Stepping into 2016 was refreshing; inspired new ideas, ambitious goals and rejuvenated energy. That is, until I opened my inbox. GEM also has ambitious and exciting plans for 2016, and two weeks away from GEM headquarters can really fill up your To-Do list quickly. By day two into the first workweek back, I felt overwhelmed and scattered. As a project manager, the goal of my role is to be organized; I am managing after all. So where does an organizer turn when they’re feeling disorganized? I opened up the GEM handbook, plugged in Time Hackers podcast, and scoured the Internet. Here are my top five tips to help you manage your time and keep on track for your 2016 goals;

1. Wake Up Earlier

I get up at 5:30 every day—that’s a lie, I get up at 5:46 every day. I get my workout in, drink my smoothie, check my calendar. That wake up time might seem early for some – it did for me for the longest time—but it means I have more hours in my day. As much as you plan your day, the unexpected always happens; you run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while and get chatting for 30 minutes, you have an important email come through that you need to address, your boss/teacher gives you an unexpected assignment, and before you know it, your well planned day gets high jacked by The External. Waking up early allows me to get in what I need to do before the day runs away on me.  

2. Triage Tasks

I write a To-Do list weekly, and daily. I know it may seem a bit redundant, but taking a few minutes to write a list helps me manage my time for the day/week and keeps me focused on tasks. Seeing all my to-do’s written down, also helps me recognize what is most important/pressing. This is the triage part. I prioritize tasks based on immediacy; this may be deadlines, looming meetings, or the most time consuming. When I tackle the most immediate tasks I feel less pressure and stress knowing that I’m hacking them off the list. And does it ever feel good to strike off items on your list!  

3. Put it In your Calendar

I live by my calendar. It is the most used app on my phone and laptop. Without fail, I check my calendar before I go to bed and right when I wake up (nothing’s changed while I’m sleeping, so it may seem strange, but I like to know what’s in store for me that day). I schedule everything; meetings, GEM events, coffee with friends, phone calls to my mom, emails I need to send. I self-deadline. Putting it in my calendar holds me accountable to my intentions and helps those around me keep on time too – don’t tell me you didn’t think I send calendar invites to my friends for coffee dates? 

4. Unplug

Yes! The saving grace most of my days. My inbox runs my world. I’m sure it does for many of you too. This is where all the traffic of my job flows through and how I keep connected to everyone. But, in order to keep on top of all my assignments, sometimes I need to disconnect. I will shut down my email for an hour at a time, just to plough through some work. Not letting email, text messages or social media distract me, means that I keep focused on tasks. This was a lesson I learned in my first role out of university. New to the workforce, I felt I needed to be on top of every email immediately. Responding to every email popping up on my screen, sometimes meant a 30-minute distraction, and by then, my mind had shifted so much from the original task. Being able to unplug throughout the day– while still responding within a reasonable time—enables me to be more efficient and successful.

5. Keep a Clear Mind

The enemy of productivity is anxiety/stress (which leads to procrastination). We’ve been there. I was there just yesterday. You’ve been sitting at your desk all day writing assignment after assignment, sending emails, running to meetings, it 4 o’clock in the afternoon and you realize you haven’t even eaten today! When you’re in this frazzled daze you feel like everything needs to get done now. Well, now, probably isn’t when you’re going to get your best work done. When I’m feeling most overwhelmed I take a break. I go for a walk, grab a coffee, chat with my colleagues or do something mundane from my list (think dusting the office). Allowing myself to just have a minute helps to control the crazys that we feel when we’re overwhelmed. You can’t be on all the time, and it is important to shake the energy, clear your mind, and refocus throughout your day.

This article is written by Cassandra Hammett, Project Manager at Girls E-Mentorship. Cass loves to write, loves to laugh and hates when people don’t have a plan. She keeps GEM running like a well oiled machine and always has a helping hand and a cup of tea for anyone on the team that needs it.