June 10, 2021
Authored By GreerWalker
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The importance of time management in achieving business and personal success cannot be over emphasized. The number of books, courses, websites and motivational speakers on the subject bear testimony to the fact that it is one of the most important skills to have.
However, with all of the resources that are available, most professionals continue to struggle with this.. Many approach time management as a static plan, creating a generic schedule and making minor adjustments as needed . This approach does not provide the flexibility or the ability to pivot and adapt. Especially, when the unexpected comes up, or when certain tasks need to be given more priority than others.
Instead, focus on evaluating your time each day and this will help you gain control of it.
Below are practical steps that leaders and professionals can use to enhance their time management.
- 1. Prioritize – create a list and categorize tasks into “Must, Should & Could”. This will help you to focus on the items that you need to complete first vs. the ones that are easiest to cross off. Be honest with the items you put in each category as this will dictate what you are going to focus on for the day. Once you complete the items in the “must” category, you can move onto the items in the “should” and so on. Oftentimes , we tend to focus on the items that are the easiest to cross off the list first and then we are crunched for time to get the items in the “must” grouping completed. This should help to alleviate that practice.
- 2. Schedule your entire day – using your prioritized list, schedule your entire day. Make sure to include time for family, health such as working out , and other things that fill your cup. Making time for both professional and personal priorities has been found to be a key factor in preventing burnout and increasing productivity. Remember that the unexpected will naturally come up in the course of the day. A good tactic to prepare for this is only scheduling 80% of your day. Keeping this other 20% “open” will allow you the flexibility to adjust for the unexpected and still complete your list for the day. On the days where the unexpected does not happen and you have completed the items in the “must” list from above, you can use this 20% to move onto tasks in the “should” column.
- 3. Remove distractions – t his is probably one of the hardest and most vital areas to control when it comes to time management. Distractions come up throughout the entire day. Your phone is most likely the biggest distraction in your day and responsible for the most time wasted in a 24 hour period. On average, 2.5 hours are spent every day accessing content on mobile devices that are not work related. If you are scheduling your day as noted in #2 above, this accounts for approximately the 20% of “open” time allowed in the day (based on a scheduled 12 hours). How much more could you accomplish everyday if you weren’t distracted by your phone? This doesn’t even take into account the amount of time that you are distracted by emails, chats , or co-worker interaction . Once you are distracted it takes approximately 25 minutes to get back to the level of focus you had before you were distracted. So consider the 30 seconds it took you to check the alert that came through on your phone. This distraction is actually costing you over 25 minutes to get back to the level you were operating at prior to the distraction. A good tactic is to try to remove as many notifications from your phone as possible and have built in breaks in your day to check news, social media, etc.
- 4. Learn to say “NO” – if you are too busy and your schedule doesn’t have the capacity, say NO. It is better to make commitments that your time allows for otherwise you will not be fully engaged where you need to be. Saying no to more things allows you to be fully engaged in the tasks that matter the most.
- 5. Delegate – t his is another area that is critical to owning your time. Evaluate the tasks that are on your plate and determine which ones could be easily delegated to someone else. It may be difficult to start, but if you are not allowing others to grow and attempt new things, you remain restricted and unable to grow as well.
- 6. Track Your Time – the easiest way to do this is by writing your schedule. Being as honest and as detailed as possible with this as it will help you to identify areas of wasted time. Continual evaluation and adjustments will always be needed as your life changes.
As I noted above, managing your time has to be intentional. It will not always work out perfectly and oftentimes will require constant modification. Find what works best for you and your specific situations. Applying the steps above can point you in the right direction and help you to regain control of your time.