A Few Words About Time Management

If you’ve been in the professional world any length of time, you know the importance of time management. You probably also know that every Tom, Dick and Jane’s got the remedy for effective time management and will sell it to you for a few hundred dollars. They’re like the new snake oil salesmen.

I never took any time management classes, yet I was completely effective managing my time. With so many different ways of looking at the problem, and so many different classes all claiming to be able to multiply time for you, I began to analyze in my head (as I tend to do quite often). It occurred to me that that the different approaches to time management were due to personality differences or work flows, but the basic tenets are always the same. I suppose I just always understood those tenets and wasn’t afraid to apply them to me work. I also think that everyone already knows the basics of time management, but they either don’t have an effective plan for putting them in place, or they are too lazy to do so.

Today, I’m going to lay out for you the basic tenets of time management for you and how to apply them. Whether or not you begin to master your time after implementing these steps is completely up to you. Either you follow the steps and begin to master your time, or you don’t.

Tenacity

Most people see an improvement in their time management after attending a class, no matter who gave it. In other words, there are no right or wrong time management strategies. They all work. It’s simply a matter of you implementing the concepts every day from this point forward. Even though most everyone sees improvement after their class, they typically abandon the principles and return to the way they did things before, and then disparage the class as ineffective. Hey buddy, the class wasn’t ineffective, you are. If you don’t practice what you’ve learned and incorporate it into who you are and how you process, then you will never grow as a professional. The tenacious worker that takes the suggestions learned in class and changes the way he manages his time will succeed and become a master of his time.

We All Have the Same Amount Of Time

No one has more time than another, and no group of people has access to a bank of time that they may withdraw from as needed, so why is it that some folks or groups seem to be so much more effective with their time than others? You could say the answer is time management, but I prefer to put it this way – they don’t lollygag and waste the precious time their given. They work when they are at work, and each minute of their day can be accounted for and is part of accomplishing some task.

The sad truth is that the reason that workers are ineffective isn’t that they don’t understand how to manage their time, it’s because they are usually doing something other than working with the time they have, and/or they aren’t adept at focusing on what they are working on at any given time. Everyone knows how to manage time. It’s a question of whether or not they have the motivation to use that knowledge.

Planning And Sticking With Your Plan

Common sense, right? Everyone knows this, but few actually do it. So if you really want to manage your time well, start with this AND DO IT EVERY DAY FOREVER. This task actually does take some getting used to in order to do it effectively, but after a few days or weeks, you’ll have it mastered, and it will serve you will far into the future if you do this on a daily basis. You can even use it on the weekends to become a more effective homeowner/spouse/father.

In the morning as you drink you coffee, decide upon the most important tasks you want to accomplish today. The key to success here is to be realistic. Don’t write down ‘make 500 sales calls’, when you know good and well that even without distractions, it would take you more hours than you have in the business day. Be honest and practical with yourself, but on the other hand, don’t lowball the task list either.

As you make out your plan, try to arrange it by the hours of the day, putting the most important or difficult tasks at the beginning of the day. Assign a time slot for each task, taking into account time for distractions. At the end of each day, take five minutes to analyze how well you performed the tasks and whether or not they were completed on schedule.

If you find that you routinely don’t hit your targets, then find out what is stopping you from achieving your daily goals, or give yourself more time to accomplish your assigned tasks. The keys to success here are 1) be reasonable and 2) be consistent and 3) be tenacious. Don’t stop managing your day. You will get better at it, I promise.

Eliminate Distractions

This one task can radically change how much each person can accomplish in any given day. I believe that everyone actually knows this already, but is hesitant to acknowledge it. Maybe it’s an addiction to connectivity that our society has as a whole. I would venture to say that half of the workday is wasted by ineffective use of the internet, phone (calls and texts), and email. We have become addicted to connectivity, so much so that when these luxuries aren’t functioning, we figuratively fall to the floor and assume the fetal position.

Here is my top tip for time management – turn off your browser, close your email, and put your phone on silent and place it where you can’t see it. Then tackle your task. If you aren’t going through withdrawal symptoms, then you will be the most effective person in your office with your time. Believe it or not, the people who will have the hardest time dealing with your disconnect will be co-workers, sales people, your spouse. So a bit of housecleaning may need to be done before you implement this strategy. Tell your spouse you’ll be unavailable by phone for the next hour and a half, so if she has an emergency, to call your co-worker in the office next door. He’ll come get you if it’s really an emergency. He’ll never get a call unless it is an emergency. Do the same for your manager and co-workers that might have a reason to call you during your effective time. Just tell them you’ll be unavailable and that you’ll answer emails and voicemails at the end of your scheduled time slot.

It may take a few days or weeks for everyone to get used to it, but they will. They’ll also begin to notice that you tend to be on top of your game, have your projects on schedule or ahead of schedule and seem to be less stressed out than anyone else. These are all perks of good time management.

