Last month’s article featured Michael’s Top Ten Time Tips. At the end of the article I asked you, my readers, to send in your top tips. The response was terrific! Here are the best of the best:
1. Never spend more than three or four minutes looking for something on-line. I spend hours on the computer, and because the internet has much valuable information relative to my profession, I frequently use it as a resource. I also “subscribe” to about 10 newspapers on line. But the internet can be like an interstate highway with “exit ramps” every tenth of a mile. It is very easy to get side-tracked, distracted, or find yourself on an “off-ramp” that is interesting but irrelevant. When I am looking for info to strengthen a point or to shed some light on a question I have, I give myself several minutes to explore the internet. If I haven’t found help in that amount of time, I am better off returning to the project at hand and getting on to the next point.
2. I often feel bombarded with tasks that need to be followed-up with or serviced every few months. At the beginning of every year, I make a list of 12 columns for each month and plot out every task. I always tape it on the last page of my calendar so it doesn’t get misplaced. In parenthesis, I write down how often each will need servicing or maintenance. I then check my “monthly list” at the beginning of every month and cross it off when completed.
3. I’ll save making a phone call or jumping on the net until I have a long document to print–saving me downtime. Otherwise, my goal is to work half as much and make twice as much.
4. Here are a few things I have learned to believe in:
* Plan your work and work your plan
* Focus on block time for completing certain tasks (returning phone calls, market research, etc.)
* Keep an ongoing list of everything you need to do – business, personal, civic, charitable, etc. Pick the most important and some of the more urgent tasks off of that list each day.
* Be ruthless in keeping your desk, in basket, and work areas clean and clear of clutter and junk.
* Spend a quiet 45 minutes daily planning your work for that day (if early in the morning) or the next day (if at night).
5. I always work best when I’m under the gun to get something done (like before a trip!). So establishing hard and fast deadlines and sticking to them seems to work for me.
6. The trouble with time management is that urgent but unimportant things (other people’s priorities) crowd out the important non-urgent things (your priorities). I don’t have a magic solution, but I try to follow the rule “Do the most important thing first.” The less important things will be left for the future, when they may rise in relative importance. Urgent, important things are not a time management problem because they are addressed immediately (like a tree falling on your roof). Unimportant non-urgent things are also not a problem, as they get neglected as they should (like calling your mother-in-law just to say hello).
7. From Eric:
* Do the toughest task first
* Get up and walk around, exercise, do calisthenics, etc. for 5 minutes every hour
* When you get stuck on something, put it aside and come back to it later
8. Every morning start your day by checking your “To Do” list, including meetings that you must attend or phone calls you must make. They do not have to be in any specific order. After completing the list, go back and assign a priority to the tasks. They are either Priority “A” or “B”. Then go forward through the day ONLY WORKING ON “A” ITEMS, draw a line when complete (even if it is “left a message”). Don’t begin work on any “B” priority until all the “As” are done. Sooner or later a “B” will become an “A,” and then it is okay to work on it. It is amazing how well this works (when I do it).
9. Reward yourself when you have completed a chunk of or the complete task at hand particularly when it is something that you don’t want to do and/or it is difficult. (Rewards include a cup of Starbucks, a beer after work, a walk on a beautiful Indian summer day or a break to call a friend.)
* Do the difficult assignments when you are at your best. I am a morning person, for instance.
* Do the busy work (which requires less mental strain) during the off hours.
* Compile a list and check it and mark off the assignments completed.
* Being accountable to someone helps in getting it done; so make a list and share it with someone to encourage accountability.
* Get adequate sleep!
10. When you put an appointment in your calendar, always include the other person’s phone number with the name, so if you need to cancel, you don’t have to search for it. And – if it’s a breakfast meeting, be sure you have a home phone number as well as cell phone; the cell phone may not be on early in the morning!
11. From Rob:
* Say no
* Create block time for your mind; don’t answer or respond to any outside influences.
* Create task time away from day-to-day interruptions. (Go in late etc., work in different place.)
* Make people accountable for doing their jobs rather than doing it for them.
12. I try to look at the things I need to do and do the ones that allow others to do their stuff first. I don’t want people sitting around waiting for me to tell them something that they need to know before they do their jobs.
13. Time management depends on my attitude rather than techniques. Two things that work for me:
* Make a “to do” list. Think about which activity is causing the most anxiety but will provide the most relief when it is done (or well started). Do that first.
* When feeling impatient or hurried, remember that the average life span is 45 million minutes. Don’t get upset about this particular minute.
14. To help manage e-mail, use Rules Wizard in Outlook to manage e-mail from listservs or certain
repeat senders. When you eventually want to review info but the info is not time-sensitive and you don’t want your e-mail inbox to overwhelm you, you can direct e-mail to certain folders that are hidden until/unless you’re ready to review them. Beyond that, folders generally help organize e-mails for someone like me who likes to hold on to certain project-related ones for a while (at least until completion of project).
-Use post-it notes … for the phone call you picked up that you shouldn’t have because you were in the middle of something … for the fleeting thought of something you need to do … just jot on a post-it note (I find the 3 x 3 size just right and use a pop-up post it holder) and stick it at bottom of computer screen face. Just don’t want to abuse and have a million post-its all around but just a few, helpful reminders. Great satisfaction can be gained in completing the task and crumbling/tossing the reminder.
15. Check contact manager daily for tasks that need to be done on each client. Create a tickler system in the contact manager for completing the tasks. For this system to be effective, make sure you keep your contact manager up to date. Must check it daily! I use File Maker as my contact manager for checking and completing tasks.