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Time Management

No matter how rich or how poor we are – no one can buy time. Use your time wisely.

Time Management | Why it is important…

One thing about Time is that it is finite and it expires. Once a day (or smaller still an hour) has gone past you can never get that time back. So utilising time to its full effect is a valuable asset and it comes as no surprises that the noun time is the most used noun in the English language. Furthermore, no matter what our social status is; rich or poor; successful or not; one thing we all have in common is we can’t buy time. There are only 24 hours in everyday – it is what we do with our time that sets us apart.

Anecdote

In a previous role I was amazed at how a Management Consultant was able at will to overrun meetings – with senior people. They had no concern other than their own objectives. This time stealing extended out of these top level meetings to the Operational teams they were ‘Supporting’ and even within our own consultancy practice. This made him able to successfully meet his objectives but at the significant expense of others. When I look back though, it was his confidence that made those whom he worked with de-value their time in favour of his, and the real issue wasn’t him but those whole allowed this behaviour at will.

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Time Management | Key Actions

  • Your Time is Precious – One of the first things we need to understand is that our time is precious and if we do not respect our time then we can’t expect anyone else to. As a consequence we will be prone to time bandits (people who steal our time for their own effect).
  • Plan Your Time – We need to plan out how we spend our time. Failure to-do so will allow others to command where we spend our time and we will not prioritise the most important activities. Have you ever had someone say “I can see a 2 hour-slot in your diary so I placed XYZ meeting in!”
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To-do lists have limitations – there we said it… . We love a to-do list and those neat stationary pads which allow us to record the items that we need to do.  But adding an item to a to-do list can sometimes do the opposite of what it is intended for. Instead of feeling good that the item has been completed it hangs around our neck as a veil of guilt for not being completed. But why is that? After all we have recorded it as a must do item? We’ll that’s because we recorded the actions but set aside no time for its completion and allowed others to fill our day – so it remains on our to-do list or we complete at the end of a full day. To-do lists are not bad but failure to schedule time to complete tasks is!
  • Use Your Calendar – Following on from the above, Use your calendar. There are many great things we can now do with calendars whether using Outlook or other software.
    1. Firstly, a calendar allows us to schedule and set aside time for actions – this helps in several ways:
      1. It ensures we prioritise the actions that we need to complete
      2. Others can see that we are preoccupied and less likely to steal our time
      3. It allows us to say no or better negotiate time to complete. Often we like to say yes to new tasks or actions – this makes saying yes harder than saying no as each new activity we take on we have to either de-prioritise another action or eliminate an action from our to-do list
    2. Secondly, we can set tasks directly within our calendar , which helps in the following ways;
      1. Provide a prompt for completion against an allocated time slot – this focuses the mind and prevents procrastination on items
      2. It allows us to tick items off our to-do list and the gratification we feel from seeing these items completed
      3. We have a record of completed items when it comes to our monthly 1-2-1’s and our year end performance reviews
    3. Thirdly, we can utilise the software to understand where we use our time. Visual management is great for a quick glance of how things are performing:
      1. Within Outlook we can use colour coding to assign activities and types of activities. This can be used in multiple ways and does not need to be restricted to work activities. For instance we can see at a glance if we are spending enough time exercising, with our family, on personal development development etc
      2. Then let’s say we are managing multiple projects we can now easily see how much time we are spending on each project. Let’s say we are working on 3 projects – colour code project one a colour let’s say Green, project 2 another let’s say Blue and a third project 3 let’s say Red. Now a simple look across the calendar will show where the time is being spent. This allows to quickly see if we are devoting the right amount of time to our projects
    4. Fourthly, all of the above is redundant if we then spend our new found ‘freedom’ on activities that do not matter. So one of the valuable activities is to assess each activity with those that add value and those that don’t.
  • Allocate time to breaks – and recognise when your being unproductive. Being wedded to a laptop 12 hours a day can be productive for no one, and just because you at your desk for 12 hours a day without a break does not make you productive. Sometimes a short walk for 5-15 minutes can clear the brain and help you move on from stagnation. So do not view this time as unproductive think about it as a 5-15 minute walk to power your morning or afternoon.
  • Find out when your most productive – We are all different. Some of us are night owls others are early birds. Knowing yourself will help to plan in those items when your are most on your game. This can be achieved by recording how you feel at certain times of the day within your calendar. Give yourself a score of 1-10 in terms of alertness for each hour of the day and record against the items within your calendar. Over a week or two you will quickly build a picture of your most productive time periods.
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To achieve all the above often requires a shift in mind-set and can be daunting at first. But implementing and being aware of the steps above will help you to respect and thus utilise your time more effectively
  • Email – Emails and messages are a technological time bandit. In recent times we have allowed email communication to drive us rather than utilise the tool for our benefit. I’m not going to prescribe not reading and actioning emails first thing in the morning, as many successful CEO’s proclaim it to be the first task of their day – but I do prescribe to prioritising your day to the tasks you need to accomplish. How often have you gone into work for a day to complete X,Y,Z activity only to leave having your whole day swung off course. This can be prevented by completing you top item(s) before 11 am – and a great way to achieve that is to not review email until after 11 am. Another bonus is others will soon learn your behaviour and not expect an instant response – you are now managing your time bandits as well as others.
    1. Taking this a step further, try checking your email 2 to 3 times per day at set scheduled times. And yes schedule these items into your day, setting aside enough time for items to be actioned.
    2. Then when reviewing your emails follow the 4 ‘D’ steps:
      1. Delete – How many of your emails can just be deleted with no further action? Don’t let these clog you down and appear as unread items in your inbox – nothing is more depressing than seeing a large number of unopened items within your inbox.
      2. Do – Does the action take under two minutes to complete? If so, then complete it there and then. One less item to add to your to do lsit and instant gratification that it is completed. Others will also appreciate this of you.
      3. Delegate – Can or should you delegate this task to someone who works for you, someone within your department or another department all together? If you cannot delegate at all think about how you could rectify this and who you could start to train, or negotiate with to tackle the tasks. This is not about deflecting work activities, effective delegation cannot only free up your time but also ensure you deliver a better quality by getting those who are best placed to complete the action, complete it.
      4. Defer – This is what you have to do but it can’t be done within two minutes. Deferring it assures you schedule the item for completion – so you complete it and prioritise it within your wider schedule.
  • Turn Off Distractions – For example these can be your email pop-ups, social media notifications or news bulletins.
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Tip!

