Time is really the only capital any human being has, and the one thing he can't afford to waste - Thomas Edison
Time management is a crucial part of our daily lives, not just for work. It aids us in being more organised, clearing our minds and making our days more fruitful.
Within our working day time management skills, when used effectively, give us the time to fit in different tasks and work - ultimately making us more successful.
Here we look at small changes you can make to improve your time management skills.
Create an Activity Log
Activity Logs are useful tools for analysing how you use your time. Being able to evaluate your effectiveness throughout the day can make you more productive. You can build up an accurate picture of what you do day-to-day by keeping one for a few days.
Every activity should be noted down: replying to emails, creating a document or report and even the miscellaneous tasks like making coffee or talking with colleagues. Write down what the activity is, how long it took and what time you did it.
When you next have time, go back through your Activity Log and write down the duration of each activity and whether it was a high, medium, low or no value task. This will be regarding how far it contributed to achieving your job goals. By seeing what you really do in a day, allows you to eliminate or reduce low-value activities, scheduling challenging tasks for the time of the day when you feel your best, minimizing the number of times that you switch between types of tasks, and reducing the time you spend on the unimportant tasks.
To Do List
A To-Do list is a staple addition to anyone’s work arsenal if you're serious about refining your time management skills. The benefit of using a To-Do list will be that you are much better organized and you'll be much more reliable. You'll experience less stress, safe in the knowledge that you haven't forgotten anything important. More than this, if you prioritise intelligently, you'll focus your time and energy on high-value activities, which will mean that you're more productive and more valuable to your team.
Using Eisenhower’s Principle, we can look at this in quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Urgent-Important. These are the important tasks you know that you need to do imminently: a report or meeting deadline, for example.
Quadrant 2: Not Urgent – Important. These may get put off, until they become pressing. There are no immediate benefits but we know we need to get to them at some point.
Quadrant 3: Urgent – Not Important. These tasks are the biggest reason we’re not more successful in the long-term. They clog up our time today and we all know, when we look back at our past week, were probably a waste of time. These are interruptions that happen and soak up our time. It may be a poorly thought out meeting or a phone call that didn’t need to go on for so long.
Quadrant 4: Not Urgent – Not Important. These things we do because we feel like we’re tired and need a break. It’s ‘accidentally’ checking and then rechecking Facebook or other social media sites during the day. It might be mindlessly eating, even though we’re not hungry! At the time, because we find them more fun and distracting, these tasks take priority and aren’t urgent or important. These tasks, however take up a lot of our time and leave less room for the pressing responsibilities.
To really succeed, you have to – as much as you can – eliminate the Quadrant 4 tasks (not urgent and not important). Just say no to Facebook. Shut it off. It’s a time drain. Mark Zuckerberg has built a £100 billion empire off our inability to eliminate Quadrant 4.
Organising Best Practice
Notebooks: One strategy that many organized people use is to work with a notebook. This notebook is like a "catch-all" for your thoughts and what you do during the day.
It’s a helpful little tool to note down facts or things to remember when you're talking with a colleague or client. It’s great for reminders or brainstorming. It’s a good habit to write things down.
The advantage of a notebook is that you keep all your thoughts, conversations, and ideas in one place.
Mental preparation: first 15 minutes of your day – When you walk into the office in the morning, spend your first 15 minutes looking at what you need to do that day. Plan your day, write your new daily to-do list with priority numbers or letters, refresh your tasks, get a daily diary out alongside your notebook, clear your desktop and stay tidy.
Many jobs list 'Time Management' as one of their necessary skills so it’s an important one to master, or at least begin the right practices to develop the habit. Once it becomes second nature you’ll be more productive and able to complete tasks more effectively and efficiently.