environment by taking a walk, going to get a glass of water or doing some stretches.
4. Remove distractions
In order for you to get the most out of your hour slots, you need to remove any distractions that could throw a spanner into your high-productivity state. This means not answering emails, phone calls or taking impromptu meetings during this time to ensure you are allowed to completely concentrate on the task at hand.
If you know people are likely to want to speak to you, set up an open door policy timetable. Putting dedicated slots in your online calendar when you're available for colleagues to come and talk to you or arrange something limits the distractions you'll have during your working periods.
5. Switch off properly
It's important that when your work day finishes, it really does finish. This means not checking your work email, not keeping your phone by you just in case, and not working before or after your dedicated hours. It may seem trivial but these little things all have a big impact on how well rested you feel when you go back to the office, and how connected you'll be to your home life.
6. Get your eight hours
Getting the right amount of sleep for your age is crucial for your overall wellbeing but also for ensuring that you're productive and can concentrate the next day. If you're a poor sleeper, try introducing good habits in the time leading up to when you actually want to go to bed.
These can be anything from unwinding with a book, not having caffeinated drinks after a certain time and banning smartphones, tablets and TVs from the bedroom. These all help your body prepare itself for deep sleep and should ensure you're not disturbed during the night.
In the morning, snoozing your alarm is counterproductive as the extra few minutes of low-quality sleep you get only make you feel more tired in the long run. If getting out of bed is always a struggle, try putting your alarm or whatever you use for an alarm out of reaching distance, meaning you have to get up to turn it off.
You'll also want to ensure that you're fully prepared in the morning. Leaving out your work clothes and having anything else you need ready to go reduces the amount of decisions you have to make and the impact of fatigue.