Advances in technology has made the management of certain daily tasks much easier, but time management remains a priority that still requires a manual process. There are steps you can follow to improve your time management, helping you to always feel like you have accomplished everything you needed to.
Monitor Your Time
Use a time-sheet to monitor activities and interruptions over three weeks. Write your various daily activities across the top of the page – email; visitors; clients; meetings; phone calls; any tasks you regularly perform on most days. Down the left side of the page you will record the hours of the day, and start recording the time actually spent each day on these activities. Do this only twice a week over the three week period, but ensure you record actual time spent on each activity.
At the end of the three weeks you will have a clear idea of how each hour is spent – how many emails you receive on average, how many phone calls you make and receive, and even how many visitors and clients you see. If you work for yourself you can use this to allow you to schedule uninterrupted time each day, when you can focus exclusively on high-level tasks. If you work for a large company, you can use it when asking your superior to allow you to use a conference room or closed office for a set amount of time.
Managing a list of ten or twenty priority tasks is unwieldy, and can even be intimidating. Start working with a list of three priorities only, through a simple process of elimination. List the five tasks you have to complete each week, then compare task one with task two. If you could only accomplish one of the two in that week which would it have to be? That task becomes your new number one task, which you will now compare to task number three in the same way. Keep doing this until you are left with only one task. Repeat the same process measuring the remaining four tasks against each other to find your number two task, and then with the remaining three, to get your third task. You are now left with a list of only three tasks, but you have ensured that they are your definitely your priority tasks. Once you have completed these tasks you can repeat the entire process again with any remaining tasks, and you will find not only is it easier to manage a list of three tasks, you feel less intimidated and more focused too.
Plan and Schedule
Start and end your day with a 15 minute block of time in which you assess the day’s priorities and schedule accordingly. It is very easy to begin the day by checking your email, but before you know it the day is half gone, and you haven’t even started on your priority tasks. This short period in which you plan and schedule can make the rest of your day all the more productive.
Schedule Time for Email
If not properly managed, email can be the biggest thief of your time each day, so implement a schedule for when you will check and respond to email. If you communicate extensively via email you may want to do this every hour, otherwise consider three times a day. Having set and specific times in which you do this will allow you to include a message in your email signature informing your contacts of when you will respond. For urgent matters your contacts can always reach you by phone.
Revise Meeting Agendas
Consider all the processes and steps when scheduling meetings – printing documents for the meeting; getting to the venue; preparing the venue; do the meetings always end on time – and then block out time accordingly. You may discover that a 60 minute meeting actually uses up 90 minutes of your day, and by properly accounting for this loss of 30 minutes, the rest of your day should still be on schedule.
These five steps can have a measurable impact on your daily time management, and if you feel that you have proper control of each hour in each day, your morale is lifted, and your productivity is boosted.
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