Improve Your Time Management Skills

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“If I just had more time…” is everyone’s wish. There isn’t any more time. We have all that’s been made. Each day we get 86,400 seconds, 1440 minutes, or 24 hours. Each week – 168 hours. No more!
The average person works about 1600 hours a year. That means each wasted hour costs about $12.50 for someone making $20,000 a year. And as your salary increases, so does the cost of wasted time.
Mix a little self-discipline with a commitment, and you’ll spend your time wisely. Here are some steps to control time.
Make a Commitment to Be Organized-Determine How You Use Your Time
For three or four days, keep track of what you do with your time.
Divide your day into 15-minute blocks.
Record what you did for each block.
Don’t wait until the end of the day to record it. Do it throughout the day.
List interruptions and who or what interrupted you.
Give each activity a degree of importance; for example, A, B, C.
After three or four days, analyze how you spent your time. Find out what you could have eliminated, what wasted your time, who interrupted you most, what you could have delegated, when you got to your most important task, how you spent the beginning of your day, and when you were the most and least productive.

Set Long- and Short-Term Goals
Without goals most time management tips have no meaning. You have to know where you’re going before you know what to do to get there. You waste time if you spend it on something that doesn’t lead to a goal.
Write down your professional goals for the year. These should dovetail with your company’s goals.
Make short-term goals based on your long-term goals.
List what you want to have completed each Friday for two or three weeks.
Important: Everything you list must lead to your goals. Otherwise, you’ll spend time on the wrong things.
Schedule Your Time
Start with the list of things you want to complete by Friday.
Start a “To Do” list for each day of the week. Don’t keep it in your head. Put it on paper. Again, list only things that lead to your goals.
Each morning, refine your “To Do” list for that day. Prioritize your list of things to do for the day with an “A” for the most important ones, a “B” for the next important and “C” for the least important.
Pick the time of the day you want to work on an activity. Allot so much time per activity. Try to complete each one in less time. You’ll get more done this way.

Some thoughts about your “To Do” list:
How To Handle Interruptions
Sometimes interruptions are part of your job. Know which ones are. Then, take the attitude that without telephone calls, customers, visitors, employees, etc. you may not have a job. Next time they won’t seem like interruptions.

Here’s what to do:
Intercept interrupters before they get into your office. Talk to them as you slowly walk away from your office.
If they want to meet, go to their office. You can leave when it’s convenient.
Explain that you’re busy on a priority task. You’ll give them more time later.
Don’t have your desk visible through your office door. If they can’t see you, they aren’t tempted to interrupt you.
Have something on each chair in your office so they can’t sit anywhere.
Stand up when they come in. Remain standing and glance at the clock.

Minimize Telephone Interruptions
If answering the telephone is not the major part of your job, here’s how to use phone time to your advantage:
Do easy jobs while on the phone--sign papers, read if you’re waiting, or organize your desk and papers.
Develop a plan for screening and delegating calls. Train people how to answer the phone.
If you can, establish times when you can take phone calls.
Bunch your returns call at a time you need a break.
Plan what you’re going to say if you’ll be discussing complex matters. Jot down points to be covered. Thus you avoid having to make a second call to mention something you forgot.

If you’re in a service organization where answering the phone is a major part of the job:

Controlling Paperwork/Email
The best way to control paperwork is not let it get on your desk. Have someone screen your mail and organize how you’ll handle what finally gets to you. Handle email the same way, read, respond, delete or place in a Follow-Up Folder.
If possible, handle a piece of paper only once. If you can’t complete the action required, do at least part of it. Example: set up a meeting time or request a printout.
Answer as much of your mail/email as you can when you first pick it up or open it.
Don’t ask for copies if you don’t need them.
To avoid amassing paper, store information on computer disks.

Other Time Management Tips
Ask yourself these three questions: What are my subordinates and I doing that doesn’t need to be done? Does anyone really need to do these things? What am I doing that others can do?
Use waiting time to read, plan, study, review, or write.
Isolate yourself from your office staff when you have to complete a major task.
Use travel time to plan, listen, read, think, or write.
Redesign forms that take too long to complete. Ask this question: Is anyone using all the information provided?
Take a hard look at those periodic reports to see if they can be written less often.
Send agendas before meetings.

Reprinted with permission from Communication Briefings (

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