Chicago — When work piles up it can be tough to stay within your allotted eight hours. Time seems to almost speed up as you race to hit deadlines and to finish presentations before 5 p.m. And a lot of people don’t like to work overtime unless they’re getting paid for it, which isn’t an option at some companies.
That’s why we make the most out of our busy work day. We have to be strategic. Here’s some ways to optimize your time:
Plan, plan, plan
Preparing for a busy day starts with planning. Take an inventory on all the things you need to accomplish and to get done today before your shift ends. Do you have any deadlines? Meetings? Are there any important time slots you need to block out on your calendar to account for these things? Make sure to organize your tasks in the order of importance. If you aren’t too sure what to prioritize, check in with your boss or manager.
Here’s a secret: try to do all these things before your busy day arrives. That way when it does, you’ll have time to arm yourself with the tools and strategies you’ll need to see the workday through.
Identify what motivates you
Someone I interviewed told me that they keep a post-it note behind the wall of their computer to remind them of how they want to lead their team. It helps keep that leadership style on the top of her and motivates her to take actionable steps. If something as simple as a post-it note can help motivate someone to perform high-level management matters, maybe they can help you remember ways to soothe your anxiety as you're buried in what seems like insurmountable tasks. Maybe you need a certain song to remind you and to keep you going. As it plays in the background, maybe you feel stronger and are reminded of your past successes. Maybe you need a photograph of your friends and family on your desk to help you remember what you have to look forward to when your work is done.
In any case, identifying what motivates you as you slog through a busy day, will be another useful way to optimize your time.
Have lunch prepared
If you feel behind on work, it might be tempting to skip lunch so you can play catchup. Don’t do it. Sometimes a good meal can be the thing you need for a clean slate, especially if it’s a meal that excites you and that you normally look forward to. I’m not talking the greasy stuff either - since you’ll find yourself feeling as if you're going to self-destruct after you finish it. The night before your busy day, plan a meal that includes protein, a carb and vegetables - something that not only tastes good but will make you feel good. When the day comes, the meal can give you the energy you need to keep grinding.