Time Management Tips for Busy Professionals

Time Management Tips for Busy Professionals

Coworking is great because so many diverse professionals and experts gather under one roof! We often invite our member-experts to share their knowledge during our informative Lunch & Learn series so we can all learn from one another. Most recently The FlipSide Plan presented to us on the topic of Time Management. They offered us all sorts of great tips at that session, but perhaps the most useful was their advice on establishing “Opening and Closing Routines.”

contributed by Maria Virginia Anzola

Time, time… we all need more time!

In households with small children, getting ready for school takes a lot of time. (Teenagers might take even longer sometimes!) In afternoons, parents are often like glorified chauffeurs with so many extracurriculars in the mix. Then comes homework support, pet care, cook – eat – clean-up, plus preparation for the next day still needs to happen. Phew.

Even without the responsibilities of family life, the demands of a workday can add up. Whether it’s due to long commutes, endless meetings, or unexpected snafus, rushing about becomes our norm and “I’m swamped” becomes the regular answer to “How are you?”

Planning is Everything

When we wake up without a set morning routine and rush to get to work or scramble to get kids to school, we are very likely to arrive at our desk, open our computer and dive headlong into emails without a plan. This is how our days become chaotic. Similarly, at the end of the workday, when computers are abruptly shut down and today’s problems are left for tomorrow, we have a hard time relaxing in the evening and winding down. Winding down is so very important for our mental health and optimal performance. We want to avoid bringing our work home as much as possible!

Is there a solution? Absolutely.

Magic of an Opening Routine

The first thing we recommend to our clients is to create an “opening routine.” This is not the same as a “morning routine” –– rather it’s a plan created specifically for the start of your workday. Each of us will have specific activities for that routine depending on our jobs and workstyles, but here are some ideas:

  • Start by opening your planner (if you have one) or your computer calendar. Review your to-do list, which should have been written the night before. (More on that later.)
  • Check your emails but don’t reply to any of them.
  • Read emails and identify which need immediate attention and which can wait.
  • Mark those that you won’t address as “unread.” (We love to use this technique to make sure we don’t lose them in our busy inbox.)
  • Check your scheduled meetings, appointments, calls so you can fully visualize your day.

Once all this is done you can get started! It’s a short and sweet routine: 5, 10, or 20 minutes. There’s no magic number. The important part is to block this time in your calendar, so that you’re not required to go into a meeting or a call. This is a morning routine for work purposes – respect the boundary!

Let’s remember that life happens. Having an “opening routine” doesn’t guarantee your day will always go as planned. But having a routine to follow at the beginning of your workday will provide you with clarity on what you can expect from your day. This way, even if things derail at some point, you’ll have a solid plan to return to once the chaos is over.

Closing Routine: Must-Do

The next tool we absolutely depend on for calm and sanity is the “closing routine.” Why is it so important to wellness? Because the unfinished tasks of our workday claim the mind’s attention during the evening, affecting how we rest or sleep. It’s called the “Zeigarnik effect,” named for the early 20th-century psychologist who studied this phenomenon.  

Avoiding the Zeigarnik effect is simple: at some point well before bedtime, take 10 to 20 minutes to set up for the next day. Most importantly, plan (in writing) how and when you will finish your unfinished tasks. 

The closing routine is the perfect time to create a to-do list for the next day(s). It’s also the time to look at what you already have on the schedule and ensure that your list can realistically fit into your agenda. Review your inbox and catch up on any unanswered emails or identify those that will need your attention tomorrow. Get organized so that you can fully leave your office, WFH desk, or coworking space, confident that things will be taken care of in the morning.

Remember, time management is a skill that can be developed and personalized one day at a time.  Being firm but flexible is key. If you are truly interested in making it work, and can commit to consistency, you will start seeing results very soon that will last a lifetime.

ACE Coworking members, Rosana Fernandez and MV Anzola, are the co-founders of The FlipSide Plan. They are credentialed professional coaches known for designing, managing and delivering top-notch corporate wellness workshops and programs on health and productivity. Follow ACE Coworking & The FlipSide Plan on social media to stay up-to-date on our regular co-hosted Lunch & Learn Workshops, which you are welcome to attend!