By Hoda Nassef
“If you control your time, you control your life.” – Alan Lakein
Time is a precious commodity; everyone gets an equal share, but we use it very differently. About 57% of us are present and future or goal-oriented; 33% are mainly future-oriented, 9% are present-oriented and only 1% focus on the past. Societies have different attitudes toward time; some are rushed and punctual, others are relaxed and disregard the Clock. When current needs demand your attention, it becomes harder to carefully plan for the future. Our situation and needs influence our time orientation, but our time orientation (and needs) can be changed – leading to more success in life.
Since a lot of people waste time, there must be a lot of problems in managing time. In this article, I will demonstrate a plan, in seven steps, to make better use of your time, both in terms of devoting time to high priority activities, and avoiding wasting time or spending your time on less important things.
STEP ONE: Set your priorities. List your major goals for the next few months, and rate each goal. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things for me to do?” Then make a list of what needs to be done this week in order to reach your top priority goals. Rate each activity. Also: Make a daily “To Do” list, or get a calendar specially made for each day, and cross off each item when task is accomplished. But, be realistic and schedule things that really needs to be and can be done.
Here are some tips on how to set your priorities for the long-term picture and how to plan your day:
“Begin with the end in mind.” – Steven Covey
1. Try to do your planning at the same time every day. Use this time to review past accomplishments as well as future things to do.
2. Use only one planner to keep track of our appointments. Keeping a separate business and personal planner creates confusion.
3. Separate your daily “To Do” list into A, B and C priorities. For example ‘A’ items are important for your long-term success, ‘B’ may be urgent but not as important as ‘A’, and ‘C’ are nice to do, if you get the time.
4. Don’t jam your day with full of activities. Leave space for emergencies, special opportunities, meditating or thinking time.
5. Do it now! People will often say: “Call me next week and we’ll book an appointment then.” Respond by saying, “Let’s save ourselves a call, and do it now!”
6. Always plan time for balance (i.e. physical and mental); include family, fitness, recreation or relaxation, as well as social and spiritual activities.
STEP TWO: Make a master schedule of fixed activities for the week. This includes the regular things you normally do, such as hours spent in sleeping per day, dressing, eating, travel time or commuting to work/university, etc., meetings or classes, housekeeping chores, time with loved one, friends or children, and some leisure-related time, such as exercising or going to the club, visiting, etc. Thus, the “free hours” in between are the hours you have control over, or should have control over. With the “free hours”, set up another fluctuating List of Assignments for things you need to accomplish within the same week; a “To Do” list. This helps you in keeping track of what needs to be done (e.g., get a report written, pay your bills, go to the grocery, make arrangements for the weekend holiday, etc. It will help to note due dates, the time required, and the importance of each task.)
STEP THREE: Don’t procrastinate! If you are avoiding an unpleasant task, perhaps you can get started by telling yourself, “I’ll quit in five minutes if it’s really terrible!” It might not be as bad as you imagined. Recognize that putting off an inevitable chore just generates more stress and embarrassment. If nothing else works, take 15 to 20 minutes and do absolutely nothing! It’s likely that by the end of 20 minutes, you’ll be so bored and so anxious to “get on with it” that you will start working on the difficult task immediately.
“Delegation is giving people things to do. Management is accomplishing organizational goals by working through individuals and groups. It is easy to see that the two are closely entwined. And, it is obvious that the manager who is not delegating, is not managing.” – Robert Maddux
STEP FOUR: If you are a manager in a small or large business, you should learn how to empower subordinates, and to delegate work. When and what to delegate? Here are some tips from top CEOs:
1. Create a plan to delegate. Don’t give out assignments haphazardly. Invest short-term time in training first, to gain long-term increase in productivity. Others may end up doing a better job than you can or finding new ways to complete a task.
2. Delegate routine activities, even if you think that you could do the job better (such as fact-finding assignments, preparations of rough drafts of reports, problem analyses and suggested actions, collection of data for reports, photocopying, printing, data entry, etc.)
3. Don’t delegate what you can eliminate. If you shouldn’t be doing an activity, then perhaps you shouldn’t be giving that activity to someone else: eliminate it.
4. Delegate things that aren’t part of your core competency.
5. Manage the decision-making process, not the decisions.
6. Make sure the standards and the outcome are clear. What needs to be done, when should it be finished, and to what degree of quality or detail is required.
7. Delegate, but don’t abdicate! Someone else can do the task, but you’re still responsible for the completion of it, and for managing the delegation process.
“Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right things.” – Warren Bennis, Ph.D. (“On Becoming a Leader”)
Nothing can be substituted for time. Once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. Time keeps getting away and they have trouble controlling it. Not matter what their position, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up. Yet, time needs to be effectively managed to be effective. Effective time management is crucial to accomplishing organization tasks, as well as to avoiding wasting valuable organizational assets.
STEP FIVE: The following tips culminate good management at the workforce:
1. Concentrate on doing only one task at a time.
2. Establish daily short-term, mid-term, and long-term priorities.
3. Handle correspondence expeditiously, with quick, short letters and memos.
4. Throw unneeded things.
5. Ensure all meetings have a purpose, have a time limit, and include only essential people.
6. Maintain accurate agendas and abide by them.
7. Know when to s top a task, policy or procedure.
8. Delegate everything possible and empower subordinates.
9. Don’t say ‘yes’ to too many things and don’t commit yourself to unimportant activities, no matter how far ahead they are.
10. Divide large tasks, by making small manageable tasks, and set start and stop times.
11. Adjust priorities as a result of new tasks.
12. Keep things simple.
STEP SIX: Eliminating Paperwork. Sort through and handle the papers in your in-basked no more than twice a day. Never handle a piece of paper more than once. Avoid the “I’ll just put this here for now” habit.
1. Throw away previous drafts. They serve no purpose.
2. Ask subordinates to submit recommendations along with important reports. Nothing should be sent to you without a summary of indicated action.
3. Limit the length of letters, recommendations, responses, meeting requests and other correspondence to one page.
4. Don’t keep copies of all your requests to others, unless there are legal or personnel (human resources) reasons to do so.
5. Do something with every piece of paper that reaches you and put it in its proper place, not just back on the pile.
6. Handle routine requests or tasks immediately whenever you can.
7. Cut back on sending memos. Use a phone call instead.
8. Reduce the number of memos you keep. After all, memos are primarily for short-term information. Record the information you need, and throw away the memo.
9. Throw out last month’s copy of a magazine when this month’s copy arrives. If you must save them, only keep a year’s worth. Stop subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read anymore. This saves you money as well as time and guilt.
10. Limit your stacking trays to two: one for incoming papers and the other for outgoing papers.
11. Reduce your bank accounts, if you have several. If you find yourself dealing with multiple bank statements every month, this is a good place to start.
12. Pay bills by automatic deduction. Most utility bills can be handled this way. Put all your receipts in a small envelope and sort through them every month or so.
STEP SEVEN: Remembering. One important key to good time management is not only to remember, but remembering important things at the right time. Use calendars and lists to help you, if you don’t have the “perfect secretary”.