Strategies for Better Time Management

Time Management TrainingWhatever your role in a company – from office administrator to company director – Time Management is something that effects us all. One of the most common complaints you hear at busy organisations is that there “aren’t enough hours in the day”.

Got a smartphone? Read about the benefits of mobile to-do list apps, with links to some examples.

The skills to prioritise and manage a heavy workload are very valuable. We provide some practical Time Management advice on our Management Skills for New Managers course.

However here are some useful time management strategies which you can implement today:

  • Make a new to do list every night before you leave the office. This has the advantage of doing it when things are still buzzing around in your head, and once they are on a list they are less likely to pop into your mind and cause you stress in the middle of the night. Prioritise it by urgency and importance in the morning. Make sure the top priority task gets done. Don’t give up if the list doesn’t all get done: make another list that night and start again.
  • Put everything on your to do list into your diary. Block out time for important work, whether or not it is urgent. Group together less important tasks. Don’t just put the deadlines in your diary: work back to the start times and milestones too.
  • Every week, harmonise your personal diary with the team, department or office diary. Make sure your colleagues do too.
  • Remember the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. It’s directly comparable to the difference between management and leadership: efficiency (and management) means doing things the right way, while effectiveness (and leadership) means doing the right things.
  • Stop your email software interrupting you each time you receive a new message. Check your email intray at three or four regular times each day.
  • Schedule time every day when your phone is on voicemail. Check your messages at prearranged times every day: say, when you arrive, after lunch and half an hour before you leave.
  • Set regular specific times for taking and making telephone calls.
  • Ask yourself ‘should I be doing this?’ and ‘should I be doing this now?’
  • Put your intray somewhere where you cannot see it while you are sitting at your desk. Put a big sign above it with an arrow saying ‘Intray’. Don’t let anybody put work for you anywhere else.
  • Use a Bring Forward file: if some work doesn’t need starting until the 19th, put it into file number 19 in a drawer with files numbered 1 to 31 for every day of the month. Every morning, look in that day’s file for work to be done.
  • Plan conversations and discussions before you begin. Put time for this preparation in your diary.
  • Know your good and bad times in the day, the week and the month. Plan important work for the good times.
  • Have a large clock on the wall that you and your visitors can see.
  • Set start and finish times for all formal discussions. In meetings set start and finish times for each agenda item.
  • Stand up when you answer the phone or when someone approaches your desk to talk to you. Don’t offer a seat or tea or coffee.
  • Plan your life outside of work too. Try and follow those plans too.

BUT remember that you work as part of a team, and that the rules you set yourself for prioritising and implementing work must fit in with those of your colleagues. Most people who learn about time management intend to change the way they work. If they fail it’s because they don’t explain and sell their new way of working to the people around them, who then get confused by this apparently meaningless change.

Improving your time management involves planning to change and communicating the changes and the reasons for the changes to your colleagues.

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