Integration Training helps busy people people get more done through our unique time management training. Here are our top fifteen time management tips to increase your productivity - these tips will save you time and boost you effectiveness:
Record and analyse what you spend your time doing. If its sending e-mails for example would it be worth investing some time in learning to type? Being efficient (doing things well) however doesn't necessarily mean you are effective (doing the right things)...
Rushing into things means busy people may have a high repeat rate as they will do the wrong things (as defined by medium-long term commitments, job title, values, etc). It's tempting to jump in when the in-tray is full, however the carpenters recommendation to "measure twice, cut once" will save time in the long run. To do this you will often need to get centred. While counter-intuitive, training your attention through meditation, mindfulness and slowing down is also highly beneficial to getting more done.
Time management tips are a fine but a thorough system is better and regular practice crucial. Many of the people we work with enjoy David Allen's Getting Things Done® (GTD). What is important is that you find a system that works for you (e.g. 30min plan Monday morning and review Friday afternoon with ten minute system checks twice a day) and be disciplines sticking to it. It is tempting to be a busy fool, but I have NEVER worked with anyone who has spent so much time managing time that effectiveness is reduced.
For the sake of what are you doing everything you do in a day? Know how every action contributes to a project, long term goal, matches a job role, values and ultimately why you are on the planet.
The "higher" up the tip 4 -ladder- you can go the more you will be motivated and the clearer the importance of any individual task will be.
People are rubbish at remembering things and trying to do so makes them stressed, so if you have things to do make a list. If there are time-sensitive items on it set an impeccably reliable reminder system - high or low tech (e.g. a Blackberry alarm or a laundry basket in front of your door to remind you to do the washing for example).
Make one list and put everything you want to do on it so you trust the list and are not distracted by other matters (e.g. pick up kids) not listed. Make each item a single actionable thing (e.g. "call accountant", not "sort finances"). Consider ordering your lists by location, importance, energy and urgency. A simple colour system is a quick way to do this. Location means you can quickly see what needs to be done and may incorporate the energy and important people in your life. Example locations: "Computer", "Computer no net", "With secretary", "In town", "On phone - private", "On phone - public", "With secretary", "When brain-dead", etc.
Stephen Covey's classic distinction between urgent and important is still useful to consider. Move from putting out urgent fires to investing in yourself long-term (e.g. reading this) by managing commitments and setting aside -sacred- time for the important but not urgent things.
Do one thing at a time - even for super busy people this is vital. There is no such thing as effective multi-tasking - only dividing attention and switching quickly between tasks. The problem with the former is you make mistakes and need to repeat things and with latter that there is "pick-up time" with each switch, making it less efficient. Do one thing at a time and chunk together similar tasks in a given period.
Empty your e-mail in-box using the GTD recommended "do it (less than 2min), drop it (not important), delegate it or defer it (with time frame and reminder)" method. Differentiate between reference/storage and -to do- areas and don-t use one for the other.
"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it." Goethe.
Do the hardest most important thing first to kick-start your day. From the saying, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and the rest of the day will be easy", and classic time management book named after this. Finding ways to overcome procrastination is crucial for effective time management - these can be quite individual - strategies range from self reward, to energising breathing to personal "get going" mantras. Developing a habit is key. More procrastination tips here.
I don't recommend having a daily to do list as stuff will come up, you will move the list and feel disheartened. Better to have one overall evolving time management list. If you do opt for a daily list build in "slack time" to take account for what comes up. For many professions as much as 70% of their time is needed for slack - measure your own one day to see.
Time often isn't the problem it-s managing pesky human things like energy and mood. If you're tired and grumpy you may not do the things you need to succeed. Find ways to manage your energy and mood (e.g. sleep, diet, sufficient rest and inspiration). The term "time management" is misleading in some ways.
You can't manage time, you can manage what you have said yes to and within what time frames. When people are overwhelmed it is because of their commitments and not the clock on the wall. Be impeccable with your commitments to yourself and others and be clear about everything you have committed to.
If you can't say no or ask for help (includes delegation) you will be overwhelmed. These are emotional and embodied skills (LINK) are not straightforward for many people.
Doing things from a sense of choice will energise you and lead to better relationships than doing things resentfully because you "have to." If a task doesn't connect to something important to you then don't do it.
I hope these time management tips have been useful. Many of them are not new and I would acknowledge Stephen Covey, David Allen (Getting Things Done®/GTD), Richard Strozzi Heckler and The Newfield Network for their pioneering work.For most people find that tips alone are not enough to start to embody real lasting change and see the benefits in increased effectiveness. Integration Training offers half-day introductions and full-day bespoke time management courses for organisations interested in training their staff.
Time Management Training by Mark Walsh, Lead Trainer, Integration Training
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