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/Nigel Walpole Top tips to improve time management

There are 168 hours in a week, every week – we all get the same allowance.

Some people run corporations, some people even run countries, some people run themselves ragged.

Ready to start improving your Time Management? Download our template time management log here.

This suggests it is not the amount of time you have, it simply depends on what you do with it. How you manage it.

Of course it’s not that simple. Some people have extra resources that help them get more out of their time but it is true that everyone can do something to improve their time management skills.

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We often encounter people who find they don’t have time to develop their skills and enhance their performance. The repercussions of being time poor are many and it affects every aspect of your day-to-day work, including your personal development.

Time management is a uniquely personal thing – not every technique will work for everyone. Experiment, find out what works for you in your role and make better use of your time – starting today.

Get Organised

  1. Keep a properly organised desk and computer
    Searching for bits of paper / an electronic document is a classic – and really frustrating – waste of time.

  2. Maintain a proper filing system
    Ask yourself: do I need this? Should someone else keep it? Should it be in the bin or be deleted? Be ruthless. Avoid saving or printing emails and other documents unless absolutely necessary.

  3. Create a daily list or plan and stick to it, use technology to help
    Be specific. Don’t fill up the entire day with tasks. Leave time for the unexpected. Avoid creating a plan which is too elaborate and inflexible. 

  4. Prioritise
    Distinguish between tasks which are urgent and tasks which are important. Deal with urgent tasks quickly and at once. Set aside sufficient, uninterrupted time for important tasks.

  5. Estimate how long each task will take
    Set realistic deadlines and build other people into your timings if needed. Don't put things off.

  6. Give yourself some private time if you need to
    Go somewhere quiet if you can. Use time which is committed to other activities, such as journeys.

Working Efficiently

  1. Finish one job before going onto the next
    No-one can truly multi-task!

  2. Concentrate on a limited number of tasks
    Make sure that your work is effective (doing the right job) as well as efficient (doing the job right). Give yourself a set amount of time to finish each task.

  3. Procrastination
    A big problem for lots of people – check back next month for some special guidance on how to avoid this.

Email

  1. Turn off your new mail alert
    There are a very limited number of jobs where this isn’t practical - the alert simply interrupts what you’re doing and encourages you to try and multi-task.

  2. When you first see an email – do one of the 4 Ds – delete, deal with it, delegate it, or deal with it later (flag for follow-up, plan, and deal with it then)
    Note: Every time you re-read an email it is costing you time!

  3. Use the subject line correctly (and encourage others to do the same)
    No-one should have to guess what an email is about. Never leave the subject line blank.

  4. Use group emails carefully
    Unsubscribe from groups you don’t need to be on.

  5. Keep your inbox tidy
    Use recognisable names for files and directories and use rules and quick steps to automate incoming emails.

  6. Don’t obsessively check emails.
    This can be enormously distracting, especially if you’re out of the office and they come through on your organiser - checking email three times a day is enough. If someone really needs to get in touch with you and doesn’t get an answer to an email, they will phone.

  7. Keep your work inbox for work only
    If at all possible, keep social emails and social media off work computers. Unsubscribe ruthlessly.

  8. Don't waste time online
    Use the features on your browser to get you to the websites and information you need as quickly as possible, for example by bookmarking relevant sites.

Telephone

  1. Limit the length of your calls

  2. Plan your calls
    Write down a list of things you intend to raise in the call – otherwise you’ll have to make two or three calls because you’ve forgotten what you needed to say.

  3. Keep the call on track
    Make sure you both understand what is being discussed and agreed by asking questions and summarising.

  4. Make calls in blocks and use call divert or voicemail when you have to
    But don’t have these on all day and do pick up and answer the messages that people leave for you.

Dealing With People

  1. Don't allow people to distract you
    Be clear who does – and doesn’t - need access to you.

  2. Be ruthless with time and gracious with people

  3. Be assertive
    Respect the other person, listen to what they have to say, genuinely consider their request, but make up your mind based on your own priorities as well as what they want.

  4. Be prepared to delegate
    Time management isn’t just about what individuals do. It’s also about how team members co-operate with one another.

  5. Socialise in your own time
    If you’re very busy, keep the socialising for breaks, lunchtime, or before and after work.

  6. Say no to jobs that aren't yours
    Explain your reasons and, if you can, suggest a solution.

Meetings and Conference Calls

  1. Don't waste other people's time
    Ask yourself if the meeting is really necessary. Could the same results be achieved in an exchange of emails or phone calls or by an individual taking a decision?

  2. Start and end on time
    Impress on people the importance of respecting other people’s time. It’s the responsibility of everybody attending to respect their colleagues and play a full and active part.

  3. Have an agenda with clear objectives
    Everyone must know the purpose of the meeting and what will be covered. There must be sufficient detail to allow everyone to prepare.

  4. Don't allow the meeting to be side-tracked or interrupted      
    The agenda provides a structure which will keep you on track. If the discussion wanders off the subject, stop and get it back. Once again the rule is to be ruthless with time and gracious with people.

It is unlikely that all these techniques will work for you – every role is different.

Use what works for you in your role and make better use of your time.

And when you’re finished for the day – punch the air and say “I had a great day” because it will feel GREAT.

Contact us to discuss the benefits of great time management and how we can help you and your team achieve even more.

Nigel Walpole

Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.

Copyright © 2014 Bray Leino Learning

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