Being able to effectively manage your time is a skill that anyone in business must master if they are to be efficient in everyday operations. Often time management is a skill that eludes us and everyone can recall using and hearing the old excuse of not having had enough time. With some basic tips, it can become easier to make time available to do the things you know need to get done and to be more effective in what you choose to do with the time available.
It’s true to say that for most people, there is never enough time, especially at work, but equally at home. Time management is as applicable to home life as it is work. Recognising that you are unlikely to be able to complete everything that you want to do in the time available is an important first step in being able to effectively manage your own time. This recognition is important and, combined with a few sensible tips, will help you feel more confident about managing your time, making small changes and regaining some form of control over your own schedule and diary.
Divide up your day.
Examine the types of activity that you find yourself doing everyday, whether it’s checking e-mails, following sales leads or even just washing clothes. Allocate a time slot to each and stick to it. Making sure that each slot is started and finished on time will help you address multiple subjects during your day, keeping you active in several areas rather than being bogged down in a single monotonous task. If there are different subjects that you deal with, break the whole day into larger chunks and divide those chunks into time slots. Try and group similar activities together so you don’t have to make big changes in the way you work or the way you might be set up, every few hours.
Make a planning slot.
Allocate one of your slots each day to planning your own workload. Many find that a slot at the very start of the day to plan ahead works best, but equally a slot at the end of the day to plan the next works just as well.
Use a To Do list.
Using a list is much more about making sure that the non-work things don’t blindside you right when you need to get started on an important task. By being methodical in the tasks that you need to do, both work and non-work related, you will find you can clear them a lot more quickly and, if things are written down, you can avoid the nasty surprises that relying on your memory can sometimes leave you with. Use the list every day. As new tasks arise, add them to the list and remember to cross off the things you complete. Just seeing a list with lots of items crossed out can be motivating. Each completed item is an indication of progress, showing you that you are actually getting somewhere.
Understand your own productivity and work with it.
Knowing what times of the day are your most productive is important in helping you understand what work should be done when and at what times of the day you’re more likely to be able to concentrate on it. Schedule work that requires concentration for a point in the day when you know you are either able to concentrate better in terms of having the least distractions, or when you know you are less tired and able to give the task your full attention.
Ignore flights of fancy and focus on your list.
Make sure that there is a definite need and benefit to whatever task you have chosen to take on. Without this you may only be adding to your own unproductive time. Address the important stuff. It’s very easy to find something that’s more interesting than the task you need to get done but will that actually get you anywhere?. If you avoid being sidetracked from your plan, you will be more effective and eventually will have more time to do the things you want to do without feeling guilty about it.
Understand the difference between urgent and important work.
There is always a temptation to regard every task that’s needed quickly as important, simply because it’s urgent. By making a clear distinction between urgent and important, you will be able to concentrate on important work without being blinded by the constant niggle of urgent work. You will start to see that some of the urgent stuff may not be just as important as you first thought. Ruthlessly prioritise the things you need to do. Remember the time slots you allocated? Prioritisation and differentiation between important and urgent will ensure you make full use of those slots for productive work. Some things will be important and urgent at the same time and these will obviously be at the top of your list making it clear what needs to be done first.
Not everyone has the ability to delegate, but when you do, you should. Delegation allows you to focus on a few tasks being done properly rather than lots of tasks being half done. Sometimes delegation can be about just getting some assistance with the mundane or everyday tasks to make time for you to address your important ones.
It’s all too easy to be blinded by the urgency and amount of work you have in front of you. By structuring the way you approach the things you need to do and using some of these common sense tips, you can ease the sense of overload without actually reducing your output.