Time is a constant. There are twenty-four hours in a day, no more, no less. The challenge is to maximise their use – and it’s possible, provided you approach the issue methodically. All accomplishment in life, other than that which results by accident, passes through three stages – the goal, the plan, and the action. By maintaining this sequence, you can better organise yourself to squeeze more out of those twenty-four hours…
1. Identify what is strategic – to you.
Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing. Identify strategic issues – the essentials of your job or the main reasons why you are employed in your current position – and isolate them from those that are non-strategic. An excessive number, more than six, say, indicates that you need to clarify your role description. Free yourself of the non-strategic issues: eliminate or reduce them significantly – usually by delegating.
Having identified the issues strategic to your personal operations, you need to be quite clear about the goals associated with each issue. If you want to achieve those goals you will need to take specific actions within a reasonable time. Activities or blockages hampering the achievement of goals should be reduced or eliminated. You’ll find many ‘urgent’ jobs now assume a different priority in your life.
3. Plan your year, month, week, and day.
Planning how to make the best use of your time is a form of project management. And, of course, the parts of your project over which you’ll have most control are those relating to today and the next twenty-four hours. So, while being aware of the overall picture, your diary for the next two days will require your immediate attention: it will be far more detailed than next month’s diary. Though effective time management entails more than diaries and to-do lists, both play vital roles in keeping you focused on the key issues, being aware of the value of time – and being organised.
4. Practise key management techniques.
If you are to become organised, you must become an effective time-manager by making such strategies as these part of your daily operations:
- Prioritise your tasks; plan your time to deal with top-priority items when you are at your best.
- Learn to say ‘No’.
- Establish and meet deadlines.
- Delegate non-strategic tasks.
- Avoid over-commitment by being realistic about what can be done in the time available to you.
- Bite the bullet rather than procrastinating.
- Avoid butterfly behaviour, flitting from one job to the next, often finishing up where you started.
- Tell people that a closed door means ‘no interruptions’.
- Always keep an index card or notebook and pencil on hand.
- Take a speed-reading course.
- Find a hide-away area at home or at work where you can finish important jobs without interruption.
5. Use time-saving devices.
Keep yourself organised by keeping up with the technological and office management advances on offer. Telecommunications devices such as faxes, pagers, laptops, e-mail, mobile phones, and computer software, commercial time-management diaries, even courier services, for example, provide opportunities for you to achieve more in less time. You can’t afford not to be up to date with management technology.
6. Be prepared when travelling – and waiting.
Although new technologies such as laptops and audio cassettes help to maximise the time available to you when travelling and waiting, reading books, articles, and reports is still one of the most reliable means of getting information. Your time is too valuable to flip through ‘old’ news and irrelevant literature on planes and in reception areas. Organise yourself now – how will you use those idle moments while driving, travelling, or waiting? What reading matter will you put in your briefcase or glovebox – just in case?
7. Organise your work space.
Time-management researcher Merrill Douglass confessed that he logged two-and-a-half hours daily looking for information on the top of his desk! If you want to save time, a key is to keep your workplace organised. Pay attention to its location (to avoid interruptions), comfort, and space; have your work tools readily accessible; tidy that cluttered desk; establish a workable filing system; complete one project at a time and clear your desk of the rest; and get a large wastepaper basket.
8. Don’t worry.
Most of the things we worry about are unimportant, and we have little control over much of the rest. So focus your efforts on the few things you can do something about. Live a happier, more productive life by changing what you can and accepting what you can’t. Think of the time you’ll save!