Learning to Effectively Manage Your Time

Working in communications, especially at a public affairs firm, can make you realize just how few hours in the day there are. When you’re juggling multiple clients with different priorities, needs, and deadlines, it’s important to fulfill all your responsibilities—without burning yourself out. One surefire way to do that is by strengthening (and utilizing) your time management skills.

Whether you’re looking to build or improve this skill, here are some tips to become better at time management:

Keep a list

While it may not work for everyone, keeping a list has been a huge help for me to visualize what needs to be done, which helps me structure my day and prepare for any unforeseen, last minute projects that may pop up. Better yet, by making a to-do list at the end of every day, you’ll come into work the next morning knowing what’s on your plate without having to worry about forgetting any unfinished task from the day before.

If using pen and paper isn’t your thing, there are tons of apps that can keep a digital to-do list for you, remind you of deadlines, and ensure you’re organized. (My favorite is Basecamp.)

Utilize your calendar

Your calendar doesn’t just have to be filled with meetings and conference calls. Be sure to include important dates and deadlines—and set reminders for yourself so you don’t forget about something that may feel far off. I’ll sometimes include reminders to send out emails or check in with a coworker about a task. Many of my colleagues even block time off on their calendars to work on a particular project so others cannot schedule meetings over that time.

Discuss priorities with managers

If you’re struggling to accomplish everything on your to-do list, or if you can’t figure out where to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to your manager(s) to find out what you should prioritize and see if there are any tasks with more flexible deadlines. This will help you build out your day (or even week) so you can head into the weekend with a checked off to-do list.

When working with multiple managers, like I do, it’s also helpful to let them know when one client is particularly busy, so we can manage work effectively as a team without letting anything fall through the cracks.

Understand how you work best

Perhaps more importantly, learning how you work best can go a long way to helping you manage your time. There are plenty of tests out there, like Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and 16 Personalities, that can shed light on how you approach situations, what your working style is, and where your weaknesses lie. Once you understand areas where you struggle—such as maybe working towards a long-term goal or getting a last-minute project with a quick turnaround time—you can search for solutions to make you a more effective worker who adapts to any situation.

In addition to these tips, monitor your daily activities to see where your time goes and if there are any ways to streamline your tasks each day. Time management is important in work, but also in your personal life, to keep a balance that doesn’t burn you out.