How do I teach myself - and my staff - how to more efficiently manage our time?
Q As a manager at a growing firm I want to instil good time-management skills for both my employees and myself. How can I do this?
A When planning tasks for the day and week remember to do so according to priority versus tasks that you enjoy doing. The next step is to break tasks into manageable smaller tasks. These tasks should be spread out over your daily and weekly plan. Ensure you set realistic timeframes and review it throughout your working day.
A used and proven system for managing your time can prove vital to your business success and can help you achieve the right things at the right time, allowing you to achieve your objectives. To manage your time well it is important to try to stick to your plan and never overplan, as interruptions will inevitably change this. Be aware that the small things you do every day are all important tasks that work towards achieving your career and business goals.
Time management is a process of expanding your discretionary time as much as possible by eliminating waste and accomplishing more of what you want and need to do.
There are simple guidelines to follow for mastering the art of time management:
- Set clear goals and priorities;
- Schedule priorities and say no sometimes;
- Stay focused on doing what's most important in each moment;
- Use a planner - make sure your calendar includes a prioritised daily task list, appointment timetable and a task list of those things you wish to accomplish that aren't already scheduled for specific dates.
Conducting a time audit can be useful in helping you become more efficient in the workplace.
This can be done in conjunction with your work plan by calculating how much time you spend on a client or task each week. By doing this you will be able to assess if you are spending the most time on the most important clients, tasks or otherwise. This can be done by defining your tasks at the start of the week and establishing how much time you have spent on the client or task by the end of that week. A time audit can be an effective tool in eliminating bad habits.
One of the biggest time wasters can be procrastination. We all know the feeling of putting things off until later, but the fact remains that these jobs must get done sooner or later. When we procrastinate we tend to spend time on other tasks that are trivial. In doing this we have no time to do the more challenging and important tasks. In time, this becomes a bad habit that is difficult to get out of and will affect our standard of work as well as our emotions.
To combat procrastination and make a start, do something you have been putting off for a while. Visualise the pleasure you would get from completing the job. If it's a big job or project break it into smaller parts, and try to do a little each day.
Time management suggestions
- Eat the frog: "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." Mark Twain.
- Concentrate. In the busiest environments you'll want to create a place where you can work for an hour or two a day without interruption so that you can get tasks off that planner.
- Avoid cancelled appointments by confirming: just one or two broken or delayed appointments per month will save you much more time than it takes to confirm all the appointments that go off as scheduled.
- Delegate where possible: delegating involves finding a competent delegate and explaining the results you want.
- Avoid unnecessary meetings. Exchange information via telephone calls / email where possible.
- Give yourself a list of important tasks to do each day but leave room for tasks that come up.
Time management is critical in your daily and weekly work life and once it is under control it can have a huge positive impact on your work life balance.
Caroline McEnery, managing director of The HR Suite, is a member of the Low Pay Commission and is an adjudicator in the Work Place Relations Commission. She is also author of The Art of Asking the Right Questions
Sunday Indo Business