None of us seem to have enough time in the day do we? We all have the same number of hours, yet why do some of us get so much more done than others?
Here are some ideas drawn from my various readings and personal experience. Some you may already be familiar with, but there’s nothing like a refresher or reminder to actually use them is there?
Begin with a good Organizer
Use an organizer system to streamline your daily tasks and projects if you’re not already doing so. Although there are paper based systems, such as Daytimer, there are many online systems and applications and most are easy to use.
If you’re using an online calendar it probably is already part of your mailing program, such as Microsoft’sOutlook. Google Calendar is another useful tool and can be used at your home base or remotely and shared with friends or colleagues if you choose.
Using your organizer and before you begin your work day take 10 to 20 minutes to create your daily plan. You could even do this the night before.
Organize your day by breaking your work into tasks and projects. Your tasks are typically the work you do daily and the projects are made up of a series of tasks done over longer stretches of time.
Tracking your tasks
Budgeting time for your tasks and then tracking the actual times taken is a good way to better understand where you’re spending your time. With practice you’ll get better at estimating the time taken to complete tasks. The good news is you’ll likely discover that many of your tasks repeat, so budgeting your time will get even easier.
If you have a number of the same tasks, try batching some like emails or phone calls. Most of us do better when we get into a work rhythm and this will lead to getting more done in less time.
Sometimes you may not know how long it will take to complete a given task, but estimate the best you can and set a time limit for it. When the time is up move onto another task, you can always go back to it later. It’s important to keep moving forward with your schedule and the feeling of satisfaction that comes with sticking to your plan.
When scheduling, allow for some buffer time between tasks, say 10 minutes for every one hour block of time. This helps you transition between tasks or allows you a few extra minutes to finish something off and cross it off your to do list.
Setting your priorities
In his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey advocatesprioritizing your schedule by four categories:
- (I) Urgent and Important – Things you must do immediately
- (II) Not urgent, but important – Thing to schedule for later
- (III) Urgent, not important – Things to delegate to others
- (IV) Not important, not urgent – Things not to do at all
Your schedule will likely have appointments, but what about booking one with yourself? Perhaps a project that is very personal to you, work or otherwise, and one that would fit in category II. This is a category that is easy to ignore, but is likely important to your long term success and career growth.
And don’t forget to include some downtime in your schedule. Interruptions and emergencies do happen so don’t make your schedule so tight that you can’t handle these changes.
Finally, keep track of your schedule for a week and then sit down and decide what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved. Through this exercise you’ll likely discover what really is the best use of your time.
What sort of time management system do you use? How well does it work for you? We enjoy hearing your comments.