Time is just as important as money, but sometimes the schedule is not tracked as closely as the budget. Punctuality and time management are commonly seen as individual initiatives or traits. Staying aware of commitments to others, project deadlines and internal milestones can be especially daunting to young professionals starting off in the engineering field. As I learned to navigate my first few years in engineering, I compiled a few simple tricks that I use on a daily basis to help manage my time.
- Block out time for specific items or tasks
Time management is something you need to take charge of as a young professional. Using your time wisely is the cornerstone of effective time management. Make sure to give yourself alone time to organize, write, review, design, etc. Sometimes, it works best to physically “book” yourself (via calendar) so that your time is considered “spent.” This also brings the habit of forcing you to work on that specific item or task at the noted time.
- Get a planner or universal calendar and put it to good use
Anything can work to plan your work week – sticky notes, to-do lists, calendars, phone calendars and planners all work – if used consistently. These items help you to get your needs and thoughts onto paper as soon as possible. Once on paper, you can worry less knowing that your tasks are clearly written out in front of you. You can begin to see the full scope of your day or week. You might have to practice flexibility as conflicts arise between the arrangements on your list or planner.
There is no need to try and remember all the small things you have to do on a daily basis. Make yourself a list and go from there.
- Say “no” to distractions
You can avoid distractions by wearing headphones, listening to classical music, or wearing earplugs. You need peace and quiet for certain tasks of your workday. While you might be able to perform CAD work in a noisy environment, you may value tranquility when working on a writing assignment, for example. Often, I will take my laptop into a seperate room to work quietly without distractions.
Michael Tocco is a staff engineer in Dewberry’s Long Beach, California, office. He assists with the delivery of planning and design documents as well as technical studies for transportation agencies nationwide. His focus is primarily in rail, where he has successfully supported local clients with their individual visions for transportation and transit expansion. He attended California State University, Long Beach, where he received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He is a certified sustainability professional under the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision program and is working toward his professional engineering license in California. He also organizes the community engagement efforts for the Long Beach office, including donation drives and beach cleanups.
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