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How to Get Better at Time Management and Problem Solving

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How to Get Better at Time Management and Problem Solving

How to Get Better at Time Management and Problem Solving

A post from our Time Management blog

      Written by Ashley Andrews
Two of the most sought after skills in the workplace are time management and problem solving. Time management skills will benefit your productivity and help you meet your targets and deadlines, while having problem solving skills will help you make better decisions when it comes to finding and applying solutions.

Of course, not everyone will have these skills fully developed from the start, but there are ways you can improve them. Making the effort to improve these skills will make you a better employee and help improve your chances of promotion.

How to Get Better at Time Management

Some people might think that time management skills are something you are simply born with: you either have it or you don't. You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the workload and think that you have too much work to do within the given timeframe. However, there are things you can do to improve your time management.

Start Taking Notes

If you are struggling to find areas of improvement when it comes to how you manage your time, you should start by taking note of every single task you do and how much time it takes you to complete them. Be honest with yourself and include any time that has been taken away from the task due to disruptions, including distractions such as going on the internet, stepping away from your desk and taking personal calls.

Most people will be surprised to learn how much of their time is actually wasted, not realising the impact it has on their work. The good thing is that by making this realisation you can help pinpoint the problem areas and start making changes.

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Make Use of Technology

These days there are all sorts of apps and programs to help you get better at time management, so you should take full advantage of them and incorporate them into your work routine. You can use programs that will help you make to-do lists, manage a more efficient work schedule, and create contact lists and much, much more.

People can waste so much time trying to sort through their paperwork to find important documents or information that has become lost in the clutter. It's also easy to forget about tasks and deadlines when there is so much work to do and you are continuously given more to do on top of that.
Sorting Through Paperwork

That is where technology can be a huge help as you can set yourself reminders and organize your workload – apps such as Wunderlist or Asana are great tools for helping you minimise paperwork.

Multitask Where Possible

While some tasks require all of your focus and attention, there are some tasks you can combine with others to make the best use of your time. A lot of people face a long commute into work, and while it may not be safe to multitask while driving, if you take public transport you can always use that time to do other things.

This can include things like checking your emails if you have access to the internet, thinking about what needs to be done in the day ahead or listening to podcasts or audio books that can be of benefit in your job. What's even better is that you'll find your commute goes by much quicker that way.

Look at areas in your life where you waste time on menial tasks that require little concentration and think about how you can make better use of that time by combining these tasks with something else.

Look at the Bigger Picture

Every day you will be faced with new distractions, questions, problems and tasks to do. While some of these may be important and become a high priority on your to-do list, some of them can be delegated to other members of staff or set aside to complete at a future date.

The main thing is not to get too engrossed in every new issue that comes your way and instead try and look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself if this really needs to be dealt with at this precise moment in time or if it's something you can take a look at when you are finished with your current task. You can always set yourself reminders to come back to that at a later stage to avoid forgetting about it all together and that can then help to minimise distractions.

How to Get Better At Problem Solving

Problem Solving

You may not immediately think of yourself as a problem solver, but in truth you will face problems every day in your life. From small things such as what to have for dinner that night, to bigger issues such as how to fix a problem that has come up at work. What you have to remember is that there are always ways to confront problems and come up with solutions. The important thing is not to panic and address the problem head on.

Identify the Root Cause

Some people try to rapidly solve problems by jumping to the quickest fix or simply using solutions that have worked in the past. While this may have worked before, it may not be the most effective way of solving the problem.

Improving your problem solving skills is not just about cutting down the time it takes for you to make a decision to repair the current situation, but it is also about finding a solution which will get you the best result. Rather than just throwing money at the problem or ignoring the root cause, you should take a closer look at what is causing the problem in the first place.

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It could be that the problem has arisen due to an employee's lack of training, using the wrong suppliers, missing out on crucial tasks or a variety of other things. While some problems will be one-time occurrences, others should be nipped in the bud before they come up again.

Work Towards a Solution

Sometimes a problem will crop up and you will be so focused on what caused it that you waste valuable time before actually coming up with a solution. While it is important to take a closer look at what has caused the problem in the first place, you don't want to end up forgetting about working towards a way to fix it.

This is especially true when you are faced with a tight deadline that does not allow you the opportunity to take a deeper look at the source of the problem right away. In these circumstances, it may be better to address the real issues at a later stage and just focus on the solution for the time being.

If you fixate too much on the negative issues surrounding the problem, then it can become much more difficult to think of an appropriate solution and you may even give up altogether. Try and think positively and look at problem solving as a choice; what can I do to solve this? What are my choices?

Consider All the Options

Sometimes you can delay solving a problem by being afraid to speak your mind and offer up solutions. While some ideas may not work, it is worth mentioning anything that comes to mind as this could always spark a more realistic fix. Take some time to brainstorm and think out loud, as this will help to keep the ball rolling until you have reached a positive resolution.

As we stated before, you should not be afraid to consider alternative solutions to dilemmas that have come up in the past. There may be issues that frequently crop up due to problems in the process and this should be addressed immediately to stop reoccurrence.

Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up

Speak Up

If you notice that there's something that could potentially lead to a problem, then don't be afraid to speak up and let others know about it. It could be a backlog of work that needs to be addressed before you start missing deadlines, or mistakes that are being made due to a lack of understanding of the process.

Ideally, you want to find the solution to potential problems before they actually become significant issues. Keep a look out for anything that you think might be going wrong and be quick to point this out. You might be worried about how others will respond, but they will be grateful that a bigger crisis has been averted.

Seek Areas for Continuous Improvement

Everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses, but there are always ways in which you can improve your skills. Don't let your pride get in your way; identify areas of weakness and work towards bettering yourself to help improve the way you work.

If you notice that somebody else is particularly good at time management or problem solving, then take a closer look at what makes them better and what techniques you can use to improve yourself. Don't be afraid to ask questions and learn from each other, you might be able to offer them tips in return in areas where you are particularly strong.

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