Last week we looked at the important self and time management tool of learning to say “no.” Our focus centered on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s reminder,
As a result of feedback, the question surfaced, “What are some of your best time-management tools?” I am not certain this is a particular personal strength. That said, here are the tools that I would consider among my top 10 (seven are listed):
- Focus. Sometimes I realize that I am multi-tasking so much that I am just not getting anything done. When this happens, I reset my priorities, and focus on just one key task at one time. If I am using my computer, I will close off all the applications I am not currently using so that I can (and will) focus solely on what I am doing.
- Block out distractions. I ask myself, “What’s distracting me in my work?” Email messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in? I never use chat – otherwise it directs me instead of visa-versa. When I’m doing high priority tasks, I also switch off my phone. Calls that come in during that time are logged on my phone and I return them on my time-frame afterward (if it’s important).
- Cut off meetings when the goal for the meeting is achieved. One of the primary reasons that meetings go too long occurs when I don’t cut off the discussion when I could (or should). I must not be afraid to draw a line - to end thediscussion and move on to the next priority task. If I don’t, there will not be an end - and I will simply eat into time that could be better utilized.
- Measure effectiveness. Periodically I find it useful to do a personal time study. It is not difficult to print out a blank schedule and record all of my tasks, conversations and activities for a week. This helps me understand how much I can get done during the course of a day and where my precious moments are going. Doing this allows me to see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.
- Plan each day. I try to take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan my day. I try not to start my day until I complete a “to do” list.” The most important time of my day is the time I schedule to schedule time.
- Answer when I can. I try to practice not answering e-mails just because they show up. As mentioned above, the same thing goes for the phone when it rings. Instead, I try to schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls that fits into my plan for the day.
- Save social media for “later.” Lastly, I block out distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media during the day, except for those tools that are useful to generate business. The rest can wait for my “down time.”
I am certain that those of you reading this have your own “best practices.” What are they? Let me know - I can always use your help when it comes to improving time management practices!