By Laura Hansen, PCC. Yeah, I know, you may be thinking time management is really basic, you know all about it, but be honest, how consistently do you actually practice it? Whether you think you know all about it or know you could improve, let’s do a refresher of time management best practices.
When you’re a leader charged with achieving organizational results and with leading teams and projects toward specific goals with set timelines, the countless daily interruptions you face can be hard to manage. You need a way to sift through all of the information and requests. It’s expected that you can handle multiple priorities and tasks. The best place to start is to separate the unimportant from the important. From there you can develop the focus and the discipline to keep your days on track and your team and organization moving forward.
What Does Effective Time Management Look Like?
- You set priorities and focus on what’s most important.
- You are extremely productive.
- You deal appropriately with interruptions: you know when to allow them and when to screen them out .
- You do not spread yourself too thin.
- You are an excellent administrator.
- You are an excellent delegator.
What are the Characteristics of People Who are Effective Time Managers?
- You are focused.
- You delegate effectively.
- You achieve results.
- You manage and measure work.
- You effectively direct others.
What Other Behaviors are Associated with Effective Time Management?
- You focus on choices, not time.
- You turn away work not on the priority list.
- You set short- and long-term goals.
- You do routine work during periods of low energy.
- You take breaks from work.
- You break big tasks into smaller tasks.
Behaviors that May be Keeping You from Better Managing Your Time
- You think that every task and request that comes to you is urgent and important.
- You struggle to balance short-term objectives with long-term goals.
- You have a hard time saying no, even when your workload is already maxed out.
- You have not taken an inventory of how you use your time during the day.
- You try to do several tasks at once. Multitasking is not efficient — it just feels that way.
- You don’t set a realistic daily objective.
Ways to Improve Your Time Management
- Begin each day with your task list, not with your email.
- Choose the most urgent and important tasks from your list and set a goal to complete them by a certain date. Be realistic.
- Shut your door. You may value an open-door leadership style, but choose some times to close your door to signal that you should not be interrupted.
- Prioritize your calendar. Move important tasks to your calendar so you can block out time to complete them and signal that you are not available for meetings and other events during that time.
- Leave some gaps in your calendar to remain flexible and available.
- Choose when to deal with email. Choose specific periods during the day when you will review and respond to email. For example, perhaps at nine in the morning, right after lunch, and just before the end of the day. Add that schedule to your email signature so that people know when they can expect you to respond.
- Set the clock.
- Turn off your cell phone. Or set it to ring only if someone important to you calls. That might be your boss or someone else at a higher level in the organization, and it might be your spouse and your children.
- Come in a little early to plan and set up your day.
Longer Term Approaches for Improvement
- Map your day. Over the course of a week, keep a diary of how you spend your time each day, at work and away. To see how you can improve your time management skills, you first have to know how much time you have to manage.
- Try a few methods for prioritizing and settle on the one that best suits you. People manage their time in different ways. They might sort tasks between the urgent, important, not urgent, not important method formalized by Stephen Covey. Or you could separate work by deadline, ease of completion, or in some other way.
- Arrange to work remotely if your company supports it to give yourself some uninterrupted time to press projects forward, catch up on emails, or work on long-term plans.
- Shift your more difficult tasks to the start of the day. If you wait to do this kind of work later in the day, it becomes easy to push it off until tomorrow. And even easier to push it again the next day.
- Use your energy in a way that is right for you. After you map how you spend your time, compare that to the energy levels you feel over the course of the day. If you start out with high energy, tackle the more complicated work early. When you are at your lowest energy, do routine tasks like handling emails.
- Look closely at what’s important to you. In addition to comparing your energy levels to your activity map, compare how you spend your time with regards to your personal values and your organization’s values. If you are spending a lot of time on things that you don’t value, it’s probably better that you delegate those things to others.
Things to Reflect on to Become more Effective at Time Management
- What stresses you at your job, and in your family and social life? How might you alleviate those stressors?
- What do you value most and how do your values compare with your priorities?
- What is your preference for separating, dividing, or merging work with the other parts of your life?
- How accurate are you in estimating the time it will take to complete a task? How can you become more accurate?
- What kinds of work can you say no to or delegate to others?
- How do you determine the urgency and importance of a task?
- How might you resist the temptation to sidetrack yourself in email or web browsing activities?
To learn more about effective time management and improving your leadership skills, schedule a consultation with Laura.