Short and simple. 3 new top tips on time management. If you are looking to improve your work life balance and/or time management, my suggestion is this: read the 3 tips and undertake to try out just one new one each week. Just try it, it may not work for you, but there will be loads more to try in future articles. And I'm only suggesting you try one new one per week. Why? Well, you know that feeling you get when you are so busy, you know what you should be doing, you know there is a better way, but just can't find the time to introduce any new changes into your schedule (change usually means investment of some sort doesn't it, surely time investment is the last thing I can afford right now). Well that feeling is permanent with some of us, we are always too busy to change. So, try just one thing for one week, that's not a huge extra time commitment is it? Here goes, 3 top time management tips:
I) When is your most productive time of the day? Do you know? Are you an early morning person, getting your best work done before the office fills up? Do you work up to a peak by mid morning after you've settled in and got the junk of the way. Or are you a night bird, burning the mid-night oil to produce your best results? If you don't know it will benefit you immensely to find out. You can then exploit your most productive time to the hilt. Plan to do the most demanding tasks when you are at your best. Schedule those important but routine tasks when you are at your worst - the things that can be done on autopilot. I discovered the hard way. I eventually found (to my surprise) that my best time was between 7am and 9am. For a long time I would be sat virtuously at my desk in the office often well before 7am. What did I use the time for? Catch up, clearing backlogs, emails, reviews, answering correspondence. The most boring but the least demanding tasks which could easily be pushed into my own personal graveyard slot. Eventually, I caught on and started to do the most important and urgent stuff at the start of the day. It got to the point almost that if it didn't get done before 9am then there was a massive chance it won't get done at all. I've just introduced this as a homeworker too. I get up at 6am when the house is asleep and do my best work then. I'm no work alcoholic though - I will more than likely reward myself with an hour off in my graveyard slot - late afternoon - a walk, a read, even a nap!.
II)The 80/20 rule - make it work for you. The Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule simply says: 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes. For time management this can be viewed as getting 80% of your results from 20% of your work. But you know this don't you? Think about a typical day and how much time you spend on unproductive jobs, tasks that have nothing to show for them. Of course you do the valuable stuff too but I'll bet there's a good chance that this valuable stuff takes up a much smaller proportion of your time. And the very fact that it is valuable implies that it will probably produce results worth a lot more than the rest of the unproductive stuff put together. Imagine how life would be if you could turn on its head the 80/20 rule and spend 80% of your time on the things that really matter, that bear fruit, that are highly valued by you and your organisation.
The secret? Prioritise! Ask yourself constantly: Why am I doing this? What is the value? Challenge yourself: Am I doing this just because I enjoy it more than something else? Am I doing it because it is easy and I can't face the next big job? Always check out the alternatives: Can this be done bysomeone else? Does this need to be done at all? And remember, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.
III) Say NO! Close cousin to the Pareto principle is the art of simply saying no. I don't just mean saying no to extra assignments, I mean saying no to telephone calls, emails, unscheduled meetings and quite simply interruptions full stop. OK, so you've decided to rotate the Pareto principle, prioritise assertively and spend 80% of your time doing stuff that really makes a difference. But what actually happens is the telephone rings, you answer it and suddenly you've agreed to sort out something that very afternoon (Did you ask yourself is it valuable, delegatable, easy, enjoyable?). And how valuable is it compared with the task you started to do? Same goes for those blinking (literally!) emails. How often do you check them? Every 15 minutes or so? And even if you don't act upon them, you may well feel obliged to answer them or at the very least as you turn back to the job in hand, your head is still buzzing with their distracting aftermath. The art of saying no is a whole workshop in itself, but for now the best tips I can give you are as follows:
- Plan your day to give you some decent chunks of uninterrupted time. Say a number of one-two hour slots
- Switch off the computer and put the phone on voicemail during these precious slots.
- Physically take yourself away from potential interruptions. Shut the door, work in a meeting room, work at home even
- Schedule in some slots for interruption time as part of your daily routine. Catch up on emails and voicemails, take phone calls, operate an open door policy for visitors
- Communicate your new regime. If your colleagues build in discipline to their access to you it might help them in regulating their own regimes
Please try out just one of these time management top tips for the next month let me know how you get on!
Want more? Then try some coaching (time management, work life balance are specialisms of mine). Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Or would you like to try a bespoke time management workshop for yourself or staff. workshops can be run at your place of work. Just email me at email@example.com