Enough Is Enough
by Peter Block
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Some people feel time management "takes too much time." Included here are a few time management tips I've picked up over the years. Some of them may be familiar. Some of them may not be applicable to your particular situation. But all of them have been used by people to simplify their life.
Handle it now. Spend 20 seconds filing
that important paper now rather than 30 minutes
Prioritize. Feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do? Stop and think: which item absolutely must be completed today? This does not include items you'd like to get done today, but only the item(s) that have to be completed today. A friend woke up at three in the morning feeling overwhelmed by the many tasks for the coming week and was convinced she could not get it all done. In desperation, she asked herself, What has to be done by Monday afternoon? Tuesday afternoon? etc. The result: she discovered she could indeed accomplish all of her deadlines for the week on schedule - but not all in one day!
Be realistic: One way to set yourself up for a panic situation is to plan an unrealistic amount of work for one day/week/etc. Use your common sense to recognize when you have over-scheduled yourself. Enthusiasm is wonderful, but it does not add more hours to the day.
Use colored folders to prioritize your work; sub-divide files. Colors allow you to see at a glance which jobs need your immediate attention. Use them. Why sub-divide files? An administrative assistant, tired of rifling through the thick folders left by the previous employee, took time to sub-divide each large file into three separate files (categories). It took time to redo the files but the time saved when using the sub-divided files more than compensated. Not to mention the compliments from the boss who recognized the ease of use of the reorganized files.
Delegate. A person who refuses to delegate will very likely be a very busy and frustrated person. It is not necessary for a manager to personally handle every item. One very successful regional manager readily attributed part of his success to the fact that he trusted his Administrative Assistant to handle routine items that did not require his personal decision. This left him free to concentrate on working with sales personnel outside the office.
Schedule time for you. Schedule a "personal time" appointment on your calendar each day. If someone wants to see you at that time, just say, "I'm sorry, I have an appointment then." Whether you use this for personal reflection or as a few quiet minutes to catch your breath or simply time to think, it's a legitimate use of time. And you will still get as much, if not more, done.
Make lists. Making a list can be a legitimate time manager. Keep a pad handy to jot down projects as they arise, items that come to mind to "do later" and even phone calls you need to make. At the end of the day or week, whichever is best for you, mark off the items handled; then, make a fresh list and prioritize the remaining items. This should take about 15 minutes each day or a little longer if done once a week. It can help you avoid that familiar sinking feeling when you realize you forgot something important and also help you feel "on top of things" on a daily basis while freeing your mind to concentrate on the job at hand.
Consider when your energy level peaks. Do you hit your highest energy level at 10am or mid-afternoon? Schedule your biggest project for your peak energy period.
Verify appointments before you go. Take a minute to call and verify the appointment and time before you leave the office for a doctor or dentist appointment.
Make sure your electronic calendar does not cost you time. People who love electronics will shake their heads "No!" at this idea. But sometimes it can take longer to enter and maintain information in a gadget than to jot it down with a pencil in an old-fashioned paper planner.
E-mail. E-mail creates another time management problem. Answer E-mail immediately. Don't read it and then let it pile up in your in-box. Keep your inbox clutter free. Create a "keeper" folder and transfer the mail you want to keep for later. Create another folder for "Actions pending." Respect other people's time and avoid forwarding all those stories people love to send you. Use the delete key aggressively. Delete junk E-mail without reading it. Learn to use your filters to eliminate spammers.
Time is valuable, and time management can help you be more productive. There is also a bonus: it can help to relieve stress and allow you both to enjoy your life and work more.
Gregory P. Smith, author of The New Leader, and How to Attract, Keep and Motivate Your Workforce. He speaks at conferences, leads seminars and helps organizations solve problems. He leads an organization called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia. Phone him at (770)860-9464 or send an email at email@example.com. More information and articles are available at www.chartcourse.com.