The FM Professional

Office life hacks: managing your time better and improving organization

David Spence
September 22nd, 2014

Good time management and organization largely depends on being a good planner and effectively using the tools you have. 

You have to recognize the rhythms of your daily work, in addition to knowing and preparing for what’s coming next. Unfortunately, FMs don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly what they’ll be doing next week or even tomorrow. But that hardly means you can’t take steps to manage your time more efficiently. And what about staying organized in other areas, like your email inbox and computer files? Below are some tips on staying organized and planning your time that are simple and effective.

Perform a time audit

Want to use your time more efficiently? Consider doing a time audit. Take a day or two to track how much of your time you spend on each activity. Doing so can help you see whether you can improve on how you divvy up your time. For example, are there meetings that take an hour of your day when you don’t even need to be there? That’s a good thing to know so you can plan for better effectiveness in the future.


Come in early

Interruptions and unexpected issues are part of an FM’s job description. If you find yourself constantly being interrupted when you sit down to work on the budget, consider becoming a temporary early bird.

Being in the office before other people arrive can be an effective way to get things done. Without coworkers calling you, dropping by to chat, or stopping you to talk about the vending machine that’s not working, you can easily knock tasks off of your to-do list. This will also give you more time to devote to unexpected fires that may pop up later in the day.

meeting time

Reduce your meeting time

Here’s an ingenious tip from BOMI International: if you’re scheduled to attend a meeting and you’re not sure why you need to be there, review the agenda. If there’s no agenda to review, ask for more details about what the meeting will cover. It may turn out that you’ll only be needed for part of the meeting. Or, the meeting may be touching on a topic that someone else on your team can address. If you know these things ahead of time, you can plan accordingly and spend more time on things that require more of your attention.

Macro schedule by making a task list

It’s not possible for an FM to perfectly predict every single thing that will be on their to-do list for a single day. But it can still be helpful to write a list, nonetheless—especially if you have many different projects with different deadlines going on at the same time. Each week, try creating a short list with the major tasks that need to be completed each day. Keep another list for ongoing projects, their progress and any important delivery dates you need to be aware of. This doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate—it’s more of a simple way to ensure you know what’s coming down the pipeline. The task list is essentially a macro-schedule.

task list

Micro schedule by blocking your time

When you need to plan time down to the hour, you’ll need to spend a little more time planning and creating a micro-schedule. You can do this by time blocking, which forces you to think realistically about how long it will take you to do something. This helps you take a more practical approach to your work than making an overly ambitious to-do list.

Take a look at your task list for a certain day and estimate how much time it will take you to complete each task. On a sheet of paper, divide your time into 30-minute sections and beside each one, write down how you plan to spend that time. This way, you can charge ahead with your work instead of procrastinating by wondering what you should do first.

Whether you record how you spend your time in one day, or plan your day by the hour, there are several ways you can manage your time more wisely. Whatever you choose, thinking about how you use your time can make you a more efficient and productive facilities manager.

Sort your inbox

When you have one specific email you need to re-read, does searching for it take forever and a day? Cut through the virtual paper trail by using folders or labels to organize the email you’ll know you’ll need long-term. For example, you might need a folder or label to keep messages relating to contractors, work orders, supply inventory, etc. Being able to access these email messages with one click can be much faster and more efficient than using the search function and scrolling through dozens and dozens of messages.

sort inbox

Sort your digital files

It happens to all of us at some point: we create and download lots of PDFs, Word docs and Excel sheets each week. Pretty soon, it’s difficult to see our desktop background, because there are so many files just sitting there. You can prevent this from happening by deleting files on a regular basis. When you have some downtime, take a look at what you have in your downloads and documents folders, as well as your desktop. Clear aggressively and what you can’t delete, consider archiving to keep things streamlined.

cloud storage

Use cloud storage

File cabinets are slowly becoming a thing of the past, as more people are embracing cloud storage to keep their documents in a secure place. DropBox is friendly across all sorts of operating platforms. Google Drive is convenient because it simply requires that you have a Gmail address. Other cloud software highlighted by CNET include Box, “where you can store just about any kind of file,” and Copy, which conveniently divides space between users so each has more room overall. In other words, 30 GB shared between 6 people only takes up 5 GB on each user’s account.

Let’s face it: There will always be some element of chaos in the life of a facilities manager. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an element of order in your work environment. Plus, when you’re organized, you’ll spend more time getting actual work done and less time wasting your day through disorganization.

Photo credits: super-structure, rawpixel, ,energepic