Sharpen your use of time by adopting these top six time management tips.
1. Set Goals
- Write down your goals. (It’s only a wish until you write it down.) Goals must be useful, measurable, and attainable.
- Prioritize your goals using the “A,B,C” method: A=High B=Medium C=Low
- Evaluate your goals daily.
- Visualize your goals — imagine how you will achieve your goals and “do it.”
2. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is the one time waster of which you have control. So how can you keep procrastination from taking over your day?
- Slice the task into more manageable pieces and start on the easiest one
- Get a clear picture of the task by discussing and rationalizing with others
- Designate interim completion points
- Chart your progress
- Set a deadline for completing the project
3. Minimize Interruptions
The average employee is interrupted every nine minutes. This equals 48 interruptions per day.
Here's how to handle interruptions:
- If it’s necessary, handle immediately
- If it’s unnecessary, stop it or avoid it
- If it’s untimely, reschedule it
4. Manage Your Telephone Time
The telephone is both a terrific time saver and an insidious thief. Unfortunately, phones are a primary source of interruptions. In fact, 40% of managers spend more than two hours per day on the phone.
Try these strategies to manage your time spent on phone calls:
- Screen your calls through an assistant or answering machine
- If the person you’re calling isn’t available, leave a precise message — you’re more likely to get an answer back without having to call again
- Use automatic dialing to save valuable time
- Return calls before lunch or at the end of the day — people get to the point faster when lunch or quitting time draws near
- Keep a phone log in your planner to record decisions and discussions
5. Conquer Paperwork
You should handle paper only once. Try the TRAF system, as created by Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Organized and The Organized Executive.
Here are some tips on how to TRAF:
- Toss It: If you have an assistant, delegate the sorting, screening, and tossing of mail
- Refer It: Keep a folder handy for each person you deal with on a regular basis — when that person comes to see you, open the folder and take care of all the items at once
- Act On It: Start an action folder or action page in your planner
- File It: Include a discard date on papers that will outlive their usefulness and clutter your files
6. Plan Shorter and More Effective Meetings
Meetings can be a big time waster. Before you set up a meeting, evaluate your agenda and determine if the information could be shared more efficiently by distributing it with a routing slip.
If it’s necessary to schedule a meeting:
- Don’t allot more time for meetings than necessary — many times all the tasks can be completed in less time than originally scheduled
- Distribute the meeting agenda at least one day in advance and don’t overload the agenda
- Start meetings on time, even if everyone is not present
- Don’t schedule a meeting for more than two hours; beyond that, concentration suffers
- Issue minutes or meeting notes promptly
- Attend meetings only if necessary
Time management can be as informal or as detailed as you want to make it. Develop a plan to fit your own needs — be flexible throughout time and tailor it as your needs change.
A planning system like QuickNotes® Self-Management System features well-designed space for tracking appointments and includes a note section each week with ample writing space for recording phone calls, to-do lists, goals, or priorities.
Remember — it’s not how much time you have, it’s how well you manage it.