Time management has been discussed many times by countless self-management gurus. And yet we need to keep addressing it for two reasons: we need to keep up with the pace of speed and accuracy if we are to survive the New Economy; and second, time management is different for everyone.

Before I got the hang of the 21st century, I was perpetually off-balanced, harassed and ineffective when I first joined the IT workplace some years ago. I was not uneducated in technology, but the demands of my work (each task perceived equally urgent and as important to the other), the confused organizational structure (this was when multi-tasking also meant encroaching and repeating someone else’s responsibilities), and an overwhelming sense of helplessness fried my nerves. But a couple of years of trial and error, accompanied by a stubborn desire to get it right, opened up some interesting insights.

Yes, multi-tasking, accomplishing a results-oriented performance in the most-effective manner and managing time in today’s workplace is possible. You may have read countless books and hundreds of tips that didn’t work out for you. Let me share some discoveries that may fit your working style:

Use technology. Yes you may know how to e-mail, fax, or surf the Internet, but are you maximizing its benefits? These days, working with teams, several employers and going back to school while working are necessary to remain competitive, but might drive people out of their mind. It’s possible with technology.

One hindrance to multi-tasking is falling back into the old habit of doing things the hard way. If you can accomplish stuff without having to leave your computer, do it. Set-up a home office when you can afford it. I know some people who don’t even have computers at home. When emergencies strike or when deadlines pour down like the rain, believe me, the investment is worth it. But don’t let the technology take control of you, either. Use what’s helpful to you, and don’t be pressured into acquiring the latest software versions (except anti-virus programs, which must always be updated) all the time.

Practice risk management. I remember a time when I was always doing something at the last minute, haggling for extensions, and being surrounded by new deadlines. I was always in a crisis, and completing one project for me bore no rest, as the shadow of the next would immediately rise. Today, I realize that even in the workplace, prevention is always better than cramming a cure.

Don’t just blindly accept deadlines. Evaluate, negotiate and set everything in a clean schedule. Stack up on production. If you can accomplish things in advance, sacrifice a weekend or two to create advance work. This will buy you precious time when the need arises.

Know yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses and use this to your advantage. We are surrounded by potential time wasters that must be avoided at all cost. It’s essential that you find out which ones you frequently fall into. Procrastination, using precious work hours for answering phone calls, wading through hundreds of junk e-mail, over-analysing a problem, entertaining colleagues who stop by to chat at your cubicle, extended coffee breaks and tardiness can whittle down your productive hours to the bare minimum. Knowing what your pitfalls are is the first step towards a cure.

Start building correct habits. Initiating the change is difficult at first, but only gets easier as your body begins to adapt to a routine. Prioritize by doing first things first, and tackle trivial details in your extra time.

Need incentive to reach a goal? You can help yourself by developing a Pleasure Wish List (PWL). This will encourage you to get things done as quickly as you can.

Know the job. If you do things right the first time, you save good time by not having to repeat your work. Thus, assess your situation before taking on a major course of action. Gather facts, and know and understand the nature of the problem. You don’t rush off to production mode the moment you get your orders. If someone tells you to create a website, you don’t just whip out a design on a scratch paper. You find out the specs and potential problems that you need to fix

Once you get your answers, draft out a plan of action. Determine time frame, resources, obstacles, ideas and so on. Take this plan and work it out. Transform the static into dynamic reality. Remember that every step of the way, you need to make wise, and quickly executed decisions, to concretise the plan.

Once you have begun production, break tasks into manageable bits, while prioritizing on importance and need. Work consistently and avoid procrastination, using even idle time to your advantage. You’d be surprised at what you’ll accomplish once you’re done.

Learn to relax.¬†Finally, learn to rest. Don’t get the wrong impression that to be able to wrestle with time you need to labor every single working hour of the day. Wrong! One of the best ways to getting quality work effectively is getting sufficient rest. Studies show that people who cram or who are constantly in a state of stress lose their effectiveness in work. You need fresh eyes and a clear mind to be able to get a solid grip in your job. Work on the hours you have designated for yourself, and leave playtime and recreation undefiled. You’ll be amazed how keeping adequate rest time for yourself can do wonders for you.

By Lolita Villa