Have you found yourself saying: “It can’t be nearly July already – are we really halfway through the year?”
Time flies, not just when you’re not having fun, but merely embroiled in your day-to-day work.
Managing time at work is a perennial challenge.
With the best will in the world you may set yourself goals and objectives for each day, week or month, but then ‘stuff’ happens, things crop up and before you know it, your ‘to do’ list has run out of control and there just isn’t enough time in the day.
Does this sound familiar?
Managing time continues to be a great challenge for most people in the workplace and at all levels, as evidenced by the range of attendees at our time management workshops - we see trainees and senior managers and everyone in between, in small to very large firms.
While there are a series of great tools and tips you can adopt to become more effective, I have one piece of advice to share that can make all the difference.
Taking this piece of advice to heart can ensure any time management technique works for you, but without it the greatest techniques won't make much difference.
So my advice is this: find at least one hour every week to stand back, reflect and plan ahead.
It may sound simple, but doing this will save you time well in excess of the time you put in.
Everyone knows reflecting and planning are the right things to do, but they rarely do them.
They look at their overdue work and client emails, and rationalise that it is better just to use that time to get some work done.
But I guarantee you this isn’t the case. What's more likely to happen is you say you have been very busy, but don't feel like you've achieved very much.
I've coached and trained hundreds of advisers and managers around this, and they are consistent in their praise for the approach (even if they sometimes fail to implement it as a regular, long-term habit).
For that reflection and planning time to be effective here are some recommendations:
- Do this in your work time
- Find a time every week that you protect for this. Most choose either Friday or Monday morning, before they start their other work activities.
- Make sure you are undisturbed, so you can concentrate. Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted by email, phones or other work. You may want to do this away from your office.
Review the week just gone and ask yourself questions like:
- How good was my prioritisation and effectiveness this week?
- How much of my time did I spend on activities that will get me closer to my big goals?
- How much time was wasted on unimportant ‘stuff’? How do I reduce this or avoid it happening again?
- What meetings did I attend? Were they a good use of my time? How can I improve them in the future?
- How much of my time was ‘hijacked’ by others?
- How well did my planned activities and priority to-do items pan out? What can I learn from this and improve next week?
Then review and plan your week along these lines:
- What are the one or two key things I want to achieve next week that will get me closer to my big goals? How do I find and protect the time to ensure they get done?
- How do I apply what I learned from the week just passed in order to make me more effective next week?
- What meetings are in my planner next week? Do I need to attend them all, can I delegate some and can I improve their effectiveness?
- What is on my to-do list for next week? What are the priorities? What should I delegate? What should I not do?
Do this consistently every week. For motivation, try adding up how much time you save, and celebrate when you successfully move your big personal goals forward.
Please try it and share your experience.