One of the most powerful things you can do for your career … and even for your life, is to drive your day rather than have your day drive you. Basically that means consciously deciding how to spend your time rather than it just happening. Don’t get me wrong, that does not mean work, work, work … it might mean consciously deciding to nap, play or just “chill out”!
“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin
Here are 10 tips for taking control of your time:
1. Be a BIG Calendar user … use it to plan your time.
2. Block off time in your calendar for meetings with yourself … and treat them like any other meeting (be punctual). Sales people might block time for prospecting; recruiters might block time for contacting their candidates; managers might block time for any number of projects that otherwise don’t get done!
3. Build regular commitments into your calendar in advance. That monthly meeting with your boss, the prep time for the monthly presentation you give, the end of month/start of month tasks you do regularly like progress reports etc.
4. Use To Do Lists. You can use electronic lists, paper lists … whatever works for you. They should contain any significant task (or group of tasks). eg. Follow up with my 20 candidates might be there as one entry … but isn’t complete until all are done. Some people advocate one big list, others suggest multiple lists … I have a list for each of my major “projects”
5. Prioritise your tasks. You might use Covey’s Important/Not Important/Urgent Not Urgent matrix … or a simple A,B,C system. But work on the high return items first. There is a good sense of accomplishment in ticking off those completed tasks!
6. Manage your phone and email… do not let them manage you! Just because the phone rings you do not have to pick it up … use your caller id to know if it is important! Just because an email lands in your desk you don’t need to read it right away. It is far more effective to process email in batches at a time that works for you and your job.
7. Multi-tasking versus multi threading! You cannot be efficient when you do two things at the same time. Having said that, reality is you will have several tasks “on the go” at the same time. The trick is to be totally focused on the one you are processing for the time you are processing it. Then focus on the next task. This way you can keep several tasks moving forward at the same time, but deal with them effectively.
8. Build time into your calendar for thinking/strategising/organising yourself. Some people like to do this last thing in the week to be prepared for the following week and others do it first thing in the week. do what works for you.
9. Build in your socialising/networking time. Avoid the ad hoc “water cooler chat” … but allot time to build and maintain relationships. This way time does not get eaten up by idle chatter … you are consciously managing it.
10. Revisit your time management methods every now and then … and certainly if you change job. It can ALWAYS get better!
“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” Charles Richards
Please know, as mentioned at the beginning, good time management can actually enhance your life by giving your more time for those things that are important in your life. If you want to golf 4 times a week (and I personally don’t know why anyone would want to do that) then figure out how you can do it … plan it into your schedule and make other things fit around it!