New Ideas on Managing Your Time
By Marty Nemko
I'm sure you're sick of hearing the standard
time-management advice: prioritize, delegate, give yourself rewards
for getting tasks done, and if you're not sure where your time
goes: for a week, log how you spend it, hour by hour.
Alas, many people find those tips don't work well enough. Here are some extra-strength time-management strategies:
- Think time-effectiveness. Don't do the task the fastest way. Don't do it the most thorough way. Do it the way that will yield the most benefit per minute.
For example, if you have to issue a report, could you, with your boss's permission if necessary, make it shorter than the assigned or expected length? (More people will pay attention to it and appreciate your conciseness.) Instead of doing exhaustive research for the report, could you, for example, do just a quick Google search, then adding a few of your own ideas and those of your most respected colleague(s)?
- Choose your gear. For each task, consciously decide whether to do it in first gear (slow and careful,) 2nd gear (moderate,) or 3rd gear (fast and less careful.)
For example, I respond to about 100 emails a day. I do the important ones in first gear: I read it carefully, carefully craft a response, and reread it at least once to be sure I've said what I want and have fixed all typos. With the least important emails, I quickly read or even skim it, crank out a response on the fly, and don't even reread it to fix any typos. As a result, I get my email done in, on average, 90 minutes a day.
- Default to doing the task rather than putting it on your to-do list. I do that with most of my sub-five-minute tasks.
For example, today, a client phoned to ask me to mail her a flash-drive copy of the mp3 recording of her session. (It's too big to email.) Even though that wasn't high priority, it had to get done eventually, so as soon as I got off the phone, rather than put it on my to-do list and have it hanging over my head, I just did it. That approach to my sub-five-minute tasks keeps my list small and not overwhelming.
- Know what matters to your boss: Ask, "What's priority?" and "How can I make your life easier?"
Not only will that help you figure out where you can and can't save time, it's a potent way to get your boss to like you, and in these tough times, make you less likely to be let go.
- Use sponge time. Most days have many bits of time that you can sponge up and use to get work done: when a meeting starts late, in line at the supermarket, during your commute, etc. When I'm driving, I often think about a project, taking notes on my omnipresent memo pad.
- Telecommute? Ask for permission to telecommute if, considering the time saved in not commuting, you'll be more efficient.
Even if you get permission to telecommute 100% of the time, it's usually wise to work in the office at least 20% of the time. That will facilitate your developing the relationships necessary to keep your job if not get promoted, Also, you'll be better able to stay abreast of what's going on, including plum opportunities.
- Don't be too proud to ask for help. Of course, be wary of being high-maintenance, but where feasible, consider asking for help with too-hard work or when there's simply too much.
I've made this column brief. That efficiently time-manages both your time and mine. Do you wish I made it longer?
© Marty Nemko 2004-2018. Usage Rights