When clients ask me how they can fit more into their day I tell them to forget time management. We manage our time when we have enough. When we are stressed and under pressure of delivery we forget all of the methods and act like crazy headless chicken or chucks.
Over the years of my early career having worked with bankers I learnt that time is money and efficiency was considered a must. Responsiveness meant that I would call back immediately and respond to emails as fast as possible. Today I feel this paradigm has shifted to social media, what’s app and text messages. Anyhow, when you are constantly in response mode it is hard to get any work done. Moving into more managerial roles I had to re-learn how I prioritized and as a company owner it was again different. If you also struggle with being productive I have five tips for you to claim back your diary. You want to have more time with family and friends? You want to start a new hobby or continue one you started years ago and then dropped? You want to go running regularly? If your answer is “Yes, but I don’t have time.” Practice one or two of the methods given below.
In consulting firms you have to maintain a timesheet in which you document daily how you use your time. This can be great to give you an understanding of where you are focused. You can increase the value of this exercise by maintaining a daily diary in which you document your accomplished tasks (Have-Done-Diary). I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise.
►Time blocks with pomodoro-clocks
Find your most productive time in the day and block 90 minutes for creative and conceptual work. Set a kitchen timer for the task to 25 minutes. Work without picking up the phone or checking emails or Social Media. Then take a five minutes break.
Then work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minutes break and a third junk. See how much you accomplish with this method. This is called Pomodoro-Method and you can even get a timer on your browser.
For many professionals the most important brain time is the early morning but I hear there is the other camp of night owls as well. So it is up to you to find your best 90 minutes in a day.
►Use an easy categorizer to determine where to start
Our most important tasks will have 80% of impact on our success only take 20% of our time according to the Pareto principle. 80% or our time we usually spend on important but less urgent and urgent but less important tasks which will only contribute 20% to our success. When you are overwhelmed use an easy categorizer. Work with an A, B, C categorization whenever you add a task to your diary or task list. Use your time block for A tasks.
In your day build one island of peace. The island can be lunch with a good friend, a massage, running or sitting outside watching birds. The island of peace needs to fulfil two criteria:
1) You cannot take your smartphone or it has to be switched off.
2) You are not allowed to take away tasks from this place.
►Repetition, Routine, Checklists
Repetition, routine and checklists are great ways to take the stress out of tasks that need to be accomplished but should not require a lot of focus. I prefer to work on such tasks in the late afternoon or evening. Examples are packing for an event, preparing your travel cost claim. Color-coding, tagging, printing and filing
If you feel that you are constantly looking for documents, try color-coding folders according to topic, tag documents, put descriptors on paper files, file papers weekly, throw out junk, advertising and ask yourself before printing: What will be the added value of having this document on paper? Will I read it? Will it end up in a pile? Will I review it?
In my experience we print a lot of documents, magazines, whitepapers without looking at them ever. Do you also have 50 books and only started to read them? When you are like me you probably should stop yourself from buying more books until you are at least through 25 of them (and have written reviews on Amazon).
Finally I encourage you to outsource your housework from grocery shopping to cleaning. Most of the housework you might still be stuck with but at least you can win about three hours per week if your house is cleaned by another person. You will also notice that you keep the house tidier if you have regular external help. I also sublet my office so that I have to keep the space relatively clean. If I did not have regular client contact I would probably have post-it’s everywhere and drafts in progress on the floor.
Now practice one tip per week and let me know what happened.