How many times have you started the day wishing you had more time? And thinking how wonderful it would be if someone could miraculously grant you an extra hour or two to help you get through the long list of tasks, meetings and calls you need to complete in your day?
I am sure most of us can relate to these experiences. Yet, the question is - how often do we begin our day already stressed and overwhelmed? How many times have we gone around in circles worrying about how much we have to do and getting nothing done?
If we find ourselves under this level of pressure the odd day, we can put it down to life and consider it to be okay. However, if this is now our reality, it is a concern.
There may be times when we thrive under pressure and can successfully work to tight deadlines. We may be remarkably calm, focused and get everything done.
However, we cannot work under this level of pressure long term. It can cause unnecessary stress, prevent us from sleeping and take a hold on our health. We may even lose concentration causing us to make mistakes or even bad business decisions.
We can also set ourselves up for a fall with bad planning. We may have aspirations and ambitions to achieve so much in one day. But, we don’t always stop and think how long everything takes. We don’t allow for unscheduled but realistic interruptions. We end up firefighting and when we do not succeed, we can be very hard on ourselves. So what can we do about it all?
Over the years, I have learnt some very valuable time management tips, which have helped me greatly. So I thought I would share them with you:
- Breakdown your job into levels of importance – Identify what is most important and where you get the majority of results. Learn to prioritise and what should take precedence.
- Be strategic with your planning – Take time out regularly to plan, develop, learn and build your role. It can prevent firefighting later.
- Write up daily to-do lists - Spend 5 minutes writing out your list the evening before. Keep it short and to a maximum of 10 items. Plan your most important task for early morning.
- Plan for just 75% of your day – allow for the unexpected, so leave approximately 25% unplanned, so you have time to deal with the unexpected items, calls and emails.
- Be realistic with your time - Every now and again track your time to work out how long it actually takes you to do something. This makes for better planning.
- When’s the best time – work out the best time for various tasks, when customers are most likely to be free, when you get least interruptions and are more productive. Carry out tasks requiring concentration during these times.
- Plan similar activities together - Work in batches even for meetings, calls and emails. Keep times to an hour or two and take short breaks to help maintain concentration.
- Manage your email - Switch off the alert to prevent you being distracted. Allocate dedicated time for email and schedule responses during this time. It also helps to reduce mistakes and decrease “instant” responses, which can unnecessarily increase expectations.
- Manage interruptions from other people – learn to say no, negotiate priorities and realistic deadlines. Adapt other techniques to discourage unnecessary interruptions politely.
For more ideas and tips, check out Call Focus’s training workshop in “Effective Time Management”.