He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life. – Victor Hugo
Good time management skills are essential for success. For some people, time management comes naturally. Even seemingly disorganised individuals can have an instinct for time management. Successful people have one key ingredient that helps it to appear that they get things done easily. Their secret ingredient is enthusiasm. When you are passionate about what you are doing, it becomes easy to prioritise your work and make progress. When you are excited about your job, you feel compelled to finish the task at hand to further progress your work.
Sadly, most people have peaks and troughs of passion for their work. Even if you are lucky enough to enjoy 80% of the work that you do, the remaining 20% of routine tasks can leave you feeling uninspired. When you procrastinate tackling the tasks you don?t enjoy, you create a gnawing feeling of stress that overshadows the enjoyment you deserve to feel for your achievements.
The idea of improving your time management skills shouldn?t fill you with dread. If you believe that schedules and planning are restrictive, your attempts at improving time management will be abandoned after an uninspired short trial.
If you really believe that time management techniques don?t suit the way you work, please do one thing. Throughout your working day, make a conscious effort to be more aware of what you are spending your time doing, what tasks you enjoy and when you feel most productive. Awareness alone can help you to recognise that you?re procrastinating important projects by less important tasks, like responding to every incoming email.
If at the end of the work day, you find yourself wondering how you could have been busy but still feel like you haven?t accomplished much, you could benefit from adopting some time management techniques.
The key to good time management is to first evaluate how you spend your time. You can either make a list of things that you worked on the previous week, or if you are really serious about improving your time management . . .
Record your time for 1 week
Record how you spend your time for a week.
Please use small increments of time (10 minutes maximum), because it is surprising how much time, over the course of a day, can be wasted on small tasks.
Create a document (a simple Excel spreadsheet works well) with six columns
1. Date column
2. Time column – increments of 5 minutes from the time you start work to the end of the day. E.g. 9:00, 9:05, 9:10
3. Description – write a brief description of how you spent the time
4. Category (leave this column blank)
5. Enjoyment (leave this column blank)
Evaluate and gain awareness
Category column: Categorise each task, e.g. email, phone call, project 1, paperwork/admin (if you do quite a bit of paperwork, break it down into smaller sub-categories like paperwork ? invoicing, paperwork ? report)
Enjoyment column: Create a range of like ? dislike. You can use a rating system 1= Strongly Like, 5 = Strongly dislike or categories like, love, indifferent, hate.
Total up how much time you spent on each category for each day and then work out the totals for the whole week.
Use the ?Enjoyment? column to total up how much time you spent on jobs you liked and disliked.
Delegate or Outsource
If you find that you spend too much time on tasks that you don?t enjoy or that distract from work that is a higher priority, consider delegating or outsourcing these tasks. You may want to consider hiring a Virtual Assistant to help with routine administrative tasks, like invoicing or managing your inbox.
Schedule routine tasks
Create a daily schedule for routine tasks. Set aside specific times throughout the day to check your emails and make phone calls. When you do check emails, be sure to take action on every email.
Set weekly priorities
On Friday afternoon or Monday morning, write yourself a To Do list and prioritise your tasks. If you have a large ongoing project, be specific about the tasks you can complete in a week. You may need to prepare a more specific plan for larger projects to ensure that the project is completed to the deadline. Review your weekly priorities and decide what days and for how many hours you plan to work on each priority.
Your first task in the morning or last task in the evening should always be to review your schedule for the day ahead. Add routine tasks to your schedule, e.g. check emails at 9:00, 11:00, 14:00, 16:30. Add any appointments (including travel and preparation time). Use any free time you have to pencil in tasks from your weekly priorities.
If you find that you are often distracted from your daily schedule, don?t be disheartened. You are becoming more aware and more in control of your workload. With consistently preparing a daily schedule, you become better at estimating how long tasks will take and allowing time for unexpected interruptions.
As Victor Hugo suggests, time management provides the thread that will guide you through your day, making you feel more productive and satisfied with your daily workload. A bit of daily planning can help you avoid becoming one of Les Miserables.