We all get the same 24 hours, so why do some people accomplish so much more with their time than others? The answer is good time management. It’s a shift in the way we look at things. Being busy is not the same as achieving results. In fact, the opposite is often true.
Having a frenzy day of activity slows most of us down because we’re dividing our time between so many different tasks.
Time management is the process of organizing and planning how much time you spend on specific activities. Start by tracking where your time goes this week — you might be surprised.
How often do you run out of time?
Are you getting everything done on your to-do list? Do you feel you need another Saturday to keep your head above water? If so, welcome to the human race — now let’s find our way to sanity.
To start managing time effectively, you need to set goals. Once you know where you’re going you can figure out what needs to be done, and in what order. Without clear goals our time gets used up, thanks to conflicting priorities. By taking time to set goals you’ll quickly spot distractions that can often lead you astray.
The foundation of good time management is setting goals, then backing into the activities needed to make those goals a reality. Here’s where you start if goal setting is new to you.
- Start with the big picture. What do you want to do with your life over the next 5 to 10 years?
- Next, break these down into smaller targets that you must hit to achieve your big goals. Look at what you can do to start moving towards them. Look at what things you can do in the next year, what could you do in the next month, next week and today.
- Last, once you have your plan, start working on it to achieve your goals.
How do you manage your time when you’re continually interrupted? If you’re a manager it can be very challenging to work on your top business priorities. For some of us, our employees have new questions and unexpected problems that need to be dealt with right away. Ultimately, that can be a barrier to success. If that’s you, do what you can to minimize those interruptions without scaring people off when they need help.
One step is to realize your day only has so many hours in it. A number of small interruptions can eat up time you need to achieve your goals. With each interruption comes time that you must spend to refocus to successfully complete complex work.
Get control over interruptions by knowing what they are and plan for them in your daily schedule. If the interruptions are to a point where you are frequently pushed off schedule and causing delays in completing your work, start to record the interruptions you experience throughout the day. Do this for a week noting if the interruption was urgent of could have waited for a better time. Once you have recorded your interruptions for a week, analyze the information.
Which interruptions are valid? Ask yourself, “Could some of the valid interruptions be eliminated with a weekly meeting for increased training and clearer communication? Could some of the non-urgent interruptions have waited to be addressed at the same weekly meeting?”
Last, plan how much time is taken up by the urgent, valid interruptions. Block the appropriate amount of time into your schedule needed to handle interruptions and only take on as much work as you can fit into the remaining time.
Nancy Drew teaches Time Management at the Rady School of Management’s Center for Executive Development. Drew is a dynamic business speaker with over 15 years high-level business expertise who is recognized internationally in the United States, Canada and Europe. The course takes place on Jan. 18 and runs from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.