How To Define Your Work To Manage Your Time

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27th May, 2022
Published
23rd Jul, 2016
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How To Define Your Work To Manage Your Time

Does it feel like you don’t have enough time in the day? It’s really hard to manage your time and your responsibilities if you don’t know what it is that you are supposed to be doing, and that’s what we are looking at in this article.

It might seem odd to talk about not knowing what it is you are supposed to be working on, but it happens a lot! You know what your role is, and what your job entails. But day-to-day, the priority list just gets bigger and bigger and it’s hard to find the time to do anything.

Here is a simple, 3-step process to defining your work which will help you claw back time in your day to work on the things that really matter.

1. Define Your Objectives

First, define your objectives. You have two sets of objectives:

• Longer term: these are things like the goals defined as part of your annual objectives setting exercise and are reviewed regularly between yourself and your manager.
• Short term: this is what you need to get done this week, or this month. These should contribute to your longer term goals from your annual plan.

You need to understand both. Some might be tasks. Others might be projects. Some will be 100% related to work, others might be about building your professional skills like working on the attributes to be a great project manager
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Write them all down so you know exactly what your objectives are for the upcoming week, month, quarter and then the year overall. Add a priority and deadlines where you have them.

As a minimum, set out what your objectives are for the coming week or so. This is a really easy way to clear your head and deal with your workload when it feels overwhelming.

2. Define Your Responsibilities

The responsibilities for your role might be on your job description – at least, that’s a good starting point. In reality it’s likely that your responsibilities have changed over time. Your manager may have given you more responsibilities, or you’ve completed a certification program and are now able to take on other tasks.

Your responsibilities are what you are personally responsible for and this is what will inform the task you need to do to get things done. If you manage a team, your responsibilities will include team management and leadership, but not the work of the team itself. While the buck might stop with you, you don’t want to list their day-to-day responsibilities in your priority list otherwise you’ll never get to the end of it.

The more detail you can get to, the better. Break it down into the tasks that you are responsible for in order to achieve your goals. Where you aren’t responsible for something but you are reliant on someone else to do something, make a note that your responsibility is to check that their task has been done.

When you know what falls inside your area of responsibility, you can better prioritize your time accordingly.Create a task list on paper or in a software tool and use it to keep track of what you have to do by when.

3. Define Your Relationships

Finally, work out who you have to spend time with to get things done. Think in terms of individuals and groups. For example, you might have a key relationship with a particular manager who is your internal customer for a piece of work. And you might have a group-style relationship with the Legal team, who are managing a set of negotiations for you. Don’t forget your team as well: the people in your department, project team or close colleagues are definitely people with whom you are going to have to work to achieve your objectives.

Work out who is important to you and why, right now. Then you can think about how you are going to find time to build positive relationships with them to inspire your team.

You’ll want to find time in your busy schedule to meet, talk and work with these people. Anyone who is not part of helping you meet your goals should be a lower priority at the moment. However, having said that it is important to continue to keep your network of professional contacts engaged. You might need them or be working with them again at some point in the future, and you don’t want to drop off their radar totally. Create a balance between focusing on your key relationships that will help you achieve your objectives and making sure that you don’t ignore your existing contacts.

List out your important relationships, why they are important and how you are going to involve them in your objectives going forward. At this point it is helpful to check if they understand how much of a part they play in your objectives: they may not realize that you are relying on their input.

Once you’ve defined what you are supposed to be doing, and who can help you get there, it is a lot easier to prioritize your time. Take the information you’ve written out above and work out what’s important to be spending your time on today, whether that’s tasks or relationship building. Soon you will be on your way to achieving your objectives and feeling more confident about knowing how to define the work that you have on the go at the moment

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Elizabeth Harrin

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Elizabeth Harrin is the author of Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, Social Media for Project Managers and Customer-Centric Project Management. She also writes the award-winning blog, Subscribe to Elizabeth's newsletter for more updates.