Did this summer go quickly for you? It certainly flew by for me!
This has prompted me to answer the following question from one of my readers.
How do you manage your time, especially when you are busy and have other commitments – such as caring for children, grandchildren, or other dependents?
This is a great question. Time management is one area that many business owners struggle with.
There are lots of ways you can use to manage your time better, depending on how you like to work. It is not one size fits all.
But before you deep-dive into these techniques, you first need to understand what it is that you are trying to manage. Specifically, what are your biggest time-stealers?
What I want you to do now, is to identify every disruption on the following list that regularly affects your productivity:
- You have frequent interruptions, such as telephone conversations that run on without focus or control
- You are easily distracted, and become sidetracked by more enjoyable tasks
- You have meetings that are unfocused and unorganised
- You do tasks that should be delegated to others
- You procrastinate and put off more important tasks
- You are indecisive, not knowing what to do in each period of time
- You manage tasks with incomplete information
- You have to deal with team members who do not complete their tasks
- You have to engage in crisis management and firefighting
- Your communication – both verbal and written – is unclear. No one knows who’s doing what and when
- You have inadequate technical knowledge due to a lack of training
- Your objectives and priorities agreed between colleagues and/or management are unclear
- Your planning is lacking – in either the short or long term
- You experience stress and fatigue
- You try to do too much yourself
- You can’t say No to requests from colleagues
- Your desk and personal items are disorganised
- You struggle to keep on top of your emails
Next, make a list of the top three disruptions that you most wish to eliminate.
Got them? Now let’s discuss some tried and tested tips that relate to the list.
Diminishing The Disruptions! My Fool-Proof Strategies For Boosting Your Productivity
1. Crisis Management & Firefighting
We may be great at sorting out our crises, but do we get into the crisis by failing to plan in the first place? Are we the firefighter or the arsonist!
Remember, if we experience the same crisis once, that’s unfortunate. Twice is a disaster, but the third time is incompetence!
If we repeatedly fail at the same hurdle, it is a sign that we haven’t learnt from previous mistakes. So rectify and review your crises, write a plan that ensures they won’t happen again, then action what you learnt from them.
2. Telephone Interruptions
Telephones are our greatest communication tool, and our greatest enemy.
When you take telephone calls, ensure that you control the conversation to minimise wasted time. For any work requests, ask that the caller emails you the details too, because if everything is in writing there should be fewer mistakes than if you have to rely on your memory or on written notes.
3. Unclear Objectives And Priorities
Use a project management tool or website – such as Asana or Monday – where you can create tasks, set deadlines, follow up on leads, and more. You can create teams (often for free) and assign tasks to the members. This is a great way to delegate and keep an eye on where each task is in the process.
4. Trying To Do Too Much Yourself
We always seem to run out of time before we run out of tasks, because we try to do everything without considering the priority of each task.
Outsourcing to others some basic tasks that you either hate or lack confidence with, will free up your time to concentrate on the money-making side of your business!
5. Ineffective Delegation
Coaching and good delegation are considered the main route to effective leadership.
Ask yourself, ‘do I have someone in my team who can do this job quicker than me, better than me, who will enjoy doing it, or who can do it cheaper than me?’ If the answer to any of these is yes, then you should delegate more.
6. Desk Management And Personal Disorganisation
Are you suffering from ‘Desk Stress’ where you can’t see more than 5% of your desktop due to all the unnecessary clutter piled onto it?
Research shows that there is about 36 hours’ worth of work on top of the average desk. This alone can be a real productivity stopper.
To combat this, clear your desk at the end of every day and ensure that you have a weekly schedule for organising and decluttering your paperwork and filing systems.
7. Procrastination And Indecision
People avoid making decisions for many reasons, but the three principal ones are avoidance, complacency, and panic.
Try doing your worst task at the start of the day; this will get it out of the way and stop you from stressing about it.
Also, break long tasks into smaller segments. For example, splitting your day-long project into 6 one-hour segments will ensure that you know how you’re doing at the end of every hour.
8. The Inability To Say No
If you say, ‘yes I can help’ when you know you can’t, you will cause other people a lot of problems.
People rely on your promises, and they would prefer to accept a guarantee that you will deliver when you can, rather than hear you make a promise to deliver immediately that you can’t keep.
9. Unfocused Meetings
The average senior manager spends 17 hours per week in meetings, plus 6 hours per week getting ready for them, and then even more time recovering afterwards!
Do a cost/benefit analysis before all your meetings to ensure they are worth having. And if you decide they are, always ensure that your meetings have an agreed Start and Finish time.
10. Trouble Managing Emails
Are you suffering from a stressful inability to stop looking at, and fretting over, your emails every 5 minutes?
Here are three tips to help you cope:
• Deal with your emails at regular intervals throughout the day, instead of whenever you see them arrive in your inbox.
• Disable any pop-up notifications on your phone or computer that inform you when you receive an email, so that they don’t interrupt you.
• Create email rules that balance your need for technology with ensuring you have adequate face-to-face contact with others.
As you can see, there are many ways in which we can start to manage our time more effectively. Be the master of time – not its victim.
Over the course of a year, spending ten minutes a day on making time for the vital tasks that we need to do, or on saving time by eliminating various time-stealers from our routines, adds up to one whole working week!
If you would like to talk more about how someone can help you manage your time more effectively, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org