Tracking Your Time
The only way to improve your time management skills is to learn from and understand your current time management habits. This process simply involves carrying around a notepad, and jotting down what you are doing every 15 minutes.
After one week, you should have a thorough understanding where you are spending your time and where you are wasting it. Do not move onto any other time management strategies until you successfully undertake this step. After one week, analyze your time logs and determine where you feel you could be more productive.
Set SMART Goals
Once you have a clear understanding of your time management habits, you are now ready to outline the bigger picture by setting and writing down smart goals.
S…pecific : Your goals must be very specific in terms of what you would like to accomplish.
M…easurable : Your goals must have a time measure, or in other words a date of when they will be accomplished.
A…chievable : Your goals must be achievable given the resources you have on hand.
R…ealistic :Your goals must be realistic given the time frame you have laid out to accomplish them.
T…imed : Your goals must be timed, meaning that they must be broken down into smaller short-term objectives that lead to medium and long-term goals. With an understanding of the bigger picture you are working towards, you will be better equipped to more effectively manage your time.
Whenever goals are set, a plan of action must immediately follow. Create a quick writeup and general action plan of how you will go about achieving these goals.
Now take your plan of action and convert it into a master to do list of all the things that you must do in order to achieve this bigger picture.
Now that you have your master to do list written out, the next step is to create a daily to do list where you write down and specify six key important tasks that you will accomplish today. As a general rule of thumb you should be spending your time on important rather than urgent tasks.
Many of us spend so much time during the day trying to put out fires. We deal with so many low priority yet urgent tasks and activities that keep us busy and moving, and at the end of the day we wonder how in the world we accomplished so little. Step out of this habit trap today and begin focusing on just the important tasks before they become urgent and potentially stress inducing.
By grouping your tasks into similar categories of activities you will become far more productive and time efficient. For instance, make all your telephone calls within a one block hour, and respond to all your emails during only specific times of the day. You can also group stationary activities (when you are at your desk) together with other activities that don’t require you to move around your office. Once your chunk-time is over, simply move onto something else, without making any further telephone calls or writing up emails.
The 80/20 Rule states that 80% of your efforts will bring about only 20% of the results. On the flip-side, 20% of your efforts will bring about 80% of your results. Knowing this, identify the highest value activities that will have the largest impact on your success at the end of the day, week, month and year. Focus on accomplishing these tasks and activities first, before moving onto the 80% of activities that will only bring about 20% of the result.
Finally, establish a daily, weekly and monthly routine schedule that will keep you moving forward and focusing on your most important goals, tasks and activities. Routines are excellent ways of forming new and empowering habits that will help you become an effective time manager. However, be sure that at all costs you keep your routine balanced personally and professionally.