How do you take charge of your busy day? What time management secrets do I share with my executives and entrepreneurs? After all, there are dozens, if not hundreds of books already published on the topic. Bear with me. The problem as I see it is, if you don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done, when will you find the time to read a book on how to fix it?
Let’s start this blog with a little exercise. Take out a piece of paper. At the top write the words, ”I don’t have time to . . . “ Now, list all of the things you can think of that you don’t have time to do. They can be work related or personal, it doesn’t matter. The point is you feel there are things happening in your life you don’t have time for.
When you finish your list, cross out the words, “I don’t have time to . . .” and replace it with the words, “I don’t really want to . . . “ Read each item on your list again. For example, you said, “I don’t have time to work out.” Now it’s, “I don’t really want to work out.” If the statement is true, then cross the item off your list. If you don’t really want to do something, you’re never going to get to it. Save your time for the things you really want to do. Find a work-around or delegate those things you don’t really want to do.
Even though you’ve crossed some things off your list, I’m guessing you still have quite a few things you want time to do. So let’s look at how to get it all done. Here are my top five tips for time management:
1. Define your top three priorities for the day. Yeah, I know, you’ve got a million things to get done. Study after study has shown multi-tasking doesn’t work. Our minds just aren’t wired that way. So identify your top three things and write the rest on a separate list. When you finish the first three, you can go back to the list for other things to do. Picking your top three priorities lets you focus on what needs to be done. Speaking of which . . .
2. Block out time on your calendar. Blocking out time on your lets you focus on the things you need to get done. It establishes a time frame in which to accomplish something. It’s easy for the day to get away from us. Someone drops in to talk, you get phone calls, on and on it goes. Which brings me to . . .
3. Minimize distractions. Forward your phone to voicemail, turn off that annoying ding when you get an email message, log out of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., etc. No one will guard your time for you. If you imply you have all the time in the world, someone WILL take it.
4. Start with the hardest priority first. We all want to ease into things, it’s human nature. But that nasty task isn’t going to go away by ignoring it. Just do it and get it done.
5. Create a filing system, both online and off and use them. How much time do you spend looking for something that you thought was right on your desk? Create a system of folders that match the way you work. For example, if you do project work, create a folder for each project with sub-folders in it for proposal, statement of work, timeline, etc. It may take you several clicks to get to a document, but at least you know where it is. Folded into this tip is the OHIO rule; Only Handle It Once. When you get an email with a file attached, put it in the appropriate folder. When you get a letter, put it in the filing cabinet. Dealing with things as you get them, makes it more efficient and easier to find.
So, these are my top time management tips. Are there others? Sure, but from my point of view a system is only as good as how you use it. Some of the time management systems I’ve seen are so cumbersome, that any benefit is outweighed by the difficulty of using it. Keep it simple. Use a few simple time management rules and you’ll be astounded by how much more time you have in the day!