11 Tips to Take Control of Your Time Does your day always seem to get away from you? If you have difficulty managing your time, you’re probably stressed out and struggling to succeed in your business. Here are eleven tips to help.
Louis Boone, a poet and novelist once said, “I definitely am going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” The most important skills I learned in life were not taught in school. Time management is one of those skills needed in today’s 24 X 7 work life. A person who can’t manage time hurts teamwork. Poor time management makes for a poor salesperson. A teenager who doesn’t show up for work on time will get fired. Best of all, managing time well reduces stress and anxiety. Included here are a few time management tips I’ve picked up over the years.
1. Know what is important. Clearly define the most important aspects of your job–the effort that generates key results. If you don’t know what that is ask questions such as, “What has the greatest impact or value on your staff members or clients?” “What will increase sales?” Focus on the 20 percent that generates 80 percent of the results.
2. Prioritize and make “To Do” lists. Now that you know what is important about your job make a master weekly “To Do” list. Write a “A,” “B,” or “C” next to each item based on importance. At the beginning of each day make a daily “To Do” list. Stop and think–which item absolutely must be completed today? This does not include items you’d like to get done today, but only the item(s) that have to be completed today.
3. Avoid the “feel like its.” Poor time managers base their actions on their feelings and moods. You know the type, “Yeah, I know the garbage can is overflowing, but I don’t feel like taking it out right now.” Effective time management is more about habit than feelings. Most people do the easy and simple elements of their job first… like reading their email, scanning the newspaper, cleaning off their desk etc. Good time managers do what is important first, irregardless of their feelings. As Nike says, “Just Do It!”
4. Schedule your biggest project for your peak energy period. It took me many years to figure out not everyone is a morning person like me. I hop out of bed before the sun comes up ready to head off to the office, while others don’t hit their stride until 3 p.m. Therefore, during your peak energy period focus your mental and physical resources on the largest projects.
5. Learn to delegate. A person who refuses to delegate will likely be a very busy, frustrated and heading for burnout. It is not necessary for a manager to personally handle every item. One very successful regional sales manager readily attributed part of his success to the fact that he trusted his administrative assistant to handle routine items that did not require his personal decision. This left him free to concentrate on working with sales personnel outside the office.
6. Toss it or file it. Follow the rule to touch paper only once. Know what is important and throw away every piece of paper you don’t think you will need. If you want to keep it spend 10 seconds filing that important paper now rather than 30 minutes searching for it later.
7. Use folders to prioritize your work; sub-divide files. If you are a paperless office, use your computer to sub-divide files. For example, I created electronic folders for my articles titled, “Articles for 2001,” and “Articles for 2002.” This way I can quickly find what I am looking for. If you have paper files use colors folders to see which jobs need your immediate attention. I use red folders for hot projects and client files. Yellow folders are for new ideas and projects. Blue folders tell me this is for research. Get the idea?
8. Be realistic and stay flexible. One way to set yourself up for a panic attack is to plan an unrealistic amount of work for one day/week/etc. Use your common sense to recognize when you have over-scheduled yourself. Don’t get so organized where you become unapproachable.
9. Schedule time for you. Schedule a “personal time” appointment on your calendar each day. If someone wants to see you at that time, just say, “I’m sorry, I have an appointment then.” Whether you use this for personal reflection or as a few quiet minutes to catch your breath or simply time to think, it’s a legitimate use of time. And you will still get as much, if not more, done.
10. Make sure your electronic planner does not cost you time. People who use electronics enjoy the orderly convenience of a digital assistant, but sometimes they take longer to enter and maintain information in a gadget than to jot it down with a pencil in an old-fashioned paper planner.
11. E-mail. Answer E-mail immediately. The same rule applies to email as paper. Read it once and do something with it. Don’t read it and then let it pile up in your in-box thinking you will get back to it. Keep your inbox clutter free. Create a “keeper” folder and transfer the mail you want to keep for later. Create another folder for “Actions pending” etc. Respect other people’s time and avoid forwarding those stories/jokes people love to send unless they agree to get them first. Use the delete key aggressively and delete junk e-mail without reading it. Learn to use your filters to eliminate spammers.
Time is valuable, and time management can help you be more productive, successful and less stressed out so you have more time to enjoy your life more.