10 Steps to Managing Your Time

The right techniques make time management work. In the quest for better time management, we have been flooded with a large variety of gizmos, tools, and programs invented to help us more effectively manage our time. These tools and programs make great claims, but most fail to help us achieve that ultimate “nirvana” of time management that we desire.

Of all the time management “stuff” out there, I’ve found a few simple techniques that consistently work well, if implemented properly. Here are 10 steps that, if followed, will ensure time-management works for you:

1. Kick the habit: Like many poor habits, poor time management is a behaviour that has been developed over time and the first step in “kicking the habit” is to recognize that you have a problem and then to make a firm commitment to do something about it.
2. Effective planning: Similar to other disciplines, effective time management is a discipline that can be learned and mastered over time. The key principle to effective time management is planning. It’s been shown that for every minute you spend in planning, ten minutes is saved in execution.
3. Plan each day in advance: Whether you use a day planner, PDA device or electronic calendar, find the tool that works best for you. Sit down each night and carefully plan out your next day. Ask yourself: “What is the most important use of my time?” and “Where do I bring the greatest value to my organisation?”
4. Develop your daily plan by ranking tasks: With the key tasks that must be accomplished (based on the answers to the two questions above). Once you have listed these vital tasks, and then rank them accordingly (usually the ABCD method works well).
Planning your day the night before has other benefits as well. One key benefit is that you will sleep better, as your conscious mind can rest (because you’ve written down what must be accomplished and don’t have to worry about remembering every task). Your subconscious mind can then go to work on these issues while you sleep.
5. Block scheduling: Look at your day as blocks of time put together. We call this block scheduling. Start with ‘hour’ blocks, then as you get more practice and become more proficient at budgeting your time, you will look at 30-minute blocks of time.
6. Mark your calendar with these blocks of time: Some of the most effective time managers look at their days in 15-minute increments. Take the ranked tasks from your list and insert them into the blocks of time on your calendar, starting with the most important task first.
7. Determine what time in the day you will set aside for each task: Morning time is usually the best time to tackle your most difficult and highest priority tasks. As the day wears on and you wear down, you can then work on the other tasks requiring less mental effort. Now you’re ready to begin your day.
8. Prioritise and focus to reach completion: Jump right in and begin on the most important, highest value task immediately. Focus single-mindedly on starting and finishing this task and do not deviate from your plan. One of the biggest enemies of time management is the practice of starting several tasks but never finishing any of them. A great prompting question to always ask yourself is, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing right here, right now?” Another key to successful block scheduling is not getting “derailed” from your plan.
9. Minimise distractions: Distractions like the phone, internet, email, co-workers, daydreaming, etc, can and will work to thwart your plan. Make the necessary arrangements to keep these distractions to a minimum.
10. Additional tips: Finally, here are a few final suggestions:
*First, make sure you take the appropriate time to speak with employees and co-workers, as well as time for returning phone calls, emails, etc. The key is to do these tasks when they are scheduled (much easier said than done, of course).
*Schedule several breaks during the day – take “five-minute vacations” where you can walk outside or around the office, stretch and clear your mind to recharge your mental batteries and allow yourself to get re-focused on your work.