Why You Shouldn’t Be Too Busy At Your Job

Sometimes getting more done means letting go of things we don’t value, or want that are interfering with our job performance and happiness. Sometimes going off schedule can be beneficial and may allow us to learn another skill, or to be inspired by the world beyond the office.

If I have to choose between not having enough time at work to do the things I love or not having enough free time at work to do things my friends or coworkers don’t value, I’m willing to choose. For some of us, taking on a job we don’t love may be an unavoidable necessity in our working lives, and we should be willing to change jobs if this is what we have to do. For others, taking a break from work may be something we’re capable of doing, but can’t do as required. To find a middle ground between these extremes, we can use time management to make sure that we can get everything we need in the time we have available.

Some examples of the types of time management practices we can do to improve our productivity at work include:

Time-boxing: Setting aside blocks of time every day or week to devote to work that’s especially good for us or especially helpful to us. It might take 5 hours every morning to spend 15 minutes at the typewriter, 30 minutes doing research, 20 minutes writing an email, 30 minutes going through task lists or lists of people we need to follow up with, 5 minutes reviewing our calendar or calendar events so we know exactly what we should do in each particular month, 4 hours a day going through projects we have and looking for the most important pieces of work, 5 hours making or checking our lists, reviewing them again, or starting, or finishing up, any new projects on our calendar, etc. This would keep us in our task boxes every day.

Time-boxing and prioritizing: For this sort of time-boxing to apply to your work time, you’ll need to make sure you set specific “priority levels” in your day—what type of work you need to be doing, in which specific order, and how you should make every part of the day count. For example, I usually get the most important things done first in the morning. In the afternoon, when I feel the most energized and am most likely to succeed at my work, I typically prioritize these tasks. In the evening, when I feel most relaxed and am most likely to be effective at my work, I generally prioritize other tasks. Even in the evenings, these priorities would need to be adjusted and you’d have to evaluate each one and adjust it along with your overall process so you didn’t slip into a mindless cycle of “go home and relax, get something done, come back, go to sleep, wake up, get something done.” 

Time-boxing and dividing our day into sections: Some people do this by dividing their day into four parts or blocks of time. This works especially well for those of us who tend to work best in small groups or small teams, and especially well for those of us who like to work in groups, for example. For example, if you work in a team of five people, it would probably make sense to divide your day into four blocks, each of which could be divided into three sections. You might work in a 10-person team, a 5-person team, a 2-person team, and just do whatever works for you. You’d spend a block working on team project work in the morning, then another block working on individual projects, a third block doing meetings or phone calls or meetings, another block doing group training or task management, and the final block doing meetings or phone calls, meetings, phone calls.

Do as much of your daily work as you can “cold” (without interruption, like a phone call, or having distractions, like a meeting, or a presentation, such as your weekly review, etc.): When it comes to doing our everyday, mundane work, having it come to us without being interrupted is critical.