Advice:Improve your time management skills

By , published on 27th August 2010

Photo by Dan BradyTime. Let’s face it there is never enough of it – especially when you have a business to run.  It seems the whole world is moving at breakneck speed and still there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that you NEED to.  If this sounds all too familiar then you might find this post of interest.  Below are various tips and ways of working that I have come up with to fine tune my time management skills.

Make lists

Whilst it may seem simple this tip is often overlooked. List making is a great way of keeping track of things to do, tasks to be done and deadline dates.

A list also has the added bonus of allowing you to see all of your To Do items on one page. This helps reduce stress as you can reduce things that need to be done to a shorter piece of paper as you tick them off. In this way your tasks do not seem quite as intimidating as they may do on multiple pieces of paper.

I begin every day with a list of the things I need and want to accomplish that day. This helps me not only focus but remember things, like phone client to review marketing strategy. I also have a notice board which I use to keep track of tasks that last longer than one day. That way, I can see at a glance what assignments, meetings and deadlines are coming up. I also generally number in order of priority each task.

Lists also remind us to celebrate once we cross something off. When my notice board looks empty it is a satisfying feeling!

Scheduling

Depending on your mind set this may be something that works well or doesn’t work at all for you. If you are dedicated in spending a set amount of time on a task and this allows you to plan your day more productively then I would encourage you to use this method of time management.  The key thing here is to remember to set realistic time limits and be flexible. Allow for extra time on particular tasks which you think may flag up issues that take longer to deal with.

A time based schedule has never worked very well for me. It’s easier for me to arrange my tasks in the order of importance, which is my next tip:

Prioritise

Once you’ve made your list, number the items in order of priority. We are all busy because we create obligations for ourselves.  Take a look at your list and see what you REALLY need to achieve today and what could be moved to tomorrow.

For example, my projects from bigger clients have higher priority over other tasks. Arranging my tasks in order of priority assures that I’ll get the most important things accomplished. The rest can wait, if it needs to.

Set realistic goals

I am an eternal optimist – as a result this can lead to unrealistic and insurmountable goals. I will often set personal tasks to do such as “re-write entire web content in 3 hours,” whilst this is fine if I have nothing else planned for the day, however if my priorities have already been scheduled this can lead to me having to scale back my tasks in order to manage my tasks better.

The problem with unreasonable goals, is that we get frustrated and stressed when we can’t complete them. Setting smaller goals allows you to actually accomplish them, which gives you a great feeling of satisfaction.

Break it down

This is similar to the goals strategy.  For me, taking on 10 projects is daunting. Taking on 2 or 3 is easier to do, even enjoyable.  Taking on too many projects at once becomes emotionally draining and leads to both dissatisfaction from the client and ultimately myself as key task deadlines may be missed. Typical example of attempting to spin too many plates.
Of course, the one caveat with this plan is that you need to plan ahead. No procrastination allowed here.

Multi-task

Learn to do several things at one time. This applies to women. According to psychological studies, most men do much better by managing only one task at a time.

If you have a call scheduled to a client to discuss one particular element of their project look at the next few days ahead and see if you can cross off any other “to do” items with them in one call.

Treat yourself

If you have a great day and achieve all the items on your list then celebrate.  Take 5 minutes out to relax doing something you enjoy like reading an article or going for a walk. Rewarding myself makes me more motivated to get back to the rest of my list.

Eliminate distractions

Some days, it seems like the whole world is out to distract me from what I have to get done. The phone rings every 5 minutes, the email keeps reminding me I have new message, Hootsuite keeps updating. To maximise efficiency TURN THEM OFF.

Use personalised voicemail to take calls for an hour; set up a call answering service (many virtual assistants offer this); consider putting an autoresponder on your email informing clients at which peak times in the day you are checking your email and limit your social media time to 10 minutes a day.

Take time out

There’s a lot of truth in that old saying about all work and no play. Schedule some relaxation time. Give yourself a day off or a half a day. Spend some time doing things you enjoy but don’t have to do. Remember the idea of rewarding yourself?

This is important. If we spend all our time doing work related tasks, we get even more stressed out. Plus, we become  self absorbed and boring. Relaxation reduces stress and makes you a more likeable person.

Of course, there are other strategies and tools that you can use to manage your time, but these are the ones that work for me. Try some of them—maybe they’ll work for you, too.

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Charlotte Everiss

About Charlotte Everiss

Charlotte Everiss provides virtual PA and marketing support to businesses so they can claim back valuable working time in their day. Visit Charlotte's blog for more great small business tips.

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