We are all familiar with the saying that ‘Time is Money’ but time management is about so much more than that. Time management is a critical part of everybody’s working life, more so if you are in a management or leadership position. Time is limited yet often our job roles keep growing and the tasks keep coming. If our time is not managed well then the best case scenario is one where we are constantly fire fighting, busy with urgent but perhaps unimportant tasks while the important stuff, the work that can improve a service or inspire a team falls by the wayside. Looking several months into this scenario you will see people becoming unmotivated because they cannot focus on things that they consider to be key parts of their role, stressed out because there never seems to be enough hours in the day and eventually, the worst case scenario; burn out.
Time management is not about finding more time but about using the time you have more effectively by doing things more efficiently. It is the aim of working smarter, not harder. Time management is about harnessing your own energy, mastering your own strengths and changing your own habits.
Whether you are an employee, a supervisor, a manager or in a leadership position, here are ten simple ways to help you on your quest of getting it all done!
Write a list
With so much going on in my head and more things to do being added every day, writing things down is no luxury, it is essential. A to do list is only one way of taking the things from your head and putting them onto paper but it really is a necessary step to stopping a busy mind becoming frantic. I favour an A4 piece of paper each week which I divide up to include a space for appointments, an area for quick win tasks such as phone calls or emails, my main ongoing To do list and I highlight the most urgent tasks. Some people may prefer to add tasks as they arise into areas already sectioned on a page into The Eisenhower Matrix; urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and important, not urgent and not important (that one is certainly more standard and I’m sure familiar to you). These type of lists tends to be more useful in a fast paced environment where the jobs keep coming in and there is no time to schedule tasks in a diary.
The Einsenhower Matrix is a brilliant tool for recording tasks over a period of time in order that you can use it to reflect on the type of tasks you are undertaking on a day to day basis in your role. It may help you to spot patterns or problems. For example if you find most tasks are going into the section for important and urgent then you will probably relate to the term ‘firefighting’ and you cannot sustain this over a long period of time, therefore, this is a problem. You may wish to rectify it by delegating some tasks now to allow you to begin to plan ahead so that eventually less tasks will fall in your important and urgent box. Thinking about what is happening right now and how to rectify it can help prevent long term time management problems.
Use a diary
Diaries aren’t just for appointments or deadlines. When I have the time, I take my ‘To do’ list and diarise the jobs so that I can focus on getting something particular done every day. When it is in your diary it feels like more of a commitment so you are more likely to do it rather than put it off or procrastinate.
I look at my ‘To do’ list and put tasks into groups that work well together. For example admin tasks or meetings and then do all of the tasks together while you are in that frame of mind rather than chopping and changing type of task. I find that makes things much more efficient.
If you plan to do more than time allows for then the chances are, you won’t get anything done and you’ll feel down about it. Plan to do just one decent task a day; if you plan for less, you usually find you get more done than you intended.
Use procrastination to your advantage
I always have some tasks that I procrastinate over. I tend to allow myself to procrastinate by working my way through my ‘To do’ list using the quick and easy tasks as a form of procrastination.
De-clutter your list
If you have a big task to do that will take some time I find I am much more able to face it if I clear the quick and easy tasks from my ‘To do’ list first. As well as clearing head space for the larger task ahead, it also motivates me to get things done.
Do not multi-task
Doing one thing at a time from start to finish is much more efficient than trying to do several things at once. Make sure you are free from distractions and focus on what you are trying to achieve or else you will lose your flow and any task will take you twice as long.
If you know your team well then you will know their strengths and limitations. In situations where time is of the essence then it is crucial to delegate wisely to team members who you know are not only able, but willing. Delegating to the wrong person can actually cost you more time in supporting somebody to do the task or in re-doing what was not done up to scratch.
Up-skill your team
Often Managers are so busy fighting through to do lists that we cant even contemplate teaching our staff how to do new jobs. We need to change this mindset and make the time. Not only will teaching our team members new tasks allow us to save some time in the long run it will also improve their motivation (if we train them in the right way). Putting trust in them to take on new and important tasks can show an employee that they are valued and needed which in turn improves their engagement.