How do you understand ‘time management’? We see it as being able not just to allocate the right amount of time to a variety of tasks but also be less stressed out and more productive as a result.
Some people seem very busy all the time. They are always complaining that they can’t even take a breather at work, and their working hours are very intense because of how much work they are getting done. Quite often, these are the red flags pointing to the fact that such people are poor time managers. Busy doesn’t necessarily equals productive.
Allocating time right is highly important for technical writers, of course. It is easy to get lost among product releases and all kinds of meetings, calls, and emails. There is a common opinion that tech writers don’t actually write that much nowadays, cornered by daily routine.
If you feel like you are missing out at work, overwhelmed by tasks, or by doing seemingly important stuff that feels like procrastinating in the end, keep reading.
Become a Time-Management Ninja
Without planning ahead, no good time management can ever happen. To plan better, try out the classical approach dividing things into:
- Urgent and important — these would be your top priority tasks, obviously.
- Important but not urgent — focus on this group. This will, most likely, be the largest group of your tasks. Since they are not urgent, they can be postponed, but never forgotten — because sooner or later they will become both important and urgent.
- Urgent but not important — try delegating these kinds of tasks, if possible
- Not urgent and not important — plan these for when you have free time. You might even write some of those off your list eventually.
Although this approach by Stephen Covey from his ‘First Things First’ book is decades old, it doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Sometimes, reinventing the wheel is just not worth it.
Get Distracted on Purpose, not Randomly
This is a great way to drop stress levels — include short breaks every couple of hours in your plan. You see, if you work without a break, you will burn out anyway, and your mind will start wandering off to the least productive things uncontrollably. If you try to tame it, this can make you feel really frustrated.
So, decide to take these 10-minute breaks and don’t feel guilty about them. Especially when you are dealing with big monotonous tasks and you have to focus on the same activity type for long. For example, doing research can be really draining in technical writing.
Write Things Down
This one is connected with plan making. Never let your plans just hang in your consciousness cluttering your mind. Always write plans down. For someone who writes user manuals, this should not be a problem.
The first advantage here is that you won’t have to keep it in your head all the time. The second one is — when you have plans for the week written out you can see the bigger picture and check whether these plans are doable at all in the given time frames.
If you struggle with making week-long plans, start small — plan stuff for the next day in the evening and revise it in the morning. Or, at least, make up daily work plans when you come to work.
With practice, this will become easier. You will also notice that you are getting better at estimating the time needed for tasks. Time management is just another skill that requires time to build.
When Time is Running Out
When you can say that you’ve planned and you’ve rested and procrastination is not that severe in your case, but you are still dragging on regarding your technical documentation projects, try approaching this issue from a different angle — start writing reports at the end of your workday, or, even better — use technology to help you.
Look for a simple app that allows you to quickly log different kinds of activities you do, so that, at the end of the week, you could see a graph demonstrating the ratio of all your work types.
Returning to the idea that technical writers don’t write enough these days. Having such statistical data as a proof you can discuss current priorities with your direct manager. As a result, you might be released from some tasks unrelated to help authoring and get a boost in productivity.
Learn to Say ‘No’
Your plans won’t mean much if you let others interfere with them. A lot of people hesitate to say ‘no’ to their colleagues when asked to help. Helping others is awesome, of course, but, please, check your schedule first. It is better to be honest and realistic on the extent of help you can provide at the moment than to blindly agree to help and sacrifice your own tasks or disappoint someone’s expectations.
Try using the tips from this article to work on your time management skills. Implementing them in your work process will help you improve productivity and release stress. If you crave more, we have another article you might like on lifehacks for technical writers.
Feel free to share your own tips on time management in the comment section below!
Good luck with your technical writing!
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