Be particularly brutal when you return from a stint of leave – this actually starts before you go… In a large FTSE 100 organisation that I worked for it was not uncommon for my colleagues and I to receive 200+ emails a day. When on leave for 2 weeks this would result in over 2,000 emails. It simply is not productive to return to that volume. So I gave permission for my staff to place an out of office similar to this “I am currently on annual leave and all emails received during this time will be deleted and not responded to, if your item is urgent please email XXX@XXX.com and for all other items that require my attention please call me on my return between 11-1pm.” as daunting as this was it is remarkable how few phone calls were received on return to work. I guess all those ‘must do’ items found another way to be resolved and this free up my colleagues to focus on value add items from day 1 and not spend the next week just siphoning through non-value added email raising stress levels but not driving the business forward.

Time Management FAQ’S

What is Procrastination?
“I’ll get to it later” is a key phrase of procrastinators. Procrastination is the putting off, of what must be done to later and in many cases later never comes.

The first step for dealing with procrastination is to recognise that you are a procrastinator.

How do I say no when I must prioritise other work?
Saying “no” can be a difficult thing to do. After all we must respect our own time but we want to be people who help and provide flexibility to our organisations.

A simple trick to try when being asked to deliver an item say “I can do that on Wednesday” (or whichever date after your key item must go in).

This response turns the “no” into a positive commitment to deliver. It may not work all the time but it certainly presents in a positive way and helps you to deliver existing commitments.

What are the benefits of effective time management?
There are a range of benefits with effective time management, here are a few of them:

  1. Less stress or worry – the things we need to get done are getting done and we have a plan to deliver
  2. Achieve more – utilising time more effectively means more gets done. More importantly its more of the things that matter which get done
  3. Less mistakes – that’s right make less mistakes. Being organised, less stressed out not working all hours will mean less mistakes are made – which in turn reduces the work burden
  4. Spend time where it matters most – with less time spent on less important items you are now able to spend time where and with whom it really matters
  5. Personal improvement – more time presents more chance to take up new opportunities. There is also the potential that your reputation grows as a doer.

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