Getting a handle on time management isn’t that complicated once you make up your mind to just do it! There are 24 hours in every day, no more and no less which adds up to 168 hours in every week. Every person has the same amount of time, no more and no less. Every day you wake up and decide how to use your time. Some people are extreme planners, they schedule everything! When to shop, when to exercise, when to eat, when to socialize, and who to spend their time with, they like to know what they are going to do every minute of the day and they get annoyed when others ‘waste’ their time. These people have a hard time with being spontaneous. Other people are at the other extreme, they don’t plan at all, they just let the hours, days and months slip by without noticing what they do with their time. There is no right or wrong way to use your time; after all it’s your time. The challenge arises when you are at work, have certain responsibilities and are expected to accomplish certain tasks. Employers expect you to use your work time (usually 40-50 hours/week) wisely and efficiently. We often hear that today’s workforce is expected to do more with fewer resources. One way to accomplish more with fewer resources is to improve your time management practices. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Tip 1 Establish goals
Establish both short term and long term goals and objectives for your personal and professional life. You can keep personal goals separate from professional goals or combine them, whatever works best for you. When you develop a goal, make sure that it is a SMART goal. Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound.
Tip 2 Identify action items
Establishing goals is a good place to start. When you are sure that your goals are the ones that you want, the next step is to develop action items (things that you will do) to reach your goals. Write down your action items on a daily TO DO list; make sure the list is realistic.
Tip 3 Prioritize your to do list!
This step is critical. There will be items on your list that are high value items and other items that are low value items. By low value, I mean items that are not tied to your goals and objectives. For example, picking up dry cleaning is not a high value item but it might be something that needs to be done. You will also have favorite tasks on your to do list. We tend to do what we like first. Some of the tasks might seem overwhelming so we skip them. Don’t skip them, chunk them!
Tip 4 Chunk big tasks
When a task is enormous, break it down into manageable chunks. When we believe tasks are manageable, we tend to tackle them.For example, if I write Update address book on my to do list, it sounds enormous to me. If I write Update address book (A_C), it becomes more manageable. The next day, I write Update address book (D-G) and so on until the task is complete.
Tip 5 Create a weekly time log
It’s hard to improve your time management habits until you become aware of what your time management habits really are. There are 168 hours in a week, every week. Write down how you spend your hours during a normal week. Make sure you account for sleep time, commuting time, exercise time, TV time, family time, eating time, shopping time, face book time, work time, church/worship time, social time, study time and any other ways that you spend your time. If you can’t do this in one day, track your time for a week and write down all that you do. It’s amazing to see how we really spend our time. Some of us spend way too much time in front of the TV and not enough time exercising!
Tip 6 Identify time wasters
Once you have your weekly time log filled in, go through it and identify your time wasters or time robbers. Do you make trips to the grocery store every day? Do you have a lot of wait time in your day? Waiting to see a doctor, waiting in line, waiting for a child’s music lesson to end, waiting at the airport? You can do a lot with wait time when you plan ahead.
Tip 7 Keep one calendar
I learned a long time ago, that one calendar is the way to go. If you work with others, they can check your calendar for conflicts. If you have family responsibilities to coordinate, they need to go on your one calendar. Every working parent will tell you that if the parent/teacher conference isn’t on their “work” calendar, they will probably forget about it until it is a crisis situation. When you get the school calendar at the beginning of the year, put the important dates on your primary calendar. Also include birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other important personal days.
Tip 8 Set up a tickler file system
A tickler file is system that allows you to send something to yourself in the future for later action. It is a combination of a reminder system and a method of making documents available at a particular date in the future.
Tip 9 Improve your processes
Edward Deming once said,” If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, then you don’t know what you are doing.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. Everything that you do at work is a process, when you improve a process, you make the process more efficient which ultimately saves you and/or others time! Every process has a beginning and an ending with inputs and outputs. The first step to improving a process is to identify the beginning of the process and then write down or map the process. Once you have a process map, you will be able to take a look at the map and identify places for improvement.If you don’t know anything about process improvement, one of your short term professional goals should be to learn!
Tip 10 Organize your space
You will never be able to improve your time management if your work space/home space is a mess. If you spend ten minutes trying to find a stapler, your work space is a mess! Every tool should have a designated place and every person that uses that tool should know where the tool belongs.
Tip 11 Manage distractions
There are so many things that happen at work on a daily basis that can distract us from getting our work done. Customers, co-workers, bosses and birthday celebrations can all be distractions. I’m not suggesting that you avoid your customers or your bosses but you can manage them. When a co-worker asks if you have a minute, tell them yes but just one minute. When a co-worker walks into your office to chat, walk them to the door as you finish the chat.
Tip 12 Minimize email time
People are inundated with emails. Some of the emails are important and timely, most are not. For starters, unsubscribe to lists that you are on. Do you really want an email from Hilton Honors program every day? Next, commit to checking your email inbox three times a day. In the morning before your day begins, before you go to lunch and at the end of the day. If you stop to check email every hour or every time an email arrives, you will never get uninterrupted time to complete your work.
Tip 13 Become a concise communicator
Communication occurs when two people understand each other. When you are delivering information to another person at work, the best approach is to keep it simple and be gone! Elaborate PowerPoint presentations take too long to make and too long to deliver.
Tip 14 Delegate
Delegation is simple and it will save you time. The first step is to identify a person that you can delegate to, next identify the task, and then teach the person how to complete the task, finally follow up with the person and thank them. There are so many reasons that people don’t delegate. Delegation is a powerful tool that every manager, supervisor and parent should be using!
Tip 15 Throw away junk
Is your office inundated with piles of junk mail and boxes full of old files? Is your computer full of old files that you no longer use or want? If yes, it’s time to get rid of the junk! When you touch a piece of paper or open an email make an immediate decision what to do with the paper or message. If it is junk, discard/delete it immediately.
Tip 16 Take care of yourself
There is no one that cares as much about you as you do! When you take care of yourself, you are able to take care of other responsibilities in your life. Your family and your career are two major responsibilities most of us have. Taking care of you includes saying no at times to requests from others. As you know, there are so many hours in the day and you have to learn to spend your time wisely and the way you want to spend your time, not the way others want you to spend your time
Tip 17 Wake up 30 minutes earlier
When you add 30 minutes of awake time to every day, you gain 210 minutes per week. That’s almost 4 hours to do something with. How about adding exercise or more family time to your day? Try it, you just might like it!
Managing your time takes practice, patience and commitment. Eventually you will get the hang of time management, improve your efficiency, and reach your goals! Best wishes for a fabulous 2018!