Time management, and its wise application, is a journey. Managing time requires significant self-discipline and regular review to improve to the next level. Time management starts with looking at your daily schedule. Do you know how you spend your time every day? If not, the answer might surprise you!
Try analysing how much time you’re devoting to your various tasks, such as attending meetings, checking emails, making phone calls, browsing Facebook, Twitter or other social media and how efficiently you work through your Personal Action List (PAL). This should list the vital tasks for meeting your objectives.
The following tips will help you to work with your PAL more efficiently and get your projects done:
1. Set Goals
Based on your project role, set your goals. Short-term goals (daily/weekly) and long-term goals (monthly/yearly). Be clear about the objectives you want to achieve. Add these goals into your PAL and think about what you need to do to achieve your goals and objectives. This list is especially helpful in case you have a bad day. Therefore, go back to that list and stick to the plan. It helps you to get your thoughts aligned and focus on the right actions.
2. Get Organised
To work effectively and efficiently, you need to be organised. Use 5S to organise your work space and clear your desk and office. Structure your data on the computer, update your contacts in the address book which you synchronise with your handphone, iPad, or other devices. Clean out your files, and have a clear method and rules for how to manage your emails, your clients and projects.
3. Set Priority
Prioritise the PAL. Some items might require immediate attention, while others may be necessary but not as urgent. Activities that only take 5 minutes should just be done and cleared out of your mind. Afterwards, stop “firefighting” with urgent activities and give unconditional attention to your important activities. Plan your actions in bulk – the same type of action or at the same location.
Time-matrix can help to sort out low priority items and find the important items to focus on. A project manager should focus on non-urgent but important topics, which is planning, risk management, resource coordination etc. This will set the right priority and prepare the works.
4. Use time wisely
Block your time for important activities for about 60- to 90-minute chunks without disturbance, to focus on critical topics. Rather than spend blocks of time waiting or commuting, use them to be productive! For instance, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, reading, writing, proofreading, reviewing your PAL and planning your next activity are all examples of what can usually be done remotely to fill in some of the unavoidable “dead” time in your schedule.
5. Be Realistic
Keep your expectations realistic. No one can do everything. With that it mind, try to set realistic goals for what you can hope to accomplish. If your project and PAL have too many activities, you need to escalate them to the next level either by allocating more resources or reviewing the overall project timeline. Write them down and focus on what is working. Stop doing what is not working. Stop doing worthless activities.
6. Reactionary Workflow
People are interrupted every 11 minutes. Distractions destroy productivity. Learn to protect your time and say “no” to interruptions, i.e. don’t answer your phone every time it rings, don’t immediately look at email as it arrives, text messages, voice mails, instant messages, Twitter messages, Facebook posts…and the list goes on.
Your human response? You simply try to stay afloat. Since the flow of communication never ends, it will control your life and, with it, your efficiency and results will drop.
Here are a few ways to combat reactionary workflow:
- Create windows of non-stimulation.
- Proactively block out time for creating and absorbing – rather than just responding.
- Schedule intense periods of processing at a regular time every day.
- Don’t hoard urgent items.
- Challenge yourself to delegate activities to the right people who can do them better and faster than you. If you do not have these people, employ them.
- Don’t dwell on it, just do it!
When urgent matters arise, they tend to evoke anxiety. We dwell on the potential negative outcomes of all the challenges before us—even after action is taken.
Worrying wastes time and distracts us from returning to the important stuff. When it comes to addressing urgent items, break them down into Action Steps and challenge yourself to reallocate your energy as soon as the Action Steps are completed.
All work and no play is a difficult concept to sustain for very long. Build rewards into your schedule. If you really dislike a task, follow it with a task that you greatly enjoy. Build “mini-rewards” into your schedule to increase your productivity.
8. Reflect and Learn
At the end of the day, reflect on what you accomplished. If you were unable to account for a specific period of time, or you found a given day to be particularly unproductive, take an inventory and try to determine where your time management system broke down. Continuous improvement is of the essence. Daily reflection uncovers the gaps we can close by better planning, better workflow and increased discipline. Learn daily new ways of self management and better efficiency.
9. Take Care of Yourself
Drink a liter of water early every morning. We wake up dehydrated. The most precious asset of an entrepreneur isn’t time – it’s energy. Water restores it.
Start your day with at least 30 minutes of exercise.
Find 60 minutes per day to recover from stress. Meditate, work out, change normal work to something refreshing; go for a walk.
Take one day a week as a complete recovery day, to refuel and regenerate (this means no email, no phone calls and no work). You need full recovery one day a week, otherwise you’ll start depleting your capabilities.
Invest in your professional development so you bring more value to the hours you work.
10. Avoid Gossip and Time Vampires.
Gossip is just time wasted. It takes your focus away from the important stuff. Also social media apps on our smart phones are time vampires. It’s like an addiction. Instead, stick to your plan, and get it done until you achieve your best result, step by step.