What are your best time management techniques?

In most careers, time management is of paramount importance. As your time is a finite resource, scheduling your work in order to stay within budget, within scope and within the deadline can be a gruesome process that often results in sleepless nights and long working hours. How do you do it?

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7

I have a multitude of techniques but the best is List everything down and priortise the list from Urgent to None Urgent ! and keep transferring the tasks that you have not actioned to the following day and make sure you do it the following day.

Also SET GOALS!

State each goal as a positive statement - Express your goals positively “I will reduce my expenses by 10% this year", not "I would like to reduce my expenses by 10% this year."

Be precise: Set precise goals, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you'll know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.

Set priorities - When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.

Write goals down - This crystallizes them and gives them more force.

Set performance goals, not outcome goals - You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control! (In business, these reasons could be bad business environments or unexpected effects of government policy)

If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals, and draw satisfaction from them.

Set realistic goals - It's important to set goals that you can achieve. Other people can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions.

7

You get 24 hours every day, just like everyone else. The key is to use those hours wisely. Some of my favorite comments from years of teaching Time Management Strategies in the corporate arena:
* You can't save time - only spend it. So, spend it wisely and keep your ROI in mind.
* Don't say 'I don't have time.', because you do have time. Instead say 'I don't want to spend the time ... '. That's more honest and credible.
* You're in charge of how you spend your time - no one else is.
* Plan each day with a 'To Do' List - plan your work and work your plan.
* Then, rate each task according to how urgent each is and how important. Tasks that are low in importance and urgency are the easiest to dump.
* If you paid yourself $1,000/hour, would you get your money's worth from each task on your list? If not - dump them.
* Ask yourself 'What's the worst thing that can happen if I don't do this thing today? At All?' Then, act accordingly.
Best wishes for becoming a time management pro - Phil Stella, Effective Training & Communication, Inc.

7

I think that time management is bogus...you cant manage time, it just happens and it is an external force. Self-management is what is important. How do I manage myself with the constraint of time? So I use some simple self-management techniques:
- I develop a clear list of high payoff activities (top 6 things I need to do to maximise my results)
- I create a weekly time picture of those things first (big rocks go in the jar first).
- I then see what time I have to allocate to the other "priorities" of life and business
- I take that time picture then put it into my calendar/diary system (im an old paper-based planner guy still - battery never goes dead on my planner)
- When something comes along to challenge my sense of priorities or my mood at the time, I now have a flexible framework for making values-based decision on the best use of my time.
Mange yourself properly to be effective first, efficient second.

I've never thought of it that way, but that makes a lot of sense. Everyone's answers sang to the tune of self-management but understanding that time is unmanageable is important. Thanks for the fresh perspective!

7

Hi Kobus,

I have seen some wonderful answers so far. That's why I wouldn't give you precise answers, but just some directions which would help you to build your own vision.

As many have already said, time CAN NOT be managed. You manage your behaviour in relation to it and to the external factors. What does this mean?

1. Create goals. You need to create long-term goals as well as short-term ones. Having goals gives you direction and incentivises you not to spill out your time but to work consistently into the direction of your goals. As Napoleon Hill has said, only 1.5 % of people on the Earth have goals.

2. Create to do lists. These are your plans for achieving your goals.

3. Use the MoSCoW technique (this is from the project management theory - Must do, Should do, Can do, as Shivanand already pointed above). That is, prioritise activities and tasks.

4. Be prepared for contingencies Sh*t happens all the time. You have to accept this, there are simply too many factors outside of your reach. FOLLOW THE CRITICAL PATH (this is again from project management). If you see that your schedule is going to be violated, look for options to fix this either by using a back-up solutions or cutting activities up from the critical path. For this you need to create alternatives since the beginning (that is, at the point of planning).

5. Even if you strictly follow all of the rules above, it is still possible for your plan (that is, your time management) to slip away. This is totally normal, so don't blame yourself, just try to minimise the damage and keep going ahead.

7

Allocate a specified number of hours each day for each task on a spreadsheet at the beginning of the week. Be sure to include the routine activities like email, social media time and other stuff. Complete the small tasks and always do some part of the big tasks until it is completed. At the end of each day review the spreadsheet and note your completions and if necessary adjust the following day's allocated tasks. The spreadsheet management should not take more than a few minutes at the end of each day.

Hi Richard, I like the part where you mention to always tdo parts of the big tasks until it is completed. Big tasks are so often delayed for "urgent" but not necessarily "important" tasks...

7

There are two skills to master to be successful. This is advice I was given early in my career. Those skills are time management and communication. There is not a simple answer to your question. What I will say is mastering a to do list is step one. Make sure your to do list is realistic and not a wish list. Schedule time each day for planning, sleep and interruptions. All will occur every day. The other step with a to do list, is PTE, Pure Time Estimate. How long will it take to complet the task you list, uninterrupted. Do that for each task, and add the total. Cannot be over 24. this will give you a start.

7

I personally love outlines and writing down exactly what I need to get done everyday. I will figure those tasks out by greatest priority first and also how long I presume each to take. I will schedule in more time on each just to be safe. If I finish early then possibly ill dig in to my tasks for the next day or just enough my free time! Organization is key and personally, writing things down and crossing them off once they are complete is a great feeling!

6

I use a 50 minute dash technique. I set aside two 50 minute periods in the morning and two in the afternoon. I pick one topic for each period. Turn all distractions off - cell phone, email, Facebook, etc. Try to get away to another location so you won't be bothered for 50 minutes and work on that one project.

Take a 10 minute break for calls, email, FB (if you have to) and then do another 50 minute project.

I let my Virtual Assistant do those tasks that I cannot do efficiently or don't want/need to do.

Walter, thanks. I like the idea of a 50 minute dash. Why 50 minutes though? Why not one hour? Why not 45 minutes? In my industry (web development) 50 minutes is often not enough to get significant work done - how would you suggest you tackle that? I have learned from experience that I only get significant development done in 2 hour bursts.

6

I plan two weeks in advance with a focus on results - what must I do to accomplish the results that I have planned for my week, month, or year.

I use Monday mornings to do this and only schedule essential tasks to accomplish the most important tasks. I carry around a "potential" task list. On this list I write down things that I think need to be done, then with each item I ask if this is the most effective use of my time. If not, I ask if this is the best use of someone else's time. If so, then I delegate the task. If not, then I work to find someone to do or make the task go away all together.

I think we get too balled up with a long list of 'busy work' and not essential activities. Using this method, I find that I don't end up with a list of meaningless stuff creating stress for me as I look at the list.

I hope this helps.

6

1/ Turn off all alerts to social media - don't allow yourself to be distracted

2/ Don't be busy be productive

3/ Review your activity each week and be ruthless about things that divert your attention from your true objective.

All that said, now going back to work......

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