Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time Management Tips

Do you feel the need to be more organized and/or more productive? Do you spend your day in a frenzy of activity and then wonder why you haven't accomplished much?  Do you know what needs to be done, but aren't sure where to start so instead you procrastinate and don't get it done?
Time management skills are important, especially these days in our fast paced, overcrowded lives.  These time management tips will help you increase your productivity and stay cool and collected.

Time Management Tips

1) Time management...  doesn't actually exist.
No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.
2) What are your time wasters?
Many of us fall prey to time-wasters that steal time we could be using much more productively and most of the time don't even realize we're wasting time (or maybe we do, we just don't know how to stop ourselves). What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time internet surfing, reading email, or making personal calls? I'm a big advocate of tracking your pennies, but I also think it's important to track your activities, at least for short time to see where you spend your time.  That way, you can form an accurate picture of what you actually do, which is the first step to effective time, er, self, management.
3) Come up with goals to manage your time.
Remember, the focus of time management is actually changing your behaviors, not changing time. A good place to start is by eliminating your personal time-wasters. For example, for one week, set a goal that you're not going to take personal phone calls while you're working or doing a task that needs to be completed.  Set specific goals to make this happen.  For instance, use a formula that states the goal with a length of time and have a specific action to accomplish it:
"I will (goal + performance measure) BY (specific actions)."
The performance measure in the goal is often a date or a length of time, but it could be any objective criteria that you can use to determine whether or not you've accomplished the specific goal that you've set.
Suppose you're goal setting because you want to lose weight. An example of a specific goal to help you meet this objective is:
"I will lose 10 pounds in two months BY running on a treadmill for half an hour six days a week."
Once you create the goal, do it.
4) Implement a time management plan.
This can really be looked at as an extension to #3. You want to change your behaviors over time to achieve the goal you've set for yourself.  So not only should you set specific goals, but you should track them over time to see whether you're accomplishing them.
5) Use time management tools.
If you're a paper person or a computer person, there are tools to help you manage your time.  Think Day-Timers, Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, etc.  Some people find scheduling their week in advance is helpful, others do it each evening or first thing every morning.  The key is to stick to it, at least 80%.
6) Prioritize!
Every day, look at your tasks on hand and no matter how many you have on your list, prioritize them.  How many truly need to be accomplished THAT day?  Be realistic, so that when you don't carry out your entire list, you're not disappointed or overwhelmed over it.
7) Learn to delegate and/or outsource.
Are there tasks on your list that can be accomplished by someone else?  I know that especially women seem to have the "I can do it all myself' attitude.  Is there something that a spouse or significant other can help with, even if that person might need some initial training on the task?  I know sometimes it's easier just to do it ourselves, but at some point we have to put the trust in another to help out and know that it will be done right.
8) Try to stick to a routine as much as possible.
While crises will arise, you'll be much more productive if you can follow routines most of the time.  Again, try to stick to your schedule by at least 80%.
9) Set time limits for your tasks.
For instance, reading and answering email can consume your whole day if you let it, especially with the amount of chain emails and junk email we get.  Instead, set a limit of one hour a day for this task and stick to it.  I have made a habit of not forwarding chain emails, and I notice that because I don't send them, I don't really get them, nor do I get much of the junk emails anymore.
10) Be sure your systems are organized.
Are you wasting a lot of time looking for files on your computer?  Take the time to organize a file management system. Is your filing system slowing you down?  Redo it, so it's organized to the point that you can quickly lay your hands on what you need.
11) Don't waste time waiting.
From client meetings to dentist appointments, it's impossible to avoid waiting for someone or something. But you don't need to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Always take something to do with you, such as a report you need to read, a checkbook that needs to be balanced, or just a blank pad of paper that you can use to plan your next marketing campaign. Technology makes it easy to work wherever you are; your PDA and/or cell phone will help you stay connected.
You can be in control and accomplish what you want to accomplish - once you've come to grips with the time management myth and taken control of your time.

I was 3 weeks behind in our budget, which is SO not like me, but I managed to get it caught up on the plane.  

Almost a 3 hour plane ride came in handy to get caught up on our budget

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