You know, if I just had time I would blog, or exercise, or take long walks, or be able to work 40 hours a week. Sound familiar? Time management is a challenging area for most of us and it’s something we don’t want to think about when it comes to our personal life and when engaging with friends. But in the business environment it is a must-have tool for your tool kit.
There are plenty of time management books and tools available. If you look in any mobile device app store you can find tools to help you stay more organized, create calendars, tasks lists, and most anything else you want. Because we are all unique, find a tool that fits your style and then adopt it to work for you. Try and change how you use it until you find a way to make it work for you and it provides value – not just a task you have to complete.
Here are some basic approaches I have borrowed from a few different time management systems. Play around with these methods and try to work them into your day. Feel free to tweak and adjust each suggestion to fit your work style and lifestyle.
1. Timothy Ferriss approach – start your day imagining your doctor says you must take it easy or have a triple bypass and limits you to two hours of work daily. What would you do in the two hours you could work each day? (From The 4-Hour Workweek)
2. Use the Franklin Planner approach of creating a short list (3 things, no more than 5) of things that must be done, prioritizing them and doing them before anything else. Figure out whether creating the list end of day or beginning of day works better for you. Review the list first thing in the morning, even before checking email.
3. Schedule 2 email sessions in the day – perhaps just after lunch and end of day end of day. If you set one for first thing in the morning, limit the time allocation to 30 minutes or one hour.
4. Shut down distractors like phone, IM, email or other automated notices that pop up on your PC. It takes about 20 minutes to get in the groove of working, so each time you get a pop-up it jars you out of a focused rhythm.
5. Use your shared work calendar to schedule your work. As you read email and are given a task you cannot complete in 2 minutes or less, add as a task and block the time in your calendar to complete that task. Put the email in the task or meeting request as an attachment
6. Keep things in one place and one place only. Consistency and routine are the productivity work’s best approach
7. Don’t accept meetings that do not have an agenda. Reply back asking for the agenda so you can prepare for the meeting and contribute
If email and Outlook are taking too much of your time, consider reading Take Back Your Life!: Using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to Get Organized and Stay Organized by Sally McGhee. I found two chapters very useful and they still influence how I use Outlook/email today. In chapter 9 McGhee tells readers to clean out their inbox by deleting every message they can respond to in two minutes or less (similar to my bullet point 4). In chapter 11 there is a section called Processing and Organizing Your Email in 30 Minutes. She talks about the four Ds in decision making and spending no more than two minutes on each email to decide if you really need to read the whole thing.
What are some things you already do to manage your time? Comment below!