Time management is a hot topic among employers looking to maximize production and protect their bottom line. It is also a big concern for employees looking to better manage the mountain of work facing them each day. We’re busier than ever, but often we feel like we’re accomplishing little despite being swamped.
A quick Google search of “time management techniques” returns 782 million results in less than half a second, with links to scholarly reports, online articles, various blogs and about a dozen alternate related searches. You don’t have time to read all of this: You’re BUSY. Fear not — that’s where I come in, to highlight some of the most common themes. Here are the top things I found that will help you get your tasks under control.
Emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, are taught to triage their patients at a scene with multiple people injured. Emergency rooms do the same thing. In its simplest form, this is broken down to life threat, emergent, urgent and non-emergent. We apply this to our own medical needs. There are situations where we call 911, situations when we drive someone (or ourselves) to the ER, times we go to the walk-in clinic and when we make an appointment with the doctor and wait.
This same concept applies to your work life. Prioritize. Make piles: Will do, To do and Pending; A, B and C level tasks; Hot, Warm and Cool files; whatever system works for you. Author Stephen Covey developed the “Important – Urgent Matrix.” On one side, things are ranked from important to not important. On the other axis, tasks are ranked from urgent to not urgent. Tasks that are important and urgent should get handled first.
Organization should, perhaps, be the first goal. To some degree, it is necessary in order to be able to triage. If you are old-school, use a tickler file — folders with tabs for 1 through 31 for the month we’re in and a folder for each of the other months. File tasks accordingly. Use the calendar in your phone or in your email. Set reminders. Download an app or a program to help get your tasks in order.
Once you are organized, you can make your to-do lists and be better situated to triage those tasks.
Consider how a doctor or dentist schedules their day. Apply that to your day. Set blocks of time for tasks. It’s been demonstrated that setting a timeline helps with our focus and efficiency. It makes us accountable to ourselves, much the way it is when we promise deliverables to a client.
The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of our tasks take up 80 percent of our time. It follows that 20 percent of our time produces 80 percent of our achievements. Keep that in mind and focus on the things that produce those accomplishments.
Don’t forget to give yourself time buffers in your scheduling. Much like doctors allow for time overages, plan for that as well. It’s also good to schedule breaks.
Here are the main techniques I found to manage your day:
All of these techniques look at breaking your day in to manageable tasks. It is important to spend a little bit of time taking breaks and refocusing to keep yourself on task.
There are so many time drains in our lives. Little blinky lights that say some one has called, texted, emailed. Weather apps to check. Fishing reports to look at. Social media? That’s a column on its own. The trick is to eliminate those distractions. Close your browser windows. Put your phone on mute or better yet, ask your front desk to hold calls for an hour or two. Hide your cell phone from yourself or leave it in your bag, desk or car. Close your office door and put a note on it asking to not be disturbed unless it’s critical. If you don’t have an office door, try putting on your headphones and listening to some music that gets your energy up. Give yourself the gifts of the time and space to focus.
Perfectionism is the enemy of the productive. Don’t get bogged down in the nitty gritty of something. You promised high quality work in a timely manner. Hours, days and years can be spent trying to get something perfectly.
Multitasking is addictive. We get little bumps of satisfaction by crossing an item off our “to do” list. But was that item central to the goal? Multitasking is also inefficient. We lose a lot of time bouncing between tasks. We stop to dash off an email or step away to ask a quick question. Studies show it often takes twice as long to get back to the task at hand. Lastly, few of us multitask well. We wind up off on a tangent and distracted from our main goal.
Time management is doable. The main takeaway should be to just do it. Make a “to do” list. Prioritize that list and set goals. Planning ahead helps. Breaking those big tasks down in to smaller tasks is key. Schedule your tasks. Practice saying “no” so you don’t over commit. Delegate where you can. At the end of the day, plan tomorrow. It will take practice, but it is achievable!
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Carolynn Jerome is an enthusiastic and dynamic presenter. She comes to Avitus Group with many years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. As an operations manager and supervisor, Jerome’s focus has been on customer service and ensuring that her team has the training and tools to be successful. Her goal has always been to develop the next wave of company leaders. As a trainer with Avitus Group, Jerome has combined her strong background in operations with her education in teaching and is excited to be presenting the monthly Leadership Development Program that focuses on skills and techniques for navigating the corporate jungle for managers and supervisors.