My weakness in time management comes from when I am thrown a lot of things and a short deadline – I panic and don’t know where to start I get tied down and don’t focus on organising my tasks. This usually means that I don’t get anything really done but bits and pieces. Starting in 2013 I plan to be much better at time management and perfect my skills on this in a useful way which will help me in life and also in work.
The key to being successful at managing your time comes from planning and sticking to the plan. Planning your time makes you feel fantastic but also in a work or social environment makes you look fantastic at your job! If you don’t have any time management system – be prepared to make some major changes to your current working life. I will run you through some basics that I have learned and others that I am working on.
How are you currently spending your time?
Take a moment to think about what you want to change and how you are currently spending your time. If you need to – spend a day logging and writing down your tasks and how long it takes you. Include your breaks in to this also.
At the start of the day
I start with a blank schedule page of your diary or online calendar and set out how long it will take you to do your routine tasks when you do them. This includes, breaks and lunches.For example every morning my first task is to read my emails so I put that in for 0800 to 0830 ( I have this set as a recurring task on my calendar for each day) After this I have my post to open that I received the day before – that covers 0830 to 0900.
With each email received I file it away or action it straight away. Remember that you will have emails that need your urgent attention there and then but others such as project work or following up with a client must be done at a later stage of the day or week. I schedule it at the time of receiving the email and I file the email away in a pending folder so that I know where to go to later when I need it.
If you don’t want the distraction of your email beeping at you all day – then close down your email programme and don’t check it until another assigned time in the day.
Ensure you have a good email folder system. I work with a pending system along with folders for each person or company that I deal with. I use my pending system for those emails received at the start / end of the day that require further work and can’t be answered in a quick 30 second reply. I also use a pending system to let me know that I have something outstanding for completion so my mails look something like this.
Pending – this is email that I have not yet taken action on and I need to take some time to review abit more.
Pending Internal – this is email that I have answered and sent to a colleague for further information or assistance.
Pending external – this is email that I have answered but I am waiting for a reply from an external supplier.
These are the tricky ones to manage. If you are in a lucky position to speak with a receptionist and ask her to hold your calls for a certain time during the day then you are in luck. You can schedule in a time of the day to make your call backs. Make this one a recurring task as well so that you have consistency for your day and the receptionist knows when to pass calls through to you each day.
If you are like me and not so lucky to have the luxury then allow alittle longer for each original task in your day so that you have factored in some slight disruption in taking the call. So for example instead of my email taking from 0800 to 0815 like it normally would I have it scheduled for 30 minutes because the first 15 minutes of the day is busy and calls are coming in through.
If it possible at all for someone to take over the responsibility of answering the phone for you for a while – than take up the offer. This will allow you some time to concentrate on your larger tasks.
Stop saying yes!
We all know that it is good to say yes to the boss but seriously when it is to the detriment of your own work and standards this has to stop. Learn how to say yes I will do this but x,y,z takes priority and I will get to this at such a time. Remember that you can delegate too – by following up the last statement with “maybe x can do that task as she is just finished a project”
Give yourself realistic timelines for a large project
If someone asks me to do something and asks how long it will take me to do it – I add extra time to the timeline. So if I know a task will take 1 hour I tell them that it will take 2.5. The reason I do this is twofold :
- If I over estimate the time it will take, I am factoring in for any unexpected tasks or delays that I may get.
- If I over estimate the time and deliver before my own deadline – I look amazing.
It’s a win win.
Planning your time.
If you are using the calendar system, I would recommend leaving alittle bit of time there when you are working and starting to work on big projects, give yourself a little creative time to plan.
Plan for the unexpected – as I said above I leave alittle extra time during my emails and regular tasks to allow for answering the phones. I always leave the last 15 minutes of the day free to prepare for the next day as well.
At the beginning of this post I spoke about emails and how I handle them – but when I am going through them and I know something is going to take some time and is sort of like a project I schedule time to work on that email during the day or week. The same goes for the post that I receive. I put this in to filing system marked exactly the same as my email. Once you have this system up and running and have your filing completed in to the necessary folders, don’t go back to it until your scheduled time.
If you can and when you are working on projects – try to get to a quite space in the office. I don’t advocate bringing work home from the office, but if it is the only space and time that you get – then needs must. At the end of the day, work pays the bills and keeps your lifestyle so you can’t risk losing it.
Clean desk policy – organise your work space
This is one I am teaching myself at the moment. Keeping a clean desk and organised work space will make you feel better and not so overwhelmed with all the work that you have. Try your best to keep everything clean and tidy. When you are finished – file things aways and don’t leave them lying around to clutter your mind as well as your desk.
If you work regularly on reports, presentations or send letters – set up templates that you can access quickly and easily so that you don’t need to start over each time. Plus updating a report in one space each time is easier than re-creating the whole report again and again.
If you have to work on something big than break it down in to sections or baby steps. I always seem to do this with a blank piece of paper. I would like to learn more about project management methods and this is something which I will hopefully focus on this year and learn more about soon.
I hope that you have found this post useful and it has given you some tips on how best to manage your time in work. Do you have any other tips that would be helpful to me and others – you can leave them in the comments.