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Tips for Managing Your Time and Priorities
“There are not enough hours in the day.” How many times have you heard this from colleagues? Maybe even said it yourself?
Let’s face it, we all have the same 24 hours. So how is it that there are some people who accomplish so much more in a day than others? We spend (read: waste) more time each day searching for information, duplicating efforts, and playing catch-up than we realize.
I’ve worked with many clients who were looking for ways to work more efficiently. Here are some ideas that have worked for both me and them as a way to take control of our time:
1. Technology is most useful when you put time and effort into customizing it.
Things work best if you set them up for your preferences. What do you do when you get a new smartphone or computer? If you’re like most people, you charge it, turn it on, and immediately make a call or surf the internet. When we buy new technology – both hardware or software – we start using it without first setting it up and customizing it to your needs. Ask yourself these questions before you mess around with your new device:
- How much time do you spend swiping back and forth on your phone looking for that one application?
More time than you think. Organizing your applications into folders will help you to quickly find what you’re looking for.
- Are you tired of pop-up notifications or random sounds when visiting a favored site?
Who isn’t? Go into your controls and settings panel to select your preferred notification settings. Taking the time to properly set up your technology will ensure you can use your device without annoying interruptions.
2. Email can be a very efficient communication tool – if used correctly.
Email is one of the biggest time-sucks that people complain about. The inbox, the notifications, the never-ending pull on your attention. How many times do you open the same email? Do you often find yourself opening emails to find missing information? People don’t realize how much time they spend searching for that one line or attachment in an email. Here are some tips for better utilizing your inbox:
- When you don’t have time for another action item, don’t open new emails. Opening an email for the sake of seeing what the sender is asking when you know you aren’t available to respond is wasted time that adds up through the day.
- When you do open an email, be prepared to take an action. You will need to do any or all of the following: reply or forward the email, set a reminder based on the action requirement outlined in the message, or file/delete the email.
- Has the content of the email thread changed from the original subject? It doesn’t matter if you’re replying to the same email chain – if the nature of the content has changed, then change the subject line to reflect that. This will make it easier to find in the future.
- Use flagging and starring to track action items, but be sure to set a date and time that fits well in your calendar for the action item.
3. Prepare for meetings and remember to take a breather in between them.
Are you attending meetings just because you were invited? Make sure you know the purpose of the meeting and that it’s a good use of your time. Ask for an agenda to ensure the objective of the meeting organizer’s is the same as yours.
When possible, leave time free between meetings. For example, if you have 15 minutes between meetings, you should:
- Use 5 minutes to process the information you just heard
- Use 5 minutes for a breather, to take a walk, or to go for a bio break
- Use 5 minutes to prepare for the next meeting
Believe it or not, you’ll get more done if you pause between meetings to regroup rather than running from one to another.
4. Conference calls should be focused and productive.
Do you find conference calls to be drawn out and unproductive? How many times has a question been posed to an attendee, only to be followed by silence – then, “I’m sorry can you repeat the question?” No one wants to attend a conference call like this one.
Many people use conference call time to address emails or attend to other needs when they should be focusing on the purpose of the conference call. This causes frustration and miscommunication. In order to have a productive conference call, you need three things:
- A strict call facilitator
- An agenda
- A clear set of expectations for the outcome of the call
With these tips in mind, you can better manage your time and priorities. What methods have you implemented to manage your daily responsibilities? Comment below!
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