Taming your Time Management Skills

Tangling with time management?  Is your personal productivity in the pits?  Are you up against deadlines, pressured to get more done in a day, longing to have “quality time” with your loved ones?  Is more time what you really need?

Time is one of the things we just don’t have control over. It moves along, minute by minute, year by year.  Aside from money, it is probably the one thing most people wish they had more of.  However, if you had more time, how much would it matter?  It’s how we treat time that makes a difference.  It’s really about getting the right things done, not how much we get done.

For most folks, productivity can be improved by following a few universal tactics that the time management experts advocate:

1.  Define your strategic goals and objectives.  Think big!  These goals and objectives are the foundation that direct your actions, guide your prioritization.  Whenever deciding what to do, ask yourself “will this get me where I need or want to be?”  Is this contributing to my long term goals and short term needs?”  A great example is “create a financial plan that provides enough income for my retirement”.

2.  Establish the steps required to accomplish your goals and objectives. The basic concepts of project management are at work here.  For each goal, determine the projects necessary to accomplish the goal.  Refine that further into sub-projects and then tasks.  What will move to your calendar or “to-do” list is the next required step that depends on no other action. This is making a “molehill” out of a mountain.

3.  Create a processing and tracking system that works for you.  The experts have refined several systems of managing “stuff” that comes your way…emails, voicemails, snail mail, things you need from the store, the request made by your boss in the hallway. Every system should have these basic steps:

• Get it out of your head and in writing; • Determine the minimal number of collections spots for all of your “stuff”, the designated places where you will retrieve your new items;

• Use what I call the 4 “P’s”: Plop it, Pass it, Perform it, Process it.

1.  If it’s trash or something  you really don’t need (like that pile of 2 year old magazines), then Plop it into the trash (or delete it);

2.  If it’s something that someone else can handle, Pass it on (delegate), if appropriate;

3.  If it’s something you can just get done in a few minutes, Perform – get it done!

4.  If it’s something that needs time, attention and planning, then Process it by placing it       in your calendar, project list or to-do list; • Select a tracking system that works for you.  There are plenty of tools, from Day-timers  to electronic systems like Microsoft Outlook , depending on your preferences.  Also, create an effective filing system to store all of your project details, so that you can simply pull it out in a second and find yourself in a frustrating search.

4.  Plan and review regularly.  You need some level of planning, every day and every week.  This allows for changes, projects progression, and space to accommodate new opportunities.  Planning and reviewing keeps you on course.

5.  Deal with interruptions effectively.  If there’s anything you can safely bet on, things will come out of the blue while you’re trying to get things done – a fellow employee needs some information, your boss wants to talk to you about a new project, your child is sick and needs to go home.  You should expect these occurrences and lan some flexibility to your schedule.  Other things to contemplate are a pleasant but firm decline, scheduling “protected” time, where you make it clear to others that you are off-limits, and planning for better meetings where issues can be collected and dealt with.  Avoid distractions.

6.  Communicate. Know people’s expectations of you.  It’s nice to give updates, but when the expectation is now compromised, be sure to not only inform the other party, but suggest alternatives, ask for advice or renegotiate.

One thing to understand about yourself and others is that there are many time management styles.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Be open and take these into account when developing the systems for processing your “stuff” and when working with others on a project.

Lastly, celebrate!  Be sure to soak in the satisfaction of accomplishing your goals.

Global Genesis offers a full day workshop on time management/personal productivity, including a comprehensive time management style assessment.