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Annette Quinn Overcoming your time management thieves

In my last blog, I wrote about some of the time thieves that stop us from being productive and effective. I asked you to spend some time listing your own time thieves. Once we are aware of what gets in the way, then we can do something about it.

Find out what your time thieves are today by downloading our complimentary Time Management Log.

Today I am looking at some small adjustments that you can make to improve your time management.

1. Lack of Planning

Maybe planning is something that you can’t see the benefit of, or, like me, you are such an activist, that planning is really hard work! However, without it, we end up working in a disjointed way and we are not spending time on what is important to us and our organisation.

It’s important to recognise that although it takes time to plan but you end up saving even more in the long run. So, how do we find out what we should be spending time on? That takes us into the realms of our Business Objectives. What is measured should get done, therefore the majority of time should be spent on this.

Top tip: Have monthly, weekly and daily planning lists.

2. Interruptions

These are numerous - people dropping by, telephones, emails, visitors and social media! These interruptions stop us from being focussed. So what can we do?

  • People dropping in – When they ask if you have five minutes, say yes, but if it’s any longer, then you can’t fit it in. However, offer a time and do chat when it is more convenient and arrange it away from your desk. This way you can leave when it suits you.
  • Telephone – If making telephone calls do it in a block and work out the best time to get people in. In my experience it’s usually around 10:30. When receiving calls, be brief and talk while standing. Don’t be afraid to screen with voicemail, but you must return the call that day if it is important.

Top tip: Only allow interruptions if they are vital to the work you are doing, but always schedule a time to follow any up that you postpone.

3. Meetings

Meetings are another potential scourge of the working day. In lots of cases, they aren’t necessary, so try to discourage unnecessary meetings and ask if there is another way to achieve the objective.

If a meeting is necessary, ensure there is a time limit, proper agenda and effective chairperson. And maybe follow an example set by Walmart, hold the meetings without seats!

Top tip: Make sure every meeting you attend is important to you and your job role.

4. Crisis ManagementOvercoming Your Time Management Thieves

If you fail to plan and prioritise, then the crises come! Attempt to prevent them in the first place. However, despite all the planning and focussing on what is important crises do sometimes happen so it is important to know how to deal with them.

The answer? Plan for them of course! By this, I mean have some time in your daily schedule for the inevitable crises and if it doesn’t happen, that’s an added bonus.

Top tip: Schedule time for delays and issues.

5. Personal Disorganisation

Being organised is easy for some people but not for others. What is important for everyone is that time is not wasted looking for things. If your desk is a mess, but you can put your hand right on something when you need it, then there’s no issue.  However, if you spend hours looking for stuff and at times have to empty a bin, then something needs to be done. Take a good look at your desk and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a place for everything? Set up a simple filing system
  • Do you use Post-it notes to remind yourself of important information? They’re just too easy to lose and they can look ugly when plastered all over your monitor. Instead, keep a little notebook on your desk to write down reminder notes. Alternatively, use your email calendar to give you pop up reminders.
  • Loads of printouts? After printing a file and completing the action associated with it, throw it away. You already have a copy of it on your computer, so you don’t keep it lying around on your desk.

Top tip: Keep your personal working space as clear and tidy as possible.

6. Not saying NO!

It’s a simple word with just two letters and it’s one of the first things we learn to say as a child. So why do we struggle with it as we get older? This all comes down to messages we heard as a child, our belief system and maybe the person who is asking!  However, by saying NO more often, we protect ourselves from a lot of our time thieves.

If you really struggle with saying no and standing up for yourself, you may benefit from assertiveness training, but here are a few things think remember:

  • You have the right to say no
  • Think before you respond
  • Be clear, positive and firm
  • Use and repeat it as necessary
  • Do not over apologise or give effusive reasons
  • Don’t start on the most aggressive person you know!

Top tip: Learn to say no when it is appropriate to do so.

7. Inability to make decisions.

Putting off making decisions is a time thief! Why do we suffer from this? Perhaps it’s the fear of getting it wrong and we may insist on having so many facts, that we then suffer from paralysis of analysis. This leads to inaction. Inaction leads to failure. Failure leads to loss of confidence which make it hard to make decisions. The only way out of this loop is to have courage, make a decision in the full knowledge that whatever happens you will deal with it and remember that most fears are about things that never happen.

Top tip: Be brave and have confidence in yourself!

All of the solutions require discipline and bravery, but remember to start small in order to make the changes you need to.

Of course, these aren’t the only time thieves. Delegation, procrastination and email overload are also important. So important, they get their own blogs! Check back at a later date to discover more tools and techniques to improve your time management.

Find out what your time thieves are today by downloading our complimentary Time Management Log.


Annette Quinn, Performance Management Facilitator

In my series of blogs I will be taking a look at performance management, in particular Time Management, and providing tips on how to develop your skills.

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