Below are the time management suggestions I most often give to my speaking and training audiences. Whenever I deliver these, I implore people to Adopt, Adapt, Reject any or all of them. What I mean is:
- Adopt. Give the suggestion a try; see if it works for you.
- Adapt. If the suggestion isn’t working for you, but you like the idea, try to Adapt it to your way of working.
- Reject. If you can’t Adopt or Adapt a suggestion, toss it out and go to the next one. We’re just looking for one or two ideas to help you regain command of your day.
With that said, here are my Top 10 Time Management Tips:
1. Create a Designated Work Space. Identify a defined physical space – like your entire desktop – that you clear of everything (I mean EVERYTHING) except the one thing you need to work on right now. Your DWS should look like a newborn conference room table. It will help you eliminate the effects of peripheral vision which can be very distracting when piles of other work and your computer monitor are within that scope of vision.
2. Use Robust Subject Lines. Be very descriptive in the Subject line of each e-mail. This will assist the reader determine how important your e-mail is in relation to the others in his/her inbox, as well as assist their ability to find and file it quickly in the future.
3. Face Away From Traffic. Facing the door – what I call the Command Central office setup – has the disadvantage of allowing your 120 degrees of peripheral vision affect your focus. You look up every time someone walks by and, worst case scenario, you catch their eye and in they come! Though not Feng Shui compliant, facing away from the door eliminates this self-inflicted distraction from your day.
4. Conduct Regular Core Dumps. One of the leading causes of “noise” in our lives is the self-talk going on inside our heads. “Gotta remember that.” “Oh yeah, can’t forget that.” These mental reminders cause our focus to ping pong around all day long. When you hear these ruminations going on, take a moment to jot the information down on a physical or digital sticky note. Quell the internal symphony by capturing all the to-dos in a recorded form so you can focus on the exigencies of the day.
5. Turn off new message alerts. I can’t say it enough – turn new message alerts OFF! These self-inflicted interruptions are riddling your ability to focus and be productive. Just check your e-mail, texts and voice mails periodically throughout the day (even every 15 minutes if necessary) to remain responsive to those who need your attention.
6. Pick Today’s One Thing. A great way to feel productive and in charge of your workload is to pick ONE thing each day that you WILL get done. At the very least, this one thing will move off our plate. (Note, for you over-achievers out there, I said ONE.)
7. Reduce Meeting Length by 25%. Work fills the time allotted. Thus, if we schedule meetings for 60 minutes, they’ll take 60 minutes. However, if we schedule them for 45 minutes, they’ll take 45 minutes. Shazam! We just found 15 minutes in the day to get other stuff done.
8. Take Short Breaks Throughout the Day. Contrary to popular believe, this “life thing” ain’t a marathon. The brain just don’t work that way. It’s more like a series of sprints. Cater to your brain’s preference for sprinting by taking short breaks throughout the day. Even a five minute walk around the building or a quick read of the daily newspaper allows your brain to take a much-needed breather before jumping in to the next big effort.
9. Schedule Only Four Hours of Work Each Day. We are all optimists. We tend to think everything takes less time than it actually does. As a result, we over-commit our time and end up begging for extensions from those to whom we owe work. Begging for extensions is a waste of time – what I call activity with no corresponding productivity. One solution to this conundrum is to only schedule yourself for four hours of work each day. This means that when you are giving others an idea of when you can get something done, base it on a four-hour workday instead of an eight-hour workday. That leaves four hours each day to deal with the inevitable emergencies that come up.
10. Do One Thing at a Time. Multi-tasking is an inefficient way to work. There is a growing body of science that supports this conclusion, but just trying having a conversation with someone who is checking their e-mail at the same time to confirm this proposition. Doing one thing at a time means you can be laser focused on that one thing. Laser focus delivers all your brain’s resources on this one task resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness.
There they are. Ten of my most recommended time management tips. Take them. Leave them. Pass them along. Most importantly, though, consider each of them to determine where there’s a nugget of value in there for you. After all, it IS all about you!