Time management would make many people’s lives better, if only they realised it. A lot of people spend a lot of time running around being busy. But as Thomas Edison said, “Being busy does not always mean real work… Seeming to do is not doing”. Anyone that has spent time dealing with continual emails or sitting in pointless meetings can probably relate to that. If you find yourself wasting time in these ways, then working on improving time management could be a great benefit to you.
Vilfredo Pareto was an economist around the turn of the 20th century who discovered through his studies that 80% of the wealth of Italy was in the hands of 20% of the country’s population. To cut a long story short, from this the Pareto Principle was developed, which also can be tied to time. If you look at the things that you do every day, you will undoubtedly find that you get 80% of your success from just 20% of the things that you do. This is the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule and it is particularly helpful for time management purposes. After all, when you put it that way, why would anyone spend 80% of their time focusing on activities that bring them just 20% of their achievements? Yet so many people do exactly that. Here are some other tips for improving your time management:
1. Focus on what is not urgent but important (quality) – according to Stephen Covey there are four quadrants of time management, based on urgency and level of importance. Always working on what is urgent and important is to always be fighting fires. Meanwhile always working on emails that are not urgent and not important is wasteful. That is time wasting. Being proactive can get you out of the urgent but important quadrant and into a place where you are working on what is really important, but not under so much stress.
2. Block out time – people will always put meetings in your calendar if there is space there for them. If you block out time in your calendar for the other tasks that you need to do then they cannot do that. On the same note, always question whether your attendance at a meeting is really necessary. Sometimes meeting organizers have difficulties figuring that out for themselves, so if you ask, that will raise their awareness on the subject.
3. Do not check your email – yes you read that right. Do not. Set aside a time at the beginning and at the end of each day to check your email and do not dip into and out of it at other times. It will only distract you from the other things that you are supposed to be doing.
4. Make “to do” lists – making to do lists will help you to better manage your time as you will be able to see what really is important at a glance on any given day. It is best to do this at the end of the day so that you start the next day with a list, rather than starting the day thinking about what on earth it was you were supposed to be doing that day. That is a big time waster.
5. Allow a task only the time it needs – experts say that if you allow three hours for a task it will take three hours, even if it could have been done in one, if the person was focused and concentrating. It is better to allow less time for a task than more, otherwise you will find that tasks expand into the time that you allow for them, wasting yet more of your precious time.
6. Quit procrastinating – procrastination is the enemy of efficient time use. You think to yourself, “I’ll do that right after I have fed the dog/done the washing/checked Facebook”, or whatever your own personal favourite excuse is. Set aside clearly demarked time for these other tasks, but when it is time for work you need to focus. Making excuses for why you can’t start just yet is another big time waster.
7. Delegate – ask yourself, do I have to do this task? If not, delegate it to someone else who can do it instead. Maybe you don’t have anyone working for you… but could you? Maybe a virtual assistant could help with answering some of your emails or doing tasks that you find less enjoyable or interesting. Think about what you can pass on, and do exactly that.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.