Time Management

by Di McLanachan

Common questions

  1. How can I deal with overwhelm?
  2. How do I deal with time-wasting interruptions?
  3. How can I best plan my working day/week/month?
  4. Why spend time writing a things-to-do list?
  5. How do I prioritise my workload?
  6. How can I motivate myself to tackle tasks I dislike?
  7. How can I use my diary more effectively?
  8. How can I stop being late for appointments?
  9. How can I say ‘no’ to yet more work without being seen as unhelpful?

 

1. How can I deal with overwhelm?

If you feel totally overwhelmed and are starting to panic, the first thing is to break state – calm down! Then decide how you can best handle the situation:

  • Delay – is there part of the task or tasks that you can put off for now?
  • Delegate – can you draft anyone else in to help?
  • Do it! Once you have made a start, things will start to get better.

You can also learn to anchor tranquillity through using an object such as a stone, and to monitor and regulate your breathing to calm you down.

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2. How do I deal with time-wasting interruptions?

You may not be able to prevent all forms of interruption, but you may be able to cut down on them.

  • If your desk is near a vending machine or the loo, turn it around so that passers-by cannot make eye contact.
  • Do you really need a visitor’s chair?
  • Do you use your body language effectively – standing up when they sit down, for example?

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3. How can I best plan my working day/week/month?

A good plan is one that captures everything that needs to be done, prioritises all the tasks and schedules them in a realistic time frame. Use a diary to give you an instant overview of your time and remind you of appointments, and a things-to-do list to help you to capture and prioritise your tasks.

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4. Why spend time writing a things-to-do list?

You cannot possibly remember everything you need to do. More importantly, a things-to-do list is essential if you are to look at your tasks and prioritise them efficiently. It will also help you to keep a check of how you are spending your time.

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5 How do I prioritise my workload?

One very effective way of doing this is to divide your tasks into four categories – important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and not important and not urgent. The first group you will naturally tend to tackle, but the second group may be neglected in favour of the third (urgent but not important), and this is when crises can occur.

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6. How can I motivate myself to tackle tasks I dislike?

Are you a towards or an away-from person – do you respond to the carrot or the stick? If the former, reward yourself for each completed task, or chunk of a task. If the latter, think of the worst-case scenario should you fail to tackle the disliked task. Another useful technique is to model yourself on someone who enjoys the task you are dreading. Find out in great detail how they approach this task, what they enjoy about it and why.

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7. How can I use my diary more effectively?

A diary can be part of your bring-forward system, containing reminders of actions that need to be taken on specific days. If you tend to be late for appointments, write down the time you need to leave the office in your diary. You can also use your diary to record your ideas, goals and more profound thoughts, helping you to keep your goals in view – an important factor in goal achievement.

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8. How can I stop being late for appointments?

Instead of concentrating on the time of the appointment, work out when you need to leave in order to get there on time and make sure you keep to the leaving time. Type A people tend to be over-optimistic about travel times, so you may need to double your original estimate.

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9. How can I say ‘no’ to yet more work without being seen as unhelpful?

You need to stop taking on other people’s monkeys. Ask yourself whether the job should be yours or belongs to someone else. Learn to respect yourself and be more assertive. Use the assertive sentence: acknowledge the other person’s view; say ‘however’; say what you feel, and state what you want to happen.

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