how do you best manage your working day?

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28 November 2019
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

How to best manage your work day

It’s Monday morning. You’ve decided that from now onwards you’re going to be better at organising your day and start working smarter. You sit down with your notepad and make a list of all the tasks you have to do. And then you prioritise them. So far so good. Then the interruptions start. By mid-morning, you haven’t achieved much on your list and by the end of the day only a few tasks have been tackled. What went wrong?

Don’t despair! This article will show you how to tackle that list you created so that you carry out the tasks you said you’d do and deal with those interruptions.

Let’s look at that list. Is the list the right tool to use? The danger is that you’ll write down the tasks you want to do first and ignore the longer or more urgent task. What you need is some way of separating the tasks into Urgent and Important. Luckily there’s a model you can use called the First Things First Model that you can use.


First things first model


As you can see from the above graphic, instead of a list the page is split into four areas: Urgent/Important, Not Urgent /Important, Urgent/Not Important and Not Urgent/ Not important.

What do these areas actually mean?


This section is for those tasks that need urgent attention – your crises or emergencies go in here. Many people fall into the trap of getting caught up in Q1. By spending all our time here, we become consumed with firefighting every day instead of crisis prevention.

Not Urgent/Important

This is for tasks that are important, but not urgent. Task that don’t require immediate attention go here.

Urgent/Not Important

This is where those interruptions go. Tasks that are not emergencies that suddenly crop up go here.

Not Urgent/Not Important

This area is for tasks that aren’t really going to achieve anything. Internet browsing and time wasting activities go here as well.

By allocating your tasks in this grid system you’ll be better prepared to tackle your tasks in the correct order.

But how do you deal with those interruptions? Here are some tips for managing interruptions:

  • Remove as many external distractions as possible
  • Switch off your browser or limit access to specific periods
  • Avoid having distracting materials on your desk
  • Inhibit distracting thoughts before they take hold
  • Persevere and persist when it gets boring or frustrating
  • Ask yourself: ‘Is this the best use of my time right now?’

And what do you do with the person who comes to your desk and wants you to do a task there and then? Just say no! That can be tough to do and another way of doing this is asking them when they need the task completed by. If they say immediately, ask for a specific date and if that date is not achievable tell them that you can do the task by a date you feel you can do it by. Be realistic. If you’re working to capacity tell them, they might be able to ask someone else to do the task. Don’t automatically take the task on.

One last thing to deal with is procrastination. This normally happens when you have a large task to complete or a task that can be boring. To help avoid putting it off, break the task into sizable chunks.


For more information about this topic, have a look at our related courses

Time and priority management

Developing personal effectiveness


Other useful resources:

Happy Workplace: A Holistic Approach to Achieving Mental Wellbeing

9 Tips For Reducing Stress At Work - Infographic