Time Management

by Di McLanachan

In a nutshell

1. The panic button

You are panicking – there simply isn’t enough time for you to meet your deadline.

  • Stop panicking – it won’t help you. Break state and get into a calmer and more resourceful frame of mind.
  • Can you extend the deadline or delay at least part of the task?
  • Can you delegate some of the work to others?
  • The burst technique is a good way of getting started on a disagreeable task.


2. Get your desk organised

Research has shown that, on average, most office-based people spend 17 days a year looking for ‘missing’ paperwork! Your desk is a place to work, not to store work.

  • Consider using a ruthlessly efficient clutter coach to tell you where you are going wrong.
  • Sort out your paperwork: take action, delegate, throw it away, file it or store it.
  • Colour code your files.
  • Get rid of your toys.
  • Use a bring-forward system.


3. Where does my time go?

Do you seem to spend all your time firefighting? You need to find out where you are going wrong.

  • Keep a time log for a week, noting what you are doing every 30 minutes of the working day.
  • Ask a colleague who works with or near you for their ideas about how you spend your time.
  • You might discover tasks you could delegate or interruptions you could avoid.


4. Can I create more hours in my day?

Not exactly, but if you eliminate time-wasting activities, you can free up more time for productive work. The next stage is to look at your time-consuming activities and see, on a scale of 0 to 10, how much time you are spending on them.

  • Some of these may be outside your control
  • Some will be within your control


5. Time consumers: outside your control

If some of your major time consumers are listed as outside your control, it may still be possible to bring them back into your control by following tips from other pages in this topic, or other topics within this resource:


6. Time consumers: within your control

If some of the ‘within your control’ items rated a high score when you did the time consumers exercise, here are some pointers to help you.

  • Do you need to find out why you are failing to delegate?
  • Is your working style hindering you?
  • Should you practise being more decisive?
  • If you are feeling negative at work, are you in the right job?


7. Working styles

What is your working style? What are the advantages and drawbacks of that style in terms of time management, and can you learn to change your style to suit the occasion? A questionnaire will tell you if you are a Type A or a Type B.

Type A people need

  • To set realistic goals
  • To plan exactly how to achieve those goals
  • To be prepared to turn down additional projects
  • To use things-to-do lists.

Type B people need

  • To set quantifiable goals
  • To avoid excessive perfectionism
  • To be more assertive
  • To be more decisive.


8. Delegating

If you find it hard to delegate, ask yourself these questions to discover the reason:

  • Do I believe it would be quicker/easier to do the task myself?
  • Do I believe that someone else wouldn’t do the task as well as I would do it?
  • Am I concerned that someone else might do the task better than I could have done it?
  • Am I unwilling to let this task go because I enjoy doing it?
  • Do I like to appear overworked as it makes me feel indispensable?
  • Do I believe that I would get an aggressive or negative response from the person to whom I would like to delegate this task?


9. The art of saying ‘no’

  • Sometimes you just need to say ‘no’ to more work. A good way to do this is use the Assertive Sentence technique.
  • Don’t take on other people’s ‘monkeys’
  • If you still find saying ‘no’ difficult, figure out why you are saying ‘yes’


10. Making decisions

Successful people are decisive. They don’t always get it right, but they make a point of learning from poor decisions and use that knowledge to make better quality decisions in the future. If you are hesitating over a decision

  • Divide a sheet of paper into two columns, headed with a plus or a minus.
  • List possible good consequences and bad ones in the appropriate columns.
  • If the plus column is longest, go with the decision.
  • If not, look for an alternative and repeat the exercise.


11. How to stop procrastinating

To deal with procrastination, focus on the result of the task, not on the process. In your mind, really home in on how good it will feel to get it done, and what that will mean to you. There are several techniques you can use to stop procrastinating:

  • Tackle the worst job first
  • Break the task into manageable chunks
  • Time yourself
  • Promise yourself a reward
  • Remind yourself of the dire consequences of delay


12. Focusing techniques

Achievers are totally focused on the task at hand. While they may occasionally get interrupted, they never get distracted away from the successful completion of their work responsibilities. If you are procrastinating over a task, try the burst technique:

  • Take a task you’ve been dreading and allocate a short length of time to it
  • Focus on it for the allotted time
  • Stop and move on to something else


13. Email efficiency

Emails can be very distracting. Decide how often you need to check your inbox. Allocate an hour of the day and a specific length of time for replying to emails.

  • File actioned emails in folders.
  • Use templates.
  • Install good anti-spam software.
  • Back up your emails.


14. Multi-tasking

When you have lots to do and not much time to do it in, consider mult-tasking.

  • Pair your tasks. For example, an activity that requires your attention with one that does not
  • Make your waiting time productive
  • Group similar activities
  • Use technology, for example hands free phones
  • Involve the people you cherish


15. Time-wasting interruptions

Many interruptions are largely outside your control, nevertheless, there are ways that you minimise their number.

  • Turn your desk away from through traffic.
  • Don’t keep an inviting chair by your desk.
  • Close your office door, if you have one.
  • Use your body language to discourage time-wasters.
  • Set boundaries.


16. How can I best schedule my work?

Working to a plan is essential if you wish to maximise your productivity at work, achieve objectives and targets, and meet deadlines on time. A good plan is one that

  • Captures everything that needs to be done
  • Schedules those tasks in priority sequence, depending on their urgency and importance
  • Does not over-estimate how much can realistically be achieved in a normal working day.

A things-to-do list is an essential scheduling tool.

  • The best time to write it is at the end of the day, ready for tomorrow.
  • Choose the six most important things on your list and make them your priority.
  • Group tasks into categories and work through them at set times.
  • Highlight completed tasks and reward yourself.
  • Concentrate on the 20 per cent of the tasks that will have 80 per cent of the impact.


17. How do I prioritise my workload?

Type A people tend to dash from one unfinished task to another, without planning. To avoid crises, it’s essential to decide in which category each task on your to-do list belongs:

  • Quadrant 1 – important and urgent – these tasks are obviously top priority
  • Quadrant 2 – important but not urgent – these tasks are often rashly neglected in favour of quadrant 3 tasks
  • Quadrant 3 – urgent but not important – tasks that appear urgent, but may be someone else’s priority, not necessarily yours
  • Quadrant 4 – not urgent and not important


18. Time and outcomes, the bigger picture

There’s another way of looking at time. Decide what you really want to achieve first. What are your beliefs and values? What’s the bigger picture as far as you are concerned?

  • Develop a plan for your life before you ever start planning your time.
  • Keep focused on the life outcomes you have chosen as well as your daily to-do list
  • Become aware of your values and whether your use of time aligns with these


19. Modelling

If you have trouble getting the most out of your time, think about modelling or copying someone who does it well.

  • What strategies do they use?
  • What beliefs do they have about time?
  • Do they work towards outcomes, as suggested on the previous page?
  • Are they good at delegating?
  • Do they know how to set boundaries?


20. What if I feel stressed or under pressure?

Stress is damaging to your health. Some simple exercises will help you to avoid feeling stressed:

  • Anchor tranquillity, using an object such as a stone
  • Check your stress level by monitoring your breathing
  • Breathe deeply to trigger your endorphin response


21. Ten more tips

Read through them and choose the ones that might work for you.

  • Get clarity in your communication.
  • Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  • Break large tasks into manageable chunks.
  • Speak the truth.