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Managing Your Time

Robert Half International

If you're like other accounting and finance managers who oversee multiple people while trying to accomplish your own tasks, you may struggle to get it all done. While managing your time can be a challenge, there are a number of techniques that can help you. Here are a few of them:

Analyze your schedule. It's difficult to take control of your day if you don't know exactly how you're spending it. So instead of relying on recall, write down very briefly what you do on a daily basis for one week and how much time you devote to each task. Upon examining the results, you can find out when you're most productive; how often you sort through e-mails or attend meetings; and in what ways (or by whom) you are most often interrupted or distracted. In addition, you'll learn what takes up most of your day, so you can determine if your time can be better utilized for more important tasks.

Develop a plan. Once you've learned how your typical day or week is spent, you'll know what needs to be changed. The next step is figuring out how, and that begins with implementing a time management plan. For instance, at the end of each day, take time to figure out what you need to do the following day, ranking the tasks by importance and urgency. At week's end, do the same for the next week, noting the particular day that assignments need to be completed. You also should create a plan based on your body clock. So if you know that you slow down toward the end of the day, make sure you tackle your toughest assignments in the morning. And if you need some additional assistance, there are tools such as project-management software programs to electronically track deadlines, "tickler" files that remind you of pending items or a day planner to write down your upcoming tasks.

Take a break. There are many potential distractions at the office, ones that can put your productivity at risk. Technology is one of the big culprits, whether it's a ringing cell phone, the ping of an instant message or a stream of incoming e-mails. If you can, give yourself a break by "unplugging" for an hour or two so you can focus on a particular task or meet a pressing deadline. Other unnecessary interruptions, such as loud coworkers, can make it difficult to concentrate. If you have your own office, don't be afraid to close the door so you can better focus; if you're in a cube, put up a "Please Do Not Disturb" sign conveying the message that something requires your full attention.

Limit multitasking. You shouldn't attempt to prepare a revenue report while talking on the phone and thinking about an upcoming interview you're conducting. When you're working on a crucial project, give it your undivided attention so you can do it right the first time. Multitasking can be tempting when you have a lot to do, but it can actually impede productivity, leading to oversights and errors.       

Help others. If you have time management issues, it's a safe bet you aren't the only one in your office with that problem. Volunteering to help overworked colleagues who are up against a deadline is a great way to build rapport and gain allies who will return the favor in your time of need. And when you're in a similar crunch, don't be afraid to delegate. Instead of seeing divvying up an assignment as a sign of weakness, look at it instead as a more effective way to get your work done.  

Time management is an age-old matter that many managers deal with, but it seems to be more and more of an issue as the workplace becomes more complex. When executives were asked by our company how many days each week, on average, they work through lunch, for example, the mean response was three days. By applying the above suggestions, you can work much more efficiently - and even take lunch on a regular basis.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International Inc., the world's largest specialized financial recruiting service and a leading authority on workplace and management trends. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Learn more at

Copyright 2008 Robert Half International. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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