Michael is an avid content writer and researcher on various topical subjects, including personal development and wellbeing.
1. Analyze the Situation
Filling up your schedule with activities and being busy all the time does not necessarily mean that you are managing your time effectively. Continually moving at high speed has its own drawbacks, not the least of which includes stress.
The reality is that we cannot really control or manage time per se. What we can manage is ourselves. Slowing down is necessary in order to take in the entire picture.
Ask yourself the questions: Is this the most productive use of my time? Is there a smarter way of achieving what I need to have done today without spending as much time?
Busyness itself can be a problem. There are times when being busy becomes an evasive approach—a means of avoiding other important issues in one’s life.
Hence, pulling back to ponder instead of continuously thrusting oneself into activities could save time and make the efforts themselves more efficient and profitable.
2. Be Clear on What Your Role Is
Even in a regular workplace, problems associated with poor time management can result in a crisis management situation where the original roles and responsibilities of an employee are overshadowed and he finds himself spending all his time on what was not in the original job description.
This is why it is critical to set out with a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished and what your role and responsibilities are. If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there. You need to have a standard that you can use on a continuous basis as a benchmark for your progress.
If you are employed, you may need to have a meeting with your line manager in order to be clear on where your priorities lie. Opening up this discussion could also be beneficial in other ways. It could help reorganize your schedule to avoid burnout and facilitate delegating extra tasks to other team members.
Be aware that due to the changing nature of the business world, priorities can change and responsibilities along with them. This is especially so for those who are self-employed. Organize your time management such that it takes such changes into consideration.
3. Guard Your Schedule
Time is the most valuable asset you have. Most of the other things in life are replaceable, but time is not. You will never get back the years of your life that have already been used up. The same applies to each second that is ticking by right now.
It is therefore not only necessary but imperative to guard your time carefully. Keep an action list and once you've identified your priority tasks and have set aside undisturbed time to complete them, take pains to ensure there are no interferences.
This includes such measures as activating your voicemail, disabling email notifications, limiting incoming calls, leveraging virtual meetings instead of live ones, requiring calendar appointments, using ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs.
For example, if you have scheduled a meeting to last for 15 minutes, ensure all participants adhere to the time limit and stick to the topic at hand. A separate arrangement can be put in place for any extraneous issues which cannot be handled within the time-frame you have set.
Aside from the above, continually look at ways of freeing up your time. This will make you more efficient. All the few minutes saved from each activity when combined together at the end of the day can make a significant difference.
4. Leverage the 80/20 Rule
The bigger the business grows, the more the responsibilities there are and the greater the need to have effective time management.
What may have started out as a one-person operation could quickly become so massive, with such incredible demands, that things spiral out of control if proper management is not put in place.
The typical duties you will need to prepare yourself for beforehand include creating and managing business strategies, supervising workers, juggling accounts, sourcing more business opportunities.
It is therefore important to find an efficient way of taking care of all the tasks and still have a life. As a businessperson, you can be so caught up working hard at meeting deadlines that you fail to identify what the priorities are and what is actually stealing your time, moment by moment.
According to the 80/20 rule, 80% of results are gained from 20% of time and effort invested. This rule underscores the importance of prioritizing time on what is most productive. Identify the specific tasks that have the greatest impact on your business and set aside time to work on these every day.
If 80% per cent of your business results are as a result of 20% of the time and effort you put in, then this is the percentage upon which you should focus most of your attention.
A lot of business owners are hesitant when it comes to outsourcing and delegating tasks, because they feel that doing so only serves to increase their cost base.
But when the business expands and it is time for you to hire people to work for you, train them in the 20% and assign these tasks to them. In this way, the business will be able to generate enough to cover the cost of hiring the new workers. Replicating yourself in this way will make operations more effective and profitable.
5. Audit Yourself
Set aside one week during which you will maintain a detailed record of your activities and the amount of time spent on each activity. The more detailed you are, the more accurate the analysis will be.
The best way to approach this is to break down the day into 15- or 30-minute chunks and then jotting down what you do during those time slots. This exercise will help you to make every second count.
Timesheets are not just necessary for corporations. They are useful for businesses at all levels, including freelancers and sole proprietors. You could opt to either keep a daily computer-based timesheet or paper timesheet.
Alternatively, you could simply have a notebook or diary which you take with you everywhere and set up reminders to help ensure you continue keeping a proper log of your time usage.
Once you embark on auditing yourself in this way, you will need the discipline to maintain it. The goal of this exercise is to have a record that can be analyzed. Keeping an on-going log of your activities and the time spent will help you identify where your time goes and get rid of time-wasters.
Such time-wasters include unnecessary meetings, doing work that others should be doing, telephone or email interruptions, task duplications, low-priority activities, putting out fires, misplanning and disorganization.
You will be able to determine what is unproductive, disruptive and unnecessary in your typical day. Anything that does not directly contribute to or support the fulfilment of your roles and responsibilities is a red flag.
The process will also enable you to identify productive activities so you can determine whether the time allocated to them is really appropriate. You will be able to have a clear picture of how much is being invested in the 20% of activities that generate 80% of the results in your life and business.
6. Take Supportive Measures
Plan your day, week and month in advance. Your planning should take into account short, medium and long term objectives. The lack of a structured method of managing time leads to difficulties including missing deadlines, imbalanced business and personal commitments and pressure from others' engagements.
This results in deterioration. Performance is negatively impacted and instead of being profitable, activities become burdensome. On the other hand, planning ahead and applying proper time management principles consistently makes them habitual. They begin to flow naturally as part of your daily life.
Involve stakeholders in the decisions that you are embarking on. Communicate with your colleagues, managers, suppliers, other teams and customers who have a vested interest and will be impacted by the changes you make.
Share this information with members of your household so that they can support and give you the space you require to proceed.
Arrange Your Tasks
Begin with the outgoing tasks before you tackle the incoming tasks. Send out the important communication that is required for the day first. After getting that out of the way, settle down to deal with the incoming mail.
Develop a habit of starting off with pending responsibilities before working on new ones. Clear the backlog before embarking on new tasks.
Automate Where Possible
Automate your daily tasks as much as possible. For example, if your work requires a lot of reading and typing you could make use of free Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text apps to save on time.
Don’t forget to take breaks for short periods in between tasks. This will prevent the accumulation of stress on your mind and body. Having enough time to rest and refresh yourself will make you more productive and your mind more alert.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on January 01, 2020:
Glad to know you could glean something useful for the new year. We've crossed over another threshold into a new beginning. Wish you all the best and may you meet your goals and thrive in 2020!
Liz Westwood from UK on December 31, 2019:
This is a thought-provoking and very helpful article. I really appreciate reading it at a time when it could be used to inform and support my New Year resolutions.