Time Management Tips

One of the important and challenging areas of managing any business is to ensure what needs to get done ... 'gets done'! Easier said than done yes?

Having a task list for the day is a great start. This task list should be usually drawn from the major goals and objectives that you need to achieve. These may be the goals for the business, or simply something urgent that needs to be done today.

Here are some great time management tips for you to use to increase your productivity!

Keeping Things in Perspective

It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day day issues or business-as-usual (BAU) as I call it. You come into work with grand plans for achievement of the bigger goals and you start to sift through the papers on your desk or in-tray, or what's on your PC.

All of a sudden you are engrossed in getting things done! But guess what? These BAU items will not drive you towards your own professional (business) or personal goals. After maybe an hour or so of completing these items, you feel like you are getting things done, so you keep going.

Before you know it, its lunchtime or close of business time and all you've done all day is push papers around or surfed the Internet (and handled the odd interruption) looking at websites that have nothing to do with the goals that you wish to achieve.

Not a good example of effective time management! Sound familiar?

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And Think About This ...

Remember we all have 86,400 seconds per day (think of this as money) and you should spend this wisely. Calculate what your time is actually worth in terms of dollars (or whatever your currency is) per hour. Then on those days when you know you should have got more done to achieve/move closer to your goals, calculate the value of that unproductive time. This will put things in perspective for you!

Using the time management tips on this page can help you achieve more, and move you towards a process of focusing on your priorities.

Here's What You Should be Doing!

You MUST take the time to plan your day!

Now think about what is best time to plan your day?

For some people they plan the next day at the end of the previous day, for others its the morning of the work day. This is a great start, have a brain dump and write down all the things you need to do that day. You may end up with 10-15 items to do, any more than that some re-scheduling may be required.

The key is not to keep it all in your head, some people say "I don't need a to do list because I carry it around in my head". These are the people that wake up at 3:00am and cannot sleep because they forgot to do something very important that day! Having a to do list therefore creates peace of mind!

A Simple Process to Follow

  1. When you plan your day, go back over (yesterday or beyond) to check that you do not have any incomplete or missed tasks that need to be done. If so add these to your to do list, do not worry about the order of the to do list at this stage.
  1. Next look at your professional goals, these are the goals (business and career) that are THE most important goals you have! Remember we are only concentrating on these (and not personal goals) to demonstrate this process.

    Looking at these goals, are any of them time-framed with a deadline or due date? If so then this gives you some relevance as to in which order they should be completed. By the way all of of your goals should be time-framed, a goal without a due date is just a dream or a wish!
  1. Now your list should be building, again don't worry to much about the size right now as we can we do some clipping here later.
  1. How much of the day should you plan? Some people over-plan, or even plan every hour of the day! This can only end in frustration particularly if you do this a lot. This all depends on your role, if you are a business owner/manage then most of your time should be spent on the bigger picture.

    Your staff should know what their roles and responsibilities are as a result of the position description that you gave them. This should also be re-visited at performance review time (quarterly/yearly) to make sure the objectives set by you for each of your staff are being achieved (or are in the process of being achieved).

    Regular checks and reviews in these areas should also be a task for you to include periodically in your to do list.
  1. Next you must leave time for business as usual (BAU). This involves handling all the day to day stuff, replies to memos, letters, emails, impromptu meetings, touching base with staff (this is called management by wandering around or MBWA).
  1. Finally add you appointments and slot the time frame required for each. These might be scheduled meetings, customer appointments and some personal appointments (dentist etc).
  1. Now look at your list, and do the following;
  • Insert the appointments by time (as in 6) as these are must do's
     
  • Add any A category tasks that must be done today (monthly report, critical project work etc)
     
  • Add the tasks from yesterday and beyond that were not completed. Tip, if an item (or task) is continually spilling over to the next day, you should question the importance of this item and why it continues to be on the list. Deal with it or ditch it!
     
  • Allocate time now to work on the tasks that will move you closer to achievement of the business goals and objectives that you set at the beginning of the year. This may be 2/3 hours per day or longer. These are also A category tasks.
     

Once you have completed you daily to do this you can then transfer this to whatever diary system you use, paper-based or PC-based (Outlook etc), if you prefer, or you can work directly from your prioritized to do list. Some people prefer to work from a list and have it someplace visible so they can cross-off each completed task.

You will always need to check your diary system so that you can see what is planned and in place already in the future. You will see that some of the time (for tasks and appointments) is already allocated on certain days, so you will need to take this into consideration with your time planning.

When is the best time to plan? As said earlier either and the end of the day for the previous day, or at the start of each day (as in do before your scheduled start time in the morning). And do this in peace and quiet as much as possible, and with all the resources to hand, diary, software open, notes etc.

How much time should it take for you to plan your day? It is up to you, but usually I would think 10-15 minutes is about right, depending on the complexity of the upcoming tasks.

I would suggest that your day is planned/allocated no more than 80%. This then leaves time for BAU or any unexpected crisis. If these do not take too long and you find yourself with more time in the day, then use it wisely and spend more time working on the A category business goals.

Yes there will be days when all this is shot to hell, these things happen, particularly if you are in the service industry! When this happens, roll with the punches, do what is required to fix the problem at hand and apply these principles at the next available opportunity.

Even if you only apply these principles for 50% of the time in your week, at least you will be inching towards achieving what you want to achieve. You will also have a continual focus on what is important, and less important, in the grand scheme of time management. Just get back in the saddle and re-write the steps I have outlined here. Yes it is a discipline, however if you are committed to achieve then this should be your mission!


Also remember when you are at your best, are you a morning or an afternoon person? Plan your important tasks to be done when you perform best during the day for effective time management!

Circadian rhythms are an interesting way to view when you typically perform best in a day. Have some fun and check out your own circadian rhythm here.

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Remember if You Want Something to Happen Make a Space for it!


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