Thursday, 6 June 2013

We have all the time in the world? Effective Time Management

Time is so precious...24 little hours in a day. Have you ever considered if you are using your time effectively?

It is something I always used to wonder about when I worked in an office and there were more distractions to take you away from the task in hand. When I began as a VA I actually blogged about the benefits of working from home with no distractions and how this lends itself to better time management here...Here

With that in mind, however, not everyone is able to work from home on a regular basis.

Recently my workload has increased quite significantly and I have had to really work hard to make sure I am utilising every hour available to me as effectively as I can. There are many things you can do to really make the most of your working hours as manage your time efficiently

Map it Out - As with everything it always helps to be able to see how things unfold. This will help you plan. To do this you need to be able to clearly see what you need to achieve.

  • I always just use a simple 'Brainstorm' or 'mindmap'
  • Write down EVERYTHING you have to achieve. Then write down anything that might, can or you know actually does, get in the way. 
Once you can see what you need to achieve and what can stand in your way you can start to eliminate those things. Some of things might be...

Procrastination - We are ALL guilty of procrastination at some point or other. The key is realising why you're doing it.

  • Why are we putting it off? - We procrastinate (I love that word!) for loads of reasons. Maybe we are scared of the project and don't want to face it. You might think a project is too big so it overwhelms you or it's just simply TOO BORING.
  •  Face up to why you're putting it off . It isnt going to go away and the more you find reasons to do something else the more stressed out you will get. The best advice I can give is to break it down into manageable size pieces and tackle it one bit at a time and stop putting it off!

Can we have a meeting? - Another reason for bad time management are meetings for the sake of meetings. Meetings in the diary every week simply because that's what you do...even if you have nothing useful or new to report from the following week. Don't get me wrong, meetings are really important in business. But just look at the quality and quantity of those meetings.

  • Stick to a time limit, an agenda and action list and work through that. 
  • DO NOT go off list and go off on a tangent, as exciting as that thought that has just popped into your hear may be it isnt what you're there to discuss. 
  • Make a note and discuss it another time.

Lists, Lists, Lists - I cannot manage without my list. I work from one master list every single day.

  • Use an APP to help -There are lots of great little apps out there to do this electronically. WunderlistTeux DeuxProducteev to name but a few. 
  • One List and one list only - Whether you use these programmes or a simple sheet of paper you HAVE to keep it updated. Everything you must acomplish should be ON THAT LIST. Once you have crossed it off start a new list and make sure new tasks are added as well. 
  • Leave no stone unturned - It is important to put EVERYTHING on there you need to achieve (I have a weekly list) that week. That includes booking that doctors appointment and paying that bill. Why? Because if you do not address the fact that they need to be done and put them down to ensure you DO get them done they will just play on your mind and make you less productive
  • Prioritise - Make sure you have everything you need to achieve in order of importance. It will help you focus and plan the next two weeks.

Make your email work for you -

  • Empty Inbox - I operate an empty inbox policy. By the end of the working week my inbox should read 'Zero Emails' else I get cross! Once an email has been actioned it is moved out of my inbox into a folder. The only time I have email in my Inbox is if it hasnt been actioned and hasnt been transferred onto my master Task List. Once it has been moved to the To Do list it can be filed. Not being faced with 100's of email can really help take the pressure off and help you to really focus
  • Set aside 'Email Hour' - I always try to action all my emails in one go. Again it helps to focus on what I need to get done that day/week. Email can really affect your productivity as it is always there lurking in the background. Set aside that time then don't check again till later. If someone really needs you they have your number
  • No email 'Out of Hours' - Try and limit how often you check your email 'Out of Hours'. How often have you been getting ready to get away and relax when you read an email which then plays on your mind? If you are managing your time properly there is nothing which should happen when you are not readily available to deal with it
  • Out-Of-Office - before you have period away from your business make sure everything you have to do is done or hand it over to others to deal with. Then put your Out Of Office on and don't keep checking. 
  • Pick Up the phone - There is sometimes no better way to save time than to pick up the phone. That email conversation turns into Email Ping Pong with 20 emails whizzing back and forth. Think of all that time spent writing emails when a five minute conversation would have sufficed?

Great Expectations - People always have expectations. Just make sure their expectations match what you can deliver.

  • Be Honest, Always - If something will take three weeks then tell them it will be three weeks. If a project you said would take a day hits a bump get on the phone right away and tell them. Then take that information and stick it on you Master List to get done
Be a filing machine! - You cannot work effectively if you can't find what you need. You have to regularly file and have a system YOU understand.

  • Folders - Whether on your computer or in your filing cabinet make good use of folders. How many of us open a download from an email and save to the desktop? This not only clogs up your machine making it run slower but it also isnt effective. Put it into 'To Do' folders then you can action them. And make sure you put all documents relating to all projects in specified folders. Not in a pile on your desk. That way when you get to that point on the task  list you can easily get to the relevant files
  • If it's complete, File it - Once something is done file it into 'Actioned' folders. It can be satisfiying to do that and it is also easily accessible if you need. Always have a 'To do' folder and an 'Actioned' folder for every project you're working on

Calendar - Use of a calendar is the best thing you can do to keep control of your life. There are loads of online versions available which you can sync to your phones and tablets and always be able to check what you have coming up.

  • Remind me - Set alerts and reminders relevenat to your task list or, sync your calendar to your task list. 
  • One Calendar, One life - Some people think it is better to have a work calendar and a social calendar. It is far easier to see and plan ALL your time by having every appointment in your life, be it work or social, in one place. It also helps to relieve stress and you can see everything accounted for in black and white

Using your own version of all these methods will mean you are Always in Control which will make you a much more efficient and relaxed person at work

And if all else fails...find youself a good VA who can do it all for you ;-)

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