It seems that everything in life is reduced to Time – or a lack of it! Do you always feel like you are under pressure to get things done? Time is that precious resource that you can never get enough of. Because Time is so valuable, you have to find ways to manage it effectively and make the most of the 24 hours we are “allocated” daily.
Time management is an age-old problem and procrastination the enemy of all who try to manage their time. It is so easy to fall into the procrastination trap – once in it, everything gets distorted and even the best laid plans begin to crumble! But don’t worry, here are ten tips to help you on your way to becoming a better time manager. If you apply even a few of these tips, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your use of time and that will inevitably result in you becoming more effective and efficient.
1. Planning – Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. We’ve all heard it and it’s true for the most part. It is vitally important that you prepare a task list which contains everything you need to do on that day, if not you’ll spend half of your day deciding what to do. Take 15 minutes every morning (before starting any other task) and review your Task list from the previous day. Check it thoroughly and include any last minute changes which need to be made. In order to be able to plan effectively, it is imperative that you use some form of planning tool or agenda to ensure that all your tasks and activities are written down in one place which is accessable at all time. There are many software packages available which can help you structure your planning (please see the end of the article for a recommended resource), alternatively you can use a regular paper agenda – I personally like to use the Franklin Covey planner as it is easy to use and provides everything I need to manage my time more effectively.
2. One by One – Make sure you carry out your tasks one by one. The worst thing you can do is start a task then move on to another without having completed the initial one. This is a mistake a lot of people make and it is a killer! I am guilty if doing this in occasions and all it does is completely mess up your well thought out Task list. Carrying out each task requires high levels of concentration and everytime you switch to another task you have to start from the beginning and focus your attention on that new task. So make sure you finish a task before moving on to the next – keep in mind that the feeling of accomplishment which you get when you complete each task serves as a stimulant to move on to the next objetive on the list!
3. Use only one Calendar – Some people like to have two agendas or planners – one for business and one for personal matters – some have an electronic planner and a paper planner. This ultimately leads to inefficiencies as it becomes impossible to keep both calendars updated. Write everything in one place and you will not have to worry about anything else – if it’s not in your daily task list, it simply does not exist!
4. Group similar tasks together – It is good practice to try and group tasks which are similar in to specific blocks or groups. For example, if you need to make a series of phone calls, asign a time to make all the calls. If you need to have meetings with different departments within your company, try to fit them in on a specific day of the week. One of the biggest time killers is email. Assign a time of day – for example first thing in the morning and before you leave in the afternoon – and use this time to write or respond to emails. It is hard to discipline yourself to do this as incoming emails are a great distraction, especially if your PC is reminding you of the fact every 2 minutes! However, if you follow this advice, you will see a tremendous improvement.
5. Commit to Planning every Day – For any of these Time Management strategies to work, you need to make sure that you plan your tasks on a daily basis. Take half an hour every evening or in the morning and dedicate that time to planning your tasks and appointments. The advantages of working this way are obvious as your calender will be completely up to date and you will be able to concentrate on issues which are most important to you.
6. Divide and Conquer! – Program your tasks and activities in reverse order. Start with your Long Term objectives and goals then move onto medium term and finally short term. For example, if you have a long term project such as “Build a New Website”, rather than writing this down as a task, you would break it down in to shorter action steps – look for a designer, prepare an outline of the content, etc. – which you would work through to achieve the ultimate goal of a New website.
7. Don’t Procrastinate – We’ve mentioned it before but it is important that we don’t waste time by putting off tasks . Start off your day with the most difficult and dreaded task on the list. The sooner this task gets completed, the sooner you can move on to the rest of the list – just remember that once you complete the “dreaded” task, your self esteem will be higher, and you will literaly be “pumped up”for the rest of the day!
8. Try and identify your top producing moment of the day – It is impossible to have the same levels of energy throughout the day. Some people work better first thing in the morning, others after lunch and others last thing in the afternoon. Identify the moment of the day that you are most alert and productive and use this time to tackle the most important and compromising tasks on your list.
9. Learn to say no! – This is vital. Don’t you find it difficult to say no to someone who asks you for a favour, or comes in to your office for a chat? I know I do. However, this is one of the worst offenders for killing your time. You need to be strong and learn to turn people away when you are too busy to deal with them. You don’t have to be rude or abrupt but you do have to be firm explaining that you would be happy to meet with them at a later time – Make a note of it in your calendar!
10. Make Time for yourself – Another useful tip is to assign a time of the day for yourself. Go and take a short walk and stretch your legs or just spend a few minutes reading a book or the newspaper. It doesn’t have to be long, just enough to re-energise and then continue with your day. I used to work for a guy who used to take 15 minutes each day to take a “cat nap”. He would go into the conference room and put his feet up and literaly take a 15 minute nap – he swore by this and assured that it energised him for the remainder of the day – I can vouch that it worked!!
So there you have it, a list of 10 tips to help you manage your time. You don’t have to apply all of them but obviously the more you put in to practice, the better your efficiency and ultimately the better your results. Just remember that in a business, time is literaly money and if you can learn to manage it properly you can make significant savings that will have a positive effect on the bottom line.
If you would like some more information on Time Management I highly recommend the 3 resources you can find at the following link http://tinyurl.com/owdgda
You’ll find two e-books packed with information on Time Management and Procrastination as well as a fantastic piece
of software that can really make the difference when it comesto organising your time and your life. You can try it free
for 30 days!