The Grand Distraction – The Web

The greatest obstacle preventing great time management today is the WEB. Although the web has virtually unlimited scope and power to help you do your job, it also has the power to destroy. The sad truth is that practically everyone uses the web at work for reasons that are unrelated to their job. People use their browsers for internet gambling, news reading, pornography, fantasy sports, YouTube cat videos, just to name a few, all while being paid to actually perform their job duties. Just put it away. Close the browser and leave it closed. Do your surfing if you must at home. Even better, just eliminate it altogether (for the purpose of idle distraction), even at home. Focus on what matters – your career, your children, your spouse, your pets, your home, your neighbors, your community. There is so much that you can do with your time if you would just stop web surfing (and the old standby, channel surfing on the TV).

How many of the most successful people watch hours of TV or casually browse the web for hours a day? ZERO. NONE. The internet is a curse, a malady, an addiction. You must stay away from it if you are going to succeed in time management or succeed in general. Know how to use it to achieve your goals if necessary, and then put it away.

Delegate

These first two items – planning and managing distractions – are the basis for good time management. This third one is a bit harder to master, but has long term benefits for those who aspire to be managers or executives. Delegate tasks that don’t necessarily require knowledge that is specific to you. For instance, if your manager asked you to prepare and analyze some data, then find an Excel whiz who can do it for you. Maybe your boss’ secretary, or a tech guy who loves to show off what he can do. Tell him how impressed you are with his skills and he’ll do it for you just to impress you. If you can routinely delegate tasks like this, you’ll have more time to focus on honing your skills on the important concepts. Delegation skills are one of the required skills a manager/executive must have, so by working on this ability, you are preparing yourself for future success.

Now Go Do It

Now you know the strategies for implementing good time management. You can tweak it from here to fit your personality. We each know how to manage time, but whether or not we do something about it is up to each of us individually. If you do so consistently, it will put you in the top 5% of workers and on the road to long-term success. Good luck.

For time management training options or any other business skills training like Management Training, visit 866Seminars.com for a full list of seminars across the US and Canada.

The First Step Is the Hardest

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part of a project, particularly if it’s not a project that your job requires you to do – something like cleaning the garage. The project may seem daunting because of the sheer scope, or it may require tedious attention to detail, or mind-numbing repetition. Whatever it is, you never start it, always finding something else to do. Sometimes it’s a project that must get done at some point, like doing your taxes. You can’t put that off forever. So how do you get started?

One good way to get started on a project like that is to break the project down into manageable chunks. If the project will take multiple days or weekends to complete, then make the first day of the project an easy day of planning and arranging the following days of the project. Once you’ve committed to getting started, then it’s easier to keep the ball rolling as the project continues. It’s the momentum theory of projects – projects in motion tend to stay in motion, projects standing still tend to remain still.

If the project requires a long stretch of uninterrupted time, then block off the time early and let everyone know so they can plan around your absence. Often starting a project like this is put off repeatedly because you feel like you won’t have time to get it done. If you’ve blocked off the time, and let others know, then you’ve committed to the project and it won’t be as easy to convince yourself that you can do it another time.

The first step is the hardest, but when you commit to start, you’ve made starting the project much easier. Ironically, once the project is started, you most likely will find that it wasn’t as daunting as you thought it would be. Furthermore, once it’s completed, you’ll feel great about having the project put behind you. It’s a win-win scenario. So get started today on that long past-due project.

Be Intentional

In order for us to be our most productive, we must use our time in the most efficient manner. One way to focus our attention is to be intentional about what we are doing, as opposed to operating in cruise-control. Often our tasks are so routine that we tend to carry them out on auto-pilot, but this is not very efficient.

Have you ever stopped your computer work to check your email, and before you know it, you find yourself watching funny cat videos? That’s auto-pilot kicking in, a state of “unintenionalness”. You intended to take a short break from your work to see if you had any pressing emails, but an email from your buddy linked you to the web to read a funny story, and the links at the bottom of the page led you down a spiral of “unproductiveness”. What you expected would take a minute or two has now sucked 20 or 30 minutes out into the voids of space, never to be retrieved. If this happens to you more than a couple of times a day, you are wasting a huge portion of your day without really giving it much thought.

So how do you get out of that rut? Be intentional about everything you do, from the moment you wake up until you are ready to retire for the day. Make a plan, form a routine, develop habits that are intentional and lead you onto the next task.

Before you set upon a task, decide how you will approach it. Decide if you’ll take breaks, whether or not you’ll need to check emails. Now execute your task intentionally. As you proceed through your task, envision the remaining portion of the task being completed at the rate you are currently working. You can estimate how long it will take to finish. If you had decided that you would take a break, stop and plan out what you will work on after this task is completed.

Know beforehand what you will be doing after you have finished your task. By planning your transition from one task to the next, you decrease your unintentional time. By eliminating unproductive time during your workday, you can take advantage of more time at the end of the day to plan out the next day. Knowing that you have your next day planned out helps you to relax and enjoy your evenings and sleep better.

Being intentional need not be limited to your work day. An intentional person in one who always seems to get his/her tasks done, seems to always have a plan, is calm and collected and in charge. By being intentional, you’ll find that others around you (coworkers, family members, friends) will increasingly see you as a leader. Start today to be intentional and experience life in control.