Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twenty Time Management Tips

A lot of people over the years have taken note of what I like to call my efficiency, my organization, my neatness, my punctuality, and other fine traits. They don't necessarily call these traits out by name. They might say things like, "Geeze, loosen up." Still, I feel like I have some pretty good insight on how to manage one's time effectively. Since it seems like this week is National Time Management Week, I thought I would take the time to list my ideas here for your reference.

1. Early is the new "on time." "On time" is late. I was at an appointment yesterday and the person helping me noted that the receptionist wasn't there. It was 8:15, or close to. "I like to get in early so I can see what I'm dealing with," said the woman who had helped me out. She is right. By the time you take off your coat, check the 20 blogs you read, get your coffee, go to the restroom, eat your granola bar, and check Twitter, you are officially starting your WORK day late.

2. As new things to do pop up, write them down on a list. It might seem like this takes time, and it does, but having a single place to find everything you need to do cuts down on time, increases efficiency, and makes you feel more productive as you cross things off.

3. Use your favorite website as a carrot. Everyone has a favorite website we like to visit, whether it's, a shopping site, or something...else. Part of the work day has been delegated specifically for checking out the site. Don't do it as soon as you sit down. Promise yourself you'll finish a project or send a certain amount of emails (work related only). Then reward yourself by scanning your favorite online destination.

4. Work ahead. We all have times, whether it's an hour or a whole day, where things lag a little. Use that time to write blogs. Just don't publish them yet. Do prep work that's hard to get done when you're crunched for time.

5. Do not post to Facebook about how busy you are. You know that we all have done this. Or have seen other people do this. Yes, that's better. I've heard rumors that sometimes a person will try to be funny about it. "I wish someone had told me to bring my shovel to work." "I didn't know I'd need a submarine to see my desk." If you are thinking of these little gems, you are either not really all that busy or you are really going to be stressed out when deadlines are coming down the pike.

6. Do not post to Twitter about how busy you are. See above.

7. Keep your work area clean and organized. How much time do you spend in a day looking for a job jacket or a stapler or a paper clip or a note your boss taped to your computer screen 2 days ago? Keep things organized. Take a little time to put things away. Save time in the long run.

8. Do not complain to a co-worker about how busy you are. You're not only taking up time complaining, but now you're also throwing off your kind-hearted peer.

9. Do not freak out. When I was in high school, I had a lot of homework to do every single night. Being a teen, I thought this was completely unfair. I wanted to watch Seinfeld. I didn't want to study Geometry. Had I not spent the half hour freaking out, I could have had my half hour of Seinfeld. There's a moral for ya!

10. Hide your phone. Sometimes it's hard to make people in your life understand that you have a job and tied to that job is stuff you must get done to keep that job. You love your friends, you love your family. But you don't need to talk to them every 10 minutes via phone or text. Give select people your work phone for emergencies. Let your iPhone or Blackberry or flip phone rest during the day. It's tired.

11. Prioritize. This comes back to a list. Despite what we believe at any given moment, everything does not need to be done NOW. There are projects tied to deadline, there are projects that are just pesky everyday things, and there are projects we're looking forward to doing. Get the deadline stuff out of the way, then switch off between other types of projects.

12. Get little stuff done, then focus on big stuff. This is a matter of personal preference, but I find this works really well for me. If I have a million little things to do, I can't seem to concentrate on the 2-3 huge things I need to work on. Set out a block of time and get as many little things done as you can. Then set up larger blocks of time for pure concentration.

13. If you know you're going to talk for 2 hours, hold off on calling. We all have work contacts that we love to talk to. These are the people we have long and winding conversations with that might begin with the family, travel to current events, and then at an hour and 45 minutes get to the reason for the call. If you know that you have that pattern of action with a person, email them or wait until you have time to talk a marathon.

14. Take care of your ducklings. If you work with other people, and if these people often need information or insight from you, call a meeting. Review projects, try to answer as much as possible, and then say, "Give me a couple of hours. I need to work on X project."

15. Set realistic goals. It would be great if we could all start our work day with one mammoth goal, like "create world peace," cross it off, and then be done. Sadly, this is not so. Set small, reasonable goals. We all know that there are going to be fires to put out, unexpected events, and who knows what else. Build in some fluff to absorb those distractions.

16. Stay away from Twitter and Facebook altogether. I don't know if some people know this, but you can actually log out of sites like Twitter and Facebook. Or you can navigate away from them. Try to go an hour without logging into your account. Compare this to an hour where you have 1 or both sites open. Publish your results.

17. Repurpose. If you are blogging or tweeting or facebooking for your company, repurpose. Tweet the same link that you post to your Facebook page. Use a blog post as an e-newsletter story or try the reverse.

18. Delegate. This is something a lot of us are terrible about. So many people now feel obligated to do everything tied to our jobs, from the mundane to the huge. Don't be afraid to delegate if you have that ability. Just make sure you don't get into a habit of delegating, then jumping on to a Social Media site to chat with friends. That's abuse of the system!

19. Multitask. Listen to an important podcast while answering emails. Cross things off your list while talking on the phone. We're getting trained to wire ourselves this way. Scary but true.

20. Refine the company process. If you work with and for others, you should all work together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone should know where everyone is and what everyone is doing. Avoiding the time it takes to track down people and projects is a HUGE time saver. Communicate now, save time for later.

These are some of my ideas. Do you have anything to add?

Image by Jonathan Natiuk.

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