How well do you manage your time at work? That is a question I received this week from a reader. Here are some time management tips I hope you will find helpful.
The first thing I would do is read the book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey. I have recommended this book to people who have shared their difficulty with organization, hitting timelines and feeling rushed at the last minute.
Ironically, when I suggest this book to someone, chances are they’ll say they didn’t have time to read it. Getting better in time management means having the discipline to learn the tools that will help.
— Start with the end in mind. That’s my favorite tip in the book. For every task, project, etc., start with the completion date and work backwards. Too often people underestimate how long things will take and overestimate the ease of getting it completed.
One of the areas I see this most is in marketing. Let’s say an announcement of an event was scheduled and at the last minute I would receive a media release with a note that it needed to be approved right away so the timeline would be hit. That meant I needed to turn the release around right away when the marketing department had weeks to complete it. Tip: Build in extra time for the approval.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ season begins soon. Our team and staff has known the exact date of opening day since since last summer. That means the Wahoos have seven months to be ready for opening day and there is no reason that things need to be rushed at the last minute.
— Do not have instant messaging appear on your devices. Whether on your computer, phone or tablet, every time a message appears, the eyes and mind wander. You lose concentration and that means valuable minutes.
- — Have scheduled times to check voice messages. You can even have this message on your phone when you check messages and what to do if it is an emergency. This saves you time and provides a clear expectation for callers. Also, have scheduled time to open e-mail each day. These can be a time in the morning or afternoon.
- — Do all you can to touch something once. Of course there are things that you will flag to respond to later. However, the more often you can handle something as soon as you open an e-mail, the more time you create. Often the immediate reply saves lots of time versus re-opening and responding. This is much easier of you have those scheduled times to hear voicemail messages, to read your email, etc.
— Have your phone take voice messages and turn them into texts. This will save you minutes and helps in prioritization of actions.
— Set some time each day to think, plan and act. Call it what you want, but block time each day that allows you time to choose how best to use it.
- — Cut time from all meetings. We tend to get stuck in scheduling meetings for 30 or 60 minutes. Why? Drop 30 to 20 and reduce 60 to 40 for a start. You will find you will get right to the point and cover same amount of material. Still hold the other minutes in case you do need more time and it provides time for any follow up needed.
— For emails, limit who on the to: line. The more people on the “To” line the more people feel the need to respond and the more cooks in the kitchen. Be clear on who needs to respond and by when. Also, be clear those included on the “CC” line do not need to respond. You will be pleasantly surprised on how much this speeds up along and reduces work for many.
Time is a precious commodity that can never be recaptured. Even a few minutes each day can add up to hours, days, weeks and years.
Try some of the above tips. Then, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org – with all that extra time you discovered – and let me know how it works.