Time Management

A Smarter Approach to Time Management

Today’s business world is constantly changing at breakneck speeds. It requires flexibility, a great deal of organization, and a good sense of humor just to keep up. Companies are retaining fewer employees but the workload continues to increase, making it harder to meet job demands and almost impossible to maintain any kind of work life balance.

Many companies have recognized this disparity and have implemented various types of time management training programs. Even so, you need to come up with a well thought out plan in order to meet your goals. Luckily there are several things you can do to make the most of your day, get things done, and still have time left over to relax.

The Curse of the Information Age

As technology improves, the number of people bombarding us with messages only seems to grow. Every day they have new and improved ways to interrupt our work. Between e-mail, the telephone, and the fax machine, we have entered the age of information overload.

One of the best things you can do to work smarter is to manage your incoming communications. Separate your work and personal e-mail accounts, and only respond to your work-related messages while you are in your office. Save the personal messages for later. Schedule blocks of time in your calendar specifically for this task, put a time limit on it, and stick to it. Buy an egg timer if you need to.

Schedule your important phone calls as well. Allow sufficient time to contact your clients, but do not get entangled with personal conversations. Keep your phone time to a minimum, but do not be short or rude. Get a phone with caller I.D. and an answering machine, and put all non-essential calls on ignore.

Managing Mountains of Paperwork

Develop a desktop organization system for incoming documents and mail. Touch the papers as little as possible, meaning they get filed as soon as you have time. If you come across mail, notes, or memos that will not be filed, shred them as soon as you are finished reading them. The goal is to reduce the amount of clutter on your desk so you can work more efficiently. Handling paperwork wastes almost as much time as e-mail, so by making a simple change in how you handle paperwork, you could be saving yourself a great deal of time.

Speaking of clutter, organize your desktop. It does not necessarily need to be neat, just functional enough for you to get things done.

Find Some Quiet Time

When you need to read a technical document or if you are working on a task that requires great thought and concentration, remove yourself from your colleagues. Interruptions from co-workers can cause you to lose focus, and can cost you a great deal of time when you need to go back and re-read something. Close your office door or go to the library to ensure your success with your project.

Take a Breather

Sometimes we become so focused on getting things done that we forget to give ourselves a break. Walk around the office or go outside and get a few minutes of fresh air. Eat your lunch, and have a snack in the afternoon. Getting the blood moving and nourishing our bodies will ensure the ongoing function of our brains. We will be able to stay on task better when we do not feel fatigued, making it easier to accomplish our goals.

Remain Focused

As new projects arrive or circumstances change, we may feel compelled to jump to a new task before we finished the previous one. Unless it is an absolute emergency, avoid this behavior. You interrupt your progress and train of thought, making it difficult to pick up again where you left off with any efficiency. Lack of efficiency only adds to the amount of time it will take you to finish.

Schedule Everything

If you do not already keep a calendar, begin now. Write everything down, with an allotted time period. Allow ample time to reasonably accomplish your goals so you do not feel overwhelmed or unduly pressured. Do not stray from your schedule, which should include personal errands and chores as well as work-related appointments.

Following a few simple changes will not necessarily change the amount of work you must complete, but it will help you complete your work more efficiently. Getting things done in a shorter period gives you the extra time you have been looking for. You can take your extra time and spend it guiltlessly on your spouse, your children, or in a hot bath. Working smarter will help you keep up with the demands of the workplace while still maintaining a good work life balance.

This article was written by David B. Bohl – Husband, Father, Friend, Lifestyle Coach, Author, Entrepreneur, and creator of Slow Down FAST. For more info visit his blog at Slow Down Fast blog.

35 Responses to A Smarter Approach to Time Management

  1. I have used the advice in “Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook” to help me get organized and focused. It is a great book that teaches a lot of the “Getting Things Done” principles. The system it teaches helps me to stay calm and keep things from falling through the cracks.

  2. Peter says:

    David,

    This is a very timely post for me. I have never really been one to worry too much about productivity, time management, etc. However, my life has become very busy of late and it has been essential to organize myself and practise many of the time management strategies you mention here. A “mind like water” is the ultimate goal – it doesn’t always happen , but once you know what it is like to have your mind free from mental clutter you will do whatever you can to keep it that way.

  3. Rico says:

    Since I started separating personal and work email as you describe (not doing personal email at work), I’ve been more productive and focussed as a graphic designer. Creative endeavors can’t always be scheduled though, regarding your last tip.

    I found a free ebook about time management written just for the creative professional. I discovered it here: http://www.keepdesigning.com/jabber/time-management-creative-people/

  4. etavitom says:

    This is great advice and I appreciate it! Thanks, Brad

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  6. Managing my time and priorities has made such a huge impact on my life. It’s something I’ve written about before:

    “Another important lesson I learned in life is all about priorities. I’ve found that the best way to manage my time (and my stress) has been to focus on things that really matter. It’s about knowing what I absolutely have to do and what can either be postponed, delegated, or done away with altogether. It’s about knowing what to take seriously and what to let slide. It’s about taking care of the big things so the little ones take care of themselves and the really little ones don’t bother me at all.”

    (Extract from Work in Progress)

  7. The Curse of the Information Age indeed. :)

    Overwhelming myself with information is something I’m still trying to reduce.

    Great post.

    Regards,
    Amir

  8. Pingback: Smarter Time Management | Slow Down Fast Today! ~ David B. Bohl

  9. Curse of the information age is right! We sure let a lot of noise into our worlds and sometimes you just need to cut back to the basics so you can THINK.

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  11. Great posts! Ive been practicing using time blocks for a several years already and it has given me better results.

  12. Pam says:

    This is well written post and I agree with 99% of everything written here. One thing I struggle with is the suggestion for separating work and personal email. I used Gmail and I have my work email forwarded to my personal Gmail account, and a filter marks those messages as work messages. I made this decision because having one less inbox and information stream increases minimalism for me. Should I second guess this strategy in favor of a more clear separation on work from personal? Hmmm.

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  14. Lyon says:

    Some great tips, thanks David. I agree about the emailing – one thing I have done is to turn off the notifications so that I check email when it is convenient for me to do so, rather than continually having my attention drawn toward it.

    I also like to schedule time for hobbies, but will then set an alarm for when that time finishes rahter than continually looking at the clock.

    There are a few more ideas contained within this post:
    http://2010consultant.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/filling-in-the-gaps/

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  28. Time management is something which is a challenge for everyone. Though easier said than done. Like common sense time management too is not a very common trait.  

  29. Remaining focused is the hardest of the lot. With so many commitments and demanding life it sometimes becomes hard. I love this article. Thanks 

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  33. Bethany says:

    I have found that the quiet time is the most important and easiest way to stay focused and working smart.

  34. terredean says:

    Time management is very necessary to build up your position and improve business.

    Employee Monitoring

  35. Short Hair says:

    Good post about A Smarter Approach to Time Management

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