Make Time Work For You, Not Against You

by dsnider 27. September 2013 12:38

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."  —Aristotle

So far in this space, we’ve discussed what it means to suit yourself, how to figure out and articulate your priorities, and how to achieve work-life balance by consciously, intentionally and consistently spending your time and energy on what matters most to you. (At home and at work.) This month, I want to offer you a few specific time management tools and tips.
Effective time management is not complicated. It requires nothing more than an understanding that you are in charge of how your time is spent, a determination to spend it efficiently and productively, and a commitment to finding and then diligently using whatever system works for you. Thanks to differing personalities and working styles, there is no single silver-bullet system that works for everyone. The following tools and tips, however, will help just about everyone become more productive, more organized, and more strategic.

Be Productive

  •  Adopt the Five-Minute Rule: If it can be done in 5 minutes or less, do it the minute you first see it. Never procrastinate on this stuff or handle it more than once. Do it and get it over with or you'll end up spending far more than 5 minutes on it by the time you finally quit moving it around on your desk and actually get it done. 
  • Don't let people steal your time. State your time constraints. If you only have a few minutes or you're busy, say so. Let people decide whether to speak with you later, solve their problem without you, or talk to someone else.
  • Identify and schedule important follow-up items. After leaving a meeting, take the time to figure out what follow-up is needed and either do it on the spot or put a note in your tickler file for the day you'll need to do it.
  • Work smarter instead of harder. Spend at least a third as much time coming up with new and better ways to do your work as you do performing it. You may think you're too busy for this, but it's actually a time-saver—and the only way to avoid spending too much of your precious time on lower-value, time-consuming tasks. It will also make you a high impact performer.
Get Organized
  • Batch routine tasks: Update your calendar, read mail and email, return phone calls 2-3 times per day in blocks of time set aside for those purposes to avoid getting seriously behind, to reduce interruptions, and to save time overall.
  • Don't schedule back-to-back meetings all day. Meetings rarely start and end precisely on time and you're doomed before the day even starts if you have no slack in your schedule. Also, you need time to think, to catch up on email and phone calls, to pick up necessary meeting materials, to handle emergencies, not to mention at least a few minutes for lunch and bathroom breaks. If you schedule strategically and sensibly, you'll avoid getting seriously behind, reduce your stress levels, and save time overall.
  • Block out time on your calendar every day for meeting preparation, catching up, and thinking—and then honor the blocked time. Consider it as important as any other scheduled meeting and don't schedule over it. Really use it to prepare, catch up, and think.
  • Write things down. Free your brain and reduce anxiety by leaving nothing to memory. Keep a running projects list and, if you need it, a daily to-do list. Carry these and your calendar with you always

With time management—as with balance—avoid sacrificing the good in a futile quest for the perfect.  It’s not necessary for things to be perfect.  They just have to get better.  Adopt these tips, and they will.

Debra Snider is an author, speaker, no-longer-practicing lawyer, former senior executive, blackjack player, and mother of two grown children. Her published works include two nonfiction business books, one specifically for lawyers, and the novel A MERGER OF EQUALS, which readers have called “one of the most enlightening and true works of fiction about corporate life and love” and “virtually impossible to put down.”  A Chicagoan until 2005, Debra and her husband of 36 years now live in Nevada.  Click here for more info on her biography, books, and appearances.

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Debra Snider | Suit Yourself

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