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Did you know that we all receive a credit of $86,400 every morning into our bank accounts, and every night it goes back down to $0. This is true for every single person on earth, regardless of whether you live in Australia, the United States or the South Pole.
If you believe the saying ‘time is money’ then you will agree that as a leader you receive 86,400 seconds to use every single day, we all get the same amount of time – it is how wisely and effectively you use this time that determines how successful you are.
Time management is an important skill for everyone; however as a leader it is particularly beneficial to you, as you may have to juggle numerous tasks and priorities all at the same time.
Time management is a vast topic, and you could spend a life time learning it, however we will talk about the very basic strategies and tools that you could use to increase productivity and efficiency.
Some of the benefits to managing time effectively include:
- Getting more done in less time
- Being more organised
- Achieve your goals in a timely manner
- Reduce the amount of stress in your life
There are five steps to effective time management:
Tips & Strategies for Time Management
Over the next couple of pages we will look at the five steps to effective time management—Plan, Assess, Organise, Prioritise, Schedule along with some time management techniques to help you become more effective at work.
Research shows that leaders who set personal goals, have a greater chance for success than those that do not set goals. Spend sometime determining your goals, what they are and how you plan to achieve them. You may want to ensure that you write down SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound.
When you know what your goals are and what it is important to you, it becomes easier for you to plan and prioritise your schedule accordingly. For e.g. If one of your goals is customer satisfaction, it becomes easy to chose between a meeting with a customer and an internal policy meeting if both of them are scheduled for the same time.
Before you can start spending your time better, you must first know where your time goes. You cannot change things unless you know what needs to be changed. One way to do this is to keep a daily log of your time for 3 days. Set a timer for every 15 minutes and record your activities in your book, from the time you wake up till the time you go to bed in 15 minute blocks. At the end of three days you should easily be able to see which of these activities are important, are basic human needs, are important to other people and lastly can be eliminated or are a waste of time.
This log can also help you identify any interruptions in your work life, along with your most and least productive times in a day.
Being disorganised often leads to poor time management. When you are constantly looking for something that is lost or misplaced it cuts into your valuable time.
Here are some ways to be better organised a work:
- Develop a filing system to deal with paper work
- Keep your computer organised and back it up weekly
- Make sure that your desk and workspace are tidy and organised
- Develop systems and processes to deal with frequent situations that arise e.g. How you will handle your emails and schedule meetings.
When you have many conflicting demands, it is important to be able to prioritise which task is more important or urgent as compared with another. This is where the use of your calendar and comes in. The techniques we will talk about later will also help you chose which tasks to prioritise and how to do so.
Once you have decided to learn and implement time management techniques, it is important to learn how to plan and schedule your day. Many managers find it helpful to use a paper organiser or to invest in an electronic one. Your email calendar can also help you plan your time effectively as can various software that can be downloaded onto your system.
Remember to give yourself some time for breaks as well as to budget for unexpected meetings and occurrences that come up.
6. The Daily to-do list
Many managers find this to be the most efficient and easy way to manage time on daily basis.
- List down all the tasks you need to accomplish for the day on a sheet of paper.
- Go through the list and assign each task a tag from A—E.
- A—High Priority, B—Medium Priority, C—Low Priority, D—Delegate this, E—Eliminate this.
- Begin by completing all your A tasks, move on to B and if you have time you can do C, remember to delegate D and forget about E altogether.
7. The Urgent/Important matrix
This time management technique involves classifying tasks in 4 quadrants. Divide a sheet of paper into 4 quadrants. Urgent—Need to be done now, and Important—High priority or high impact.
- Quadrant one is for tasks that are Urgent and Important
- Quadrant two is for tasks that are not Urgent but Important
- Quadrant three is for tasks that are Urgent but Not Important
- Quadrant four is for tasks that are Not Urgent and Not Important.
You would want to complete tasks in Q1 first and then Q2, moving to Q3 and lastly Q4. If a majority of your tasks fall into Q1, chances are that you are stressed and always short of time. It is better to plan and prioritise your activities into Q2, which is the quadrant of effective planning and less stress.