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How To Find Time: The Guide to Awesome Time Management

European Day of Languages 2019

The challenge of time management. I had a clear out at home this weekend, and got to Sunday evening feeling a) virtuous, b) lighter, and c) covered in dust. Now if I had kept up with all the de-cluttering as I went along, I might have been able to spend the weekend a) outside, b) with friends, and c) not covered in dust.

Just like Hermione in Harry Potter, Tim Lake and his dad in About Time, and a whole host of other movies about time travel, here’s your own guide to finding time.

Balance

Do you spend a lot of time looking for things?

If not for you, then your partner, offspring, parents…Productivity research tells us that the average person spends about 10% of the day looking for things. If that were so, you could gain 5 weeks a year just by getting your retrieval methods under control! Then you can work on other people’s retrieval methods – imagine how much time will suddenly magically appear.

Sometimes you just need to handle the little things that reduce concentration and cause anxiety, like the clutter on your desk and the incomplete jobs.

If we could accept the fact that each day is not going to be perfectly balanced, we’d probably be a lot more content with our work.

Organize Your Time

If you are receiving tasks and assignments by e-mail, or your boss delegates assignments to you, make sure you organize these incoming items immediately. If something will take more than 30 minutes to complete, schedule it in your calendar and prioritize the items there.

There is no excuse these days not to organize your inbox, with great tools for filtering etc… Let’s face it, if all those delicious email blast with great titles such as “How to Generate More Revenue At No Extra Cost” come into the same place as the “We need to sort out this customer complaint” sort of email, there’s no way you are not going to get distracted. Sorting out that customer complaint could even generate more revenue at no extra cost, so time to FOCUS!!

Workload Analysis

  • Begin by listing projects down one side.
  • Across the top of the sheet, mark off the next four months and make a column for each week.
  • For each project, put an X at its promised date of delivery.
  • Enter the hours per week that you think each project will require of your time.
  • Add an additional row for your routine workload (answering the telephone, answering questions, going to unplanned meetings, etc.). Typically 10 hours per week is sufficient.
  • Across the bottom, total up your workload in hours per week.

Let Things Go

There is a rule we often follow at home that says if you have not used an item of clothing or kitchen gadget for a year, get rid of it. Besides creating more living space in your home, all that “stuff” can be used by people who need or will really appreciate them.

We need to apply the same thing to work: when you no longer need things, get rid of them.

If you are going through a stack of paper or items, start out with three piles, and act on them quickly. Sort them into piles to: shred, store, or dump in the garbage. Again, pass on things that are no longer useful for you to colleagues who will find them useful, as a great way to pass on knowledge and skills. The “motivational book” that you read years ago now sitting on your desk as a glorified paperweight or proof of your commitment? Well, just like in Toy Story, that book is crying inside, “Someone read me!” Pass it on to someone who you know will read and be motivated the way you were.

1. Am I going to need to refer to this later?

YES: File it

NO: Recycle it

2. Do I have a digital copy that will suffice?

YES: Recycle it

NO: File it

3. Is it directly related to me or will someone else have a copy that I can refer to?

YES: Recycle it

NO: File it

4. Do I need to keep this for legal reasons?

YES: File it

NO: Recycle it

5. Does it fit in my filing system?

YES: File it

NO: Recycle it

6. If I file it, will I be able to find it?

YES: File it

NO: Recycle it

Delegate your time

delegate.jpg

Don’t waste your time doing things that somebody else can do, especially if they can do them better than you. Save your time for those things that you are uniquely qualified to do. In addition to easing up your workload, delegation helps your staff to learn new things.

It’s human nature to want to spend a day every now and then hanging out doing something we can do standing on our heads, especially after a full-on weekend. However, unless, you want to be a clown or an acrobat, delegate and get on with the stuff that you should be doing to make a difference. Mental fitness and stamina are just like physical fitness and stamina; work on it. Let go of the things that will help other people develop and work on your own skills and talent.

In The Creative Edge, author William C. Miller defines five levels of delegation:

  • Tell: “Based on my decision, here’s what I want you to do.”
  • Sell: “Based on my decision, here’s what I want you to do, because…”
  • Consult: “Before I make a decision, I want your input.”
  • Participate: “We need to make a decision together.”
  • Delegate: “You make a decision.”

Still thinking, “Easier than it sounds”?

Experts say nothing should be attempted without prior planning, although applying flexibility is also important.

So here’s how to get efficient:

  • When you arrive at work or return home, take a moment to put your coat and keys where they belong. Put papers where you can put your hand on them quickly.
  • Use your workspace and personal space to their greatest advantage. There is no need to do a big clean up once a year if you can take a half hour once a week to file, sort, and keep things organized.
  • It is important to identify and operate within two time horizons: short and long term.
  • An up-to-date master calendar can be your most helpful planning tool. If you prefer an electronic version, make sure that it is backed up properly so that you don’t lose your data.
  • When things begin to get hectic, a “Things to do Today” list helps focus attention on the highest priority items.
  • Action planning worksheets, milestone charts, and PERT diagrams (the types of diagrams used in project management) are excellent planning aids when properly used.
  • Planning contact with colleagues and staff will help minimize disruptions. Keep a file for each person you meet with on a regular basis, with items to be discussed highlighted for easy reference.

“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin. So dust off your doubts and go find your own time.


About the author

Sue Brett
By Sue Brett

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