Time Management Techniques: Making Your Time Count - Anthony's Library and Resources

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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Time Management Techniques: Making Your Time Count

Do you find yourself rushing through your morning, stampeding to the door, making your way through traffic only to arrive 30 minutes late for work because you had to wait for the bus? How does the rest of your day go?

Once you get yourself into work, do you need to take a few moments to compose yourself? Perhaps you get a coffee and relax by chatting with a co-worker on your way to your desk. When you sit down, you see five or more items that need immediate attention (some left over from yesterday) and the phone starts ringing. You forgot the morning meeting! So you start rifling through your papers…. Is this sounding all too familiar by now?

Regardless of whether you work at home, in an office or in a factory, or whether you work for a boss or yourself, getting a grip on time seems like a daily struggle for millions of people worldwide. It’s true that many of us have heaped our daily schedule full of activities. Despite mobile phones, internet and microwaves, it seems we never have enough time to take care of business, ourselves, our friends and family.

So many of the activities we do every day are demanding our attention that it can be difficult to make plans for the future, even if the plans will ease our burdens down the road. We are busy; but are we productive with our time? This is where time management has become important.

Time management is not just about having time – it’s about making certain our time is well spent. There will always be times in our lives when we get extra busy (back to school, taxes, holidays, important projects) but learning the skills to manage the time we have wisely will alleviate much of the stress and frustration that can lead to burnout and fatigue.

Working Smarter – Not Harder
Your time is a valuable resource – to you, your employer, your business and your family.  When we treat every task we do as a priority, it is easy to slip into bad habits that eat into our time but do not give us enough benefits. We run around ‘putting out fires’ and face every day’s activities as emergencies. Nothing is planned and we never have time to get things done properly. Identifying these areas and restructuring your routine and mindset enables you to optimize your time so you produce the most results with the least effort.

How does this work? By identifying daily routines and your own body ‘rhythms’, you can try to plan the most energy consuming activities during your most productive times of the day and use your less productive times for activities that do not require the same amount of concentration or effort.

This applies equally well to all aspects of our lives – work and home. But it goes beyond that. Time management also helps you identify time (or energy) wasters. Perhaps there are activities that must be removed or delegated to someone else. By learning how to identify these, we will not succumb to guilty feelings that we were not “up to the job” but we will conscientiously decide that to keep doing them is a waste of valuable resource – your time.

Time Management is a Skill
You’re not at boot camp. Although the discipline encouraged by boot camps may be useful, it does not relate well to daily life.  Work and family usually call for flexibility, and learning the skill of time management will allow us to make wise choices without being tied to a strict routine.

While time management is a skill that should be used day-to-day, it is also useful to help reach your long term goals.  Your goals may be hazy right now, or even obscure, but by incorporating them into the ‘why’ of what you do every day, you will be making strides to accomplish them while enjoying what you do. 

Even the drudgery that sometimes comes with life is easier to manage if you know why you must do it. Knowing why will make these chores a part of your plan, and thus a choice rather than a burden. Managing your time can also prevent these areas from becoming dragged out and thus affecting your usefulness and energy.

Getting Started with Time Management
The first step to getting your time managed is to find out exactly how much your time is worth. What does an hour of your time cost? While every dollar has the same value, every hour does not. An hour at 10:00 in the morning may be of much more value as a working hour than 11:00 at night. On the other hand, an hour at your child’s bedside when he is sick is worth more than an hour at the office catching up on your filing.

However, most of us recognize that an hour at work is an hour at work and if you will be there for eight or 12 hours, you want those hours to be used productively so they don’t become extra hours catching up to missed deadlines or preventing you from spending time with your family.

There are two methods for determining the value of your time.
1)   What Does an Hour Cost Your Employer?
2)   What Does an Hour Cost YOU?

What Does an Hour Cost Your Employer?
If you work for someone, you must realize that the activities you do cost the business more than just your hourly wage. You need to account for the cost of overhead and the percentage of income that you are responsible to provide for.

If you are a salaried employee, you can take your salary (month or year) and add the cost of the office space, equipment or other costs as you presume them to be. Divide this number by the amount of hours you would work in an average month or year.  A month gives you approximately 20 working days. A year has about 240. The resulting figure is what an hour costs.  Now when you are deciding to do an activity you can determine if the task at hand is worth that amount of resources to the business – your time and physical resources. You might be surprised.

What Does an Hour Cost YOU?
Are you self-employed or on contract? This makes it more imperative that you spend your time wisely in that it can have an immediate impact on your income.

How much is your time worth (billing hour)? Now create a list of activities that are not directly related to creating income such as book-keeping, website maintenance, cleaning etc. Based on the previous month, how many hours were spent doing each task?

If you bill $30/hour for your service and you spend 15 hours per month maintaining your website, it has cost you $450 that month.  It may also have cost you 15 more hours away from your family and friends or impeded on actual production time. If having an up-to-date website is crucial to your business (but is not the actual business) then perhaps you would do better to pay someone to maintain it for you. It will give you more time for important tasks and may be accomplished in less time if the person is more skilled than you.

The Value of Your Time - Beyond Money
Time management goes beyond knowing the monetary value of your time – your personal time also has value. Unlike money, each hour of your day does not have the same value. You cannot always use money or profits as a factor when determining how much your time is worth. Your life is made up of people, interests and caring for yourself and others. Basing your time merely on the amount of money you will make or save is missing the big picture.

Have you ever heard someone answer the question “if you had 6 months to live, what would you do” with the answer “make more money”? Unless they had nagging financial concerns about their family, most people would acknowledge that time spent bettering oneself, spent with family and showing interest in others has greater value.

When your child has a school event he wants you to attend or you haven’t spent one evening all week to rest and relax, you need to determine the value of your time in the context of living a productive life – not just making money.

Taking the time to understand the value of your time now is going to save you frustration in the future.

Time Wasters:

People in meetings all day are not getting things done. Meetings have their place. They are an important way to deal with group issues, create plans and get feedback. What is a problem is when meetings are called on the spur of the moment with little preparation and no plan. When these meetings start, each person has a separate agenda. If the purpose is unclear and the participants unprepared, are you going to come to a clear decision?  The answer is obvious.

You don’t have to answer every time it rings. If you have blocked a certain time for working on a task, do not let phone calls interrupt your momentum. While you may feel that you need to always be ‘on-call’, the truth is that you are losing productivity by permitting continual interruptions to your work flow.  If you must answer the call and the person can wait ask them for a time when you can call back and discuss the issue.  Not only will you set boundaries with your time but you can be prepared to deal with the call without other distractions.

If you cannot finish a task without a co-worker stopping in to ask you for a minute of your time, you may find your whole day is occupied with ‘one minute’ issues. Often the individual will get comfortable and discuss many more items than the one they initially came to you with. While some positions do require an open door policy, or you may not have an office you can close the door to, it is important to have uninterrupted time in your day to complete the tasks on your list.

4.   Working at the WRONG TIME:
Are you always planning activities that clash with other people’s schedules? Do you find the time you allotted to make calls (such as lunch time) means you are not able to get a hold of anyone? Do you ask for help when everyone else is too busy? Rearranging your schedule to make the most of your time will prevent you from ‘getting in your own way’. Find the most opportune times for tasks and your day will be much more productive.

5.   Disorganized WORK SPACE:
To use your time well, it is a MUST that you have an organized work space. Every moment looking for a pen, a file or a misplaced check not only means wasted time but it can add to your stress level and interfere with your ability to focus on your work.

Once you’ve identified and dealt with key time wasters you will be surprised how much more productive your day can be!

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