Managing Daily Work: Routine Tasks

Recognizing and understanding how long tasks take to complete is crucial to having a successful work organization system.

Think about the tasks that you do all the time. Checking your email. Calling a supplier. Calling a customer. Filling an order. Grading homework. Patient charts. Each of our jobs have different “routine” tasks. I made huge strides in work organization when I became very realistic about how long it takes for me to do these routine tasks. For example, checking and responding to email takes me much longer than 10 minutes. Part of my job is being responsive to customers and suppliers. Blocking only 10 minutes of my calendar to check email was a recipe for disaster. I was constantly frustrated that I ran out of time and had not read through all of my emails. I have found that people typically underestimate how long tasks take them. How do you know how long to plan for these routine tasks?

One method of finding out how long your routines take you is to use a timer. Track how you spend your days for a whole week. You should get enough data to find out how long it takes to perform your routine tasks. You may also find that you aren’t spending your time on the important things. Doing a time study like this at least once or twice a year is an excellent way to make sure how you spend your time is aligned with your goals and priorities.

Once you have a good understanding of how long routine tasks take, I recommend identifying when during the day you plan to accomplish these tasks. For some people, this could be a simple reminder on their phone. For others, if you keep a time tracker in your bullet journal, you can indicate a time block. Personally, I like to block off time in my Outlook calendar. Since my calendar is changing frequently, this is the best place to make sure that I can actually protect for a task block of required duration. People do this with varying degrees of granularity. Perhaps a task block for a certain subject is the best. Or maybe a general tasks block is good enough.

Hopefully, with this better understanding of how you spend your time and the duration of your routine tasks, you can better organize your day and tackle your to-do list.

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