Time is a precious commodity. Each person has the same amount of time, 24 hours each day, to use productively or to waste. Many people believe that time management is one of the top reasons that individuals succeed or fail both professionally and in their personal lives. Zeller describes a broad variety of time management techniques and systems that can be used by people in different professional roles, as well as at home to ensure that they are making the most of their time every day.
STARTING WITH SIMPLE TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES
Before delving into detailed techniques for better time management, it is useful to take a look at the bigger picture, and analyze why time is so valuable. Zeller suggests taking a step back and considering one’s life goals and the value of one’s time in the long run.
The best time managers consider in depth the link between time management and their life goals. When a person understands his or her short, medium, or long-term goals, it helps shape the way time is then used as a result. Clear goals create a sense of urgency which motivates people to accomplish more in less time. Studies have shown that individuals who document their goals are more likely to achieve them in a shorter period of time. Zeller recommends identifying at least 50 goals to accomplish in the next ten years. The next step is to isolate the three most important goals to achieve within one year, three year, five year, and ten year timeframes. This exercise can help to effectively focus energy.
Another useful exercise is to determine what a person feels they are worth on a per hour analysis. When an individual understands the value of time after breaking it down to an hour-by-hour basis, it is easier to make educated decisions about how to organize their tasks. The goal should be to use time in a way that provides the best return on investment. A key question then becomes whether the time to perform a task costs more or less than hiring someone to do the work. Additionally, leisure activities should produce as much value as one’s hourly income rate. For example, a person might choose to pay a landscaping service to mow their lawn in order to spend that time doing something more enjoyable and personally productive.
ESTABLISHING A TIME MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
After identifying one’s time management goals, it is a good idea to prioritize them. This results in a structured plan for attaining them. A basic principle called the 80/20 rule is important to remember. This principle suggests that 20 percent of a person’s tasks will generate 80 percent of their desired results. To maximize one’s productivity, therefore, it is necessary to place a high priority on the important activities that fall into the 20 percent zone. Zeller suggests that people identify their top 12 goals as well as identify the tasks necessary to accomplish them. These tasks should be broken down into a list of daily “to do” items. On a daily task list, the “A items” are those that will lead to a major consequence if not completed, while “B items” have only minor consequences if not completed, and “C items” have no penalty if not completed by the end of the day.
In addition to prioritization, techniques like time blocking, organization, and electronic tools can all support a robust time management system.
*Time blocking. Time blocking is a technique that can be used to schedule tasks during the day. Each day is broken into 15 minute segments. Personal activities should be blocked out first. Next, work related activities are added in. Zeller recommends spending 15 to 30 minutes each day and 90 to 120 minutes at the end of the week on self evaluation and planning. This time is used to review progress toward business and personal goals.
*Reducing clutter. To support a time management system, it is important to have an organized office environment. People with uncluttered workspaces tend to be more productive. They feel less distracted and can easily access the tools they need. To maintain an uncluttered work environment, many people handle papers just once. They make sure to execute one of the following options immediately: dump, delegate, detour, do it, or depot. Zeller insists that dump, delegate, and do it are self-explanatory options. A detour is when a paper is parked for later follow-up, and a depot is another term for filing papers. A similar system can be used for dealing with email – there are three possible options: delete, do it, or defer. Deferred emails should be placed in an electronic folder to review later.
*Electronic tools. Electronic tools can also help keep one’s schedule in check. Examples include portable digital assistants (PDAs) and scheduling tools like Microsoft Outlook. One major benefit of scheduling systems is the ability to set up meetings with colleagues without involving administrative assistants or extraneous people. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are invaluable for storing important information about clients and prospects. Important customer data includes names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and administrative assistant contact information. An organized computer is just as important as an organized workspace. This requires sorting through files, deleting those that are unnecessary, and backing up files that need to be archived. CDs and other storage media must be labeled and stored in a safe place. One option is to use mirrored servers so that backups always exist.
Time management can be challenging when a job requires a lot of travel. However, advanced planning can make business trips as productive as possible. Zeller recommends identifying the trip objectives before setting foot in a car or on a plane. He also suggests grouping trips together for a weeklong trip, rather than several small trips. Each day should be scheduled as tightly as possible. It is useful to book hotels based on convenience and services like Internet access, room service, and a business center. Try to pack efficiently by color coordinating clothing, using hotel toiletries, and investing in a small laptop and electronic reader.