Shirley's Articles / Personal Effectiveness
Time Management Tips You Can Actually Use
If you work in the corporate world, chances are you have taken a time management or productivity class at least once in your life. Chances are also pretty strong that you walked out of those classes feeling like you wasted your time. The grim reality is that a lot of so-called time management courses offer tips for saving time that actually take more effort to implement than they’re worth.
Does that mean all time management tips are useless? Absolutely not!
There are some very simple, common sense measures that can help you de-stress and reduce complications in your life inside and outside of the office. They can also help you stay on top of your game by providing you a greater ability to focus on the tasks that really matter to you, your career and even your family.
Here are some things you can try right away to help you get a handle on your time and how you spend it:
Research has shown that only about two per cent of the population is actually proficient at multitasking. For the rest of us, it just makes more sense to focus completely on a single task until it’s complete.
If that’s not entirely possible, perform pieces of a task and then stop completely before picking up another. For example, dedicate an hour or two of your day to a long-term project. Focus all of your resources on this effort during the allotted time. Once the time is up, move on to other, more pressing projects.
Working through one task at a time will enable you to get things done rather than leaving you with multiple projects under way with completion nowhere in sight for any of them.
Prioritise, schedule and cross off tasks
If you don’t have a calendar, get one. Online calendars, such as the one provided by Google, can be especially helpful for time management that doesn’t take a lot of time. This is especially so if you happen to have a smartphone so that your calendar can literally go with you everywhere. Use your calendar not only to schedule your days, but also your tasks. Google calendar even has a handy ‘task’ feature that you can use to prioritise projects and engagements. It also lets you remove or delete tasks as they are completed.
So, how should you prioritise?
Take a look at your calendar and task list for each day and make the time for things that simply must be done. Write your tasks in descending order and be sure to budget the time for completing those tasks into your calendar. Schedule yourself, but don’t go overboard. Be sure to build in some breathing time too. It’s also a good idea to schedule personal tasks and family obligations into your day so there is some balance.
Don’t be afraid to move low priority tasks to other days. Be sure not to schedule too many fixed engagements on days when you must complete high priority tasks too.
It can take a while to get used to scheduling your days and setting priority rankings to tasks. However, when you get the hang of it you should find that you spend more time working on what must be done rather than spinning your wheels on projects that are less important or that could simply wait for another day.
Email needs time management too
Email is truly a blessing and a curse. It might enable you to keep in instant contact with colleagues and clients, but it can also get out of hand and eat up your day faster than anything you else you might encounter.
Here are some tips to help you get ahead of your inbox and ensure it doesn’t take over your life:
- Dedicate certain times to looking at email. You don’t have to have your email alert on the entire time you’re at your computer. In fact, it really is better to dedicate 15 or 30 minutes a few times a day to checking on what has come in. When it’s not time to check out your emails, close down the program so you can focus on your tasks.
- Create filters and folders. Take advantage of the features of your email program to lessen the load on your inbox while helping you create a trail of important correspondence. Use filters and folders to hold emails relating to separate projects. Set up a spam filter that will keep mailers that just aren’t worth your time.
- Don’t be afraid to delete. Ideally, you’ll want an inbox that is pretty clean. By spending a few minutes several times a day going through new emails, you can make a conscious choice to respond, file away or delete. You’ll also help yourself to avoid missing important pieces of mail that might otherwise get lost in a flood of incoming messages.
- There are only 24 hours in a day. Don’t waste them by spinning your wheels on projects and tasks that just aren’t necessary. There are time management tips you can incorporate into your daily routine that don’t take a lot of time to use and master.
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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at shirleytaylor.com.