Your time is the most important asset you have. Unfortunately, there is an infinite number of things to do and only a finite amount of minutes available to get them done. How do you make the most of every single minute? Effectively manage that precious resource!
1. Know where you spend you time by using a log to track where your time goes. Think of time as money and every minute as a dollar, then use your time log like your checkbook register. If you don’t know how you’re currently spending time, you’ll find it difficult to know what you should do to better utilize this precious resource. A time log will help you identify your time wasters and your time multipliers.
2. Use time multipliers to get more done. What is a time multiplier? Effective delegation of lower priority tasks is a time multiplier. Eliminating time wasting activities is a time multiplier. Screening phone calls can be a time multiplier. By practicing creative procrastination on anything that doesn’t propel you toward your goals, you can multiply the amount of time you have to achieve those goals.
3. Plan tomorrow’s activities tonight. By creating a game plan for the next day, you will become much more effective. Sometimes, just a simple prioritized To Do list will help keep you and your activities on track. Make sure that list IS prioritized, though. An un-prioritized list can be cause you to waste more time than no list at all if you only do those items that are easy or enjoyable.
4. Work on your most difficult or unpleasant task first. Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time is a great resource to read if you’re constantly finding that you put off your most unpleasant tasks. The book says that if the most difficult thing you had to do tomorrow morning was to eat a live frog, it would be best to do it early in the morning rather than sit and look at him all day long.
The only exception would be if you’ve identified your best working time as later in the day. Then schedule your most important tasks then, during your “prime time.” Work on these tasks at your daily energy peaks.
5. Handle each piece of paper or email once. In a physical setting, there is a cost associated every time a store or warehouse has to handle a piece of merchandise. Adapt that philosophy to your work life and deal with paperwork or email as few times as possible.
6. Finish what you start. When working on a key task, do not allow interruptions so you can get finished. When a chatty co-worker drops by to talk about something unimportant, say something like, “Bob, I’m under a bit of a time constraint. Is there any way I can get with you later today, say at 4:30?” Usually, Bob gets the message. And by 4:30, he’s thinking about getting out of the office anyway.
7. Constantly ask yourself: Is this the best, most valuable use of my time, right now? At work, your best use is usually determined by your boss or by the circumstances at hand. For an entrepreneur, the best use of your time is usually building your business or working on your own personal development. Remember that you are trading your minutes for dollars. Are you getting the best return for your investment by performing a certain activity?
The key to really effective time management is to use some type of system.
I’ve said it before, the BEST time management system is the one you actually use, whether it’s Franklin Covey, Day Runner, Day-Timer, or just a simple spiral notepad you keep in your shirt pocket or purse. Instead of resolving to be “more organized,” develop your own system to help you redeem your time.
If you have a system that works for you, by all means clue everyone in and share the wealth!