Ask any professional how their week was, and the usual answer will be ‘busy’. However, ask them what they actually achieved during their hectic working hours and the answer may well be ‘not a great deal’.

Not only is it common to have a seemingly endless to-do list, it often feels impossible to actually get to grips with anything on it because of meetings, travel and the unexpected curve balls that so often intrude on the planned working day.

The good news is that there are plenty of strategies you can employ in order to get into the sweet spot of achieving your objectives and keeping your clients happy.

Track your time

If you frequently have a hectic day but feel like there is little to show for your efforts at the end of it, it’s well worth tracking how much time your various activities are taking you. People are often resistant to researching, installing and using time management software as initially it can seem like yet another drain on your time and resources, but once you get into the habit it’s a fantastic way to identify where your time is going (it may not be where you think!) and from there, take steps to improve productivity.

Most professionals who work in project management will be familiar with the Gantt Chart, where time is allocated against each task and adjusted accordingly as the project progresses. However, in order to effectively plan your time, you need to have a realistic idea of how long a task is likely to take. Free downloadable software such as ManicTime enables you to track every minute of your time. Yes, it takes time to record your activities, but the resulting data will give you a clear picture of where your time is going, enabling you to identify problem areas that require improvement.

Use your time more effectively

Once you can see where your time is being spent it’s your job to work out why and what can be done to improve activity. This could be done by delegating or making small but effective efficiencies such as disabling the email notification on your screen or using a productivity timer such as Focus Keeper in order to concentrate on a task intensely for short period of time before taking a short break to attend to other concerns. Doing this isn’t just crucial for your own productivity, it enables you to give your clients an accurate picture of where your time is going and bill accordingly. For example, if you work in a marketing company on a retainer arrangement with a client, you may find you have been billing accurately for the time it takes to write a press release but have you been factoring in all the conversations, research and emails the process involves? You may well be surprised how all the time adds up.

Take a break

When you’re busy, it’s tempting to work through lunch and stay late in order to get the job done. While sometimes it’s essential to change plans or work extra hours to meet a deadline, consistently doing so in order to try to stay on top of things will only add to your stress and increase the likelihood of  negative consequences such as making mistakes and forgetting things. Try to remember that taking the time to get some fresh air at lunchtime will only improve your overall productivity. Also, although smartphones mean we are always contactable, that does not mean we always need to be available. So next time you see an email pop up on your phone when you’re out of the office, ask yourself, ‘Do I really need to answer this now, or can it wait?’.  Much of the time it can.

Work smarter, not harder

At Incite Consulting, we work with a wide range of businesses on every aspect of their sales and business development processes, including identifying strategies to ensure employees get the most out of their day in order to maximise their contribution to the business.

To find out more about how our fresh, inspirational approach can help your organisation, contact our founder Mark Platt on 07981 804 468 or email mark@incite-consulting.co.uk.