The pandemic has forever upended the way people do work

Where is your mind? Is it engrossed in the task at hand?

The pandemic has forever upended the way people do work. While many companies will no doubt recall their employees to their offices at some (still unpredictable) point in the future, others have discovered and embraced the benefits of WFA (working from anywhere), such as easier access to workers with highly specialised skills, less absenteeism, lower overhead costs, and so on. And employees, too, are enjoying this commute-free way of working, with more comfortable and personalised surroundings, less money spent on clothing for and transport to the office, lunches out and snacks, and more control over their time. These, and many other benefits, add up to a healthier bottom line for companies, and employees who are happier and more motivated… potentially a win-win situation.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to making this new paradigm work for both sides of the coin is effective time management. We all know that the internet is rife with distractions of every type, along with our own personal distractions, such as emails and social media. At the end of the workday, it’s easy to wonder where the time has gone, and why so little on the to-do list has been ticked. With the rigidity of the former 9-to-5 schedule gone (and the boss no longer looking over our shoulders), sharpening (or developing for the first time) our time management skills is sure to be beneficial.

When considering how to effectively manage our working time (which, if done well, will go far to ensure that our personal time will remain sacrosanct), it’s helpful to look at our current habits.

Do you fill your agenda with tasks that help others – perhaps requests from colleagues, or offers of assistance from you – instead of focusing on what you need to accomplish? Are you a multi-tasker who spends a lot of time putting out fires, with at least 10 tasks on your agenda, at least two of which you are handing at any given moment? Related to this is the worker who miscalculates how long a task will take, and is forever trying to play catch-up. ? Or perhaps you feel you work better under pressure, so you put your own tasks off until it’s (almost) too late. Are you easily distracted by a colleague’s request, and spend 20 minutes trying to fulfil it, only to lose sight of your own goals? Maybe you’re that over-diligent worker who is unable to finish a task because the outcome is never up to your standards.

Whether you’re a Time Martyr, Firefighter, Underestimator, Procrastinator, Distractor, or Perfectionist, don’t worry; there’s hope for you. You can learn to overcome these time-killing and energy-draining habits that reduce your productivity and increase your stress. By using time management skills you can learn to manage your time so that you can keep your boss happy and keep stress to a minimum.

One of the most useful and well-established time management tools is to set SMART (Specific, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals. Other important ways to manage your time include setting priorities and conscientiously avoiding distractions to getting them done, clarifying objectives, and delegating tasks as needed and appropriate. Don’t pressure yourself to make a quick start. It’s essential to have your tasks and resources defined in order to make clear plan that will take you to your goals (remember the saying, “How is it we never have time to do it right but we always have time to do it over?”). If, however, you’re a slow starter (procrastinator), don’t wait to identify the causes of your procrastination and tackle them; you will be glad you did. Instead of multi-tasking, single-task; you can focus on one task at a time, thereby delivering better quality and end results and reducing stress. Manage your stress with the stress-relieving strategies of your choice (yoga, exercise, walks in nature, meditation, listening to or playing music, etc.) and remember to say “No” when needed. And, lastly and above all, be kind to yourself and to others. No one is perfect, and in this brave new world, we all still have a lot to learn.