Are you planning your day or is your day planning you?
Our work lives can, at times, be overwhelming. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or recently started your career in the financial aid industry, we all have days where “Mission Impossible” is the theme. Here are a few ideas to get each day off to a good start:
E-mail: Friend or foe?
For those of you who fall into the more “seasoned” category (i.e., been in financial aid since the ice age…), do you ever long for the days where you discussed a work-related issue over the phone (it could even be a personal chat within your office!) and ended the conversation with “Send me a memo so we have it in writing?”
For the most part, those days are long gone. Conducting business on a daily basis is highly dependent upon reading e-mail, replying, reading the reply, replying to the reply….and the cycle continues. Avoid the temptation to give your in-box a quick scan at the start of the day, and avoid getting “in” the in-box without a way to quickly get out. Turn off the alerts that pop up and dings that sound off every time a new e-mail hits your in-box. Set one specific time to deal with all e-mails at once to cut down on the interruptions and increase your productivity. At the very least, block out some time where you will NOT check your e-mail.
Ever spent too much time trying to figure out what to do next rather than just starting with a bang and moving directly from task to task? At the end of each day, create a checklist of tasks for the next day so you can start working first thing in the morning. Consider the “one and done approach” — if you can get something checked off the list, your day is off to a good start.
Organize your day
Review your to-do list for the day (that you made before you left work the day before), and mentally plan your approach so you are able to check all tasks off the list before the end of your day. Determine which tasks take priority and estimate how long each will take to complete complete. You know when you are most productive during the day, so use these times to complete the most important tasks, and proceed from there. Batch similar tasks and establish routines for projects you do over and over. Don’t forget to allow time for interruptions; these can’t be “scheduled,” of course, but you know they will happen, and if you allow leeway in your schedule for the unexpected, you can still get through your checklist in a day.
Don’t be afraid to put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign!
We are all very focused on customer service and want to help our students in the best way we can. Sometimes this means closing our doors to complete that stack of verifications or to slog through the pile of PJs. Is it so bad if students have to make an appointment later in the day to see you? Consider that if you are completing more paperwork and projects more quickly by shutting yourself off from the world for a few hours a day, you might be solving your students’ issues before they arise. The more you immediately answer their calls and e-mails, the less time you are giving yourself to finish what they are contacting you about in the first place (and we KNOW they will continue to call, and call, and call…).
Learn to say no and ask for help
Sometimes it’s impossible to get it all done. We often try to make everyone happy by saying “yes” to projects when we really don’t have time to do them. It’s ok to decline non-essential commitments not directly related to your job. It’s also not a failing to sometimes need assistance. Reach out to members of your team for help; you might be surprised how willing they are to contribute, and how that collaboration can make you a stronger team!
The last step?
Give yourself a break and clear your head. This is the best time to re-assess your to-do list and determine if you will be able to complete the tasks for the day. If you can, congratulations! Keep it up! If not, no need to worry. Finish what you can. Take any uncompleted task, put it at the top of the list for the next day, and start a new list. The old adage that practice makes perfect is true if you can master organizing your day!
Next on your “To-Do” List: These 10 Time Management Tips for the Office http://www.beyondtheofficedoor.com/blog/2015/05/15/next-on-your-to-do-list-these-10-time-management-tips-for-the-office/
Ten applications of time management for the workplace
Work Smarter, Not Harder: 21 Time Management Tips to Hack Productivity
10 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work
How to Be More Efficient at Work
7 Productivity Power Ups for the Financial Aid Office
This Tip of the Month was provided by your RMASFAA Training Committee