January 26, 2012
With the first month of the New Year nearly behind us, it’s time to reflect. Take a look at your to-do list for the month. Have you gotten everything done? I’ll bet not! Guess what? That’s ok! We’re all human and we’re certainly not perfect. You may even intend to knock a few more things off your list before the month comes to a complete close and I encourage you to keep working at it, but I’m also here to help with some tips for how you can improve your time management skills!
Last week we had our monthly full-day training session at Hanapin and the following lists and helpful hints were a product of one of our small group sessions that day. The entire team agreed to having learned a thing or two and we’ve seen increased results in our productivity already!
- Use a/your to-do list. Maybe you went to check that list I was talking about before and realized…you forgot to make it! Now is the time to get serious about keeping track of all the tasks you need to get done in a given day, week, month or year. Having all your tasks in a running list keeps things from falling through the cracks as easily, which is never a bad thing!
- Develop a routine. This can be a small or as big as you want, but make a part of your schedule typical so you can plan for something. Pull spend numbers every morning, check email, make a coffee, answer blog comments…you see what I mean? Having the smallest tasks planned out to start or round out a part of your day can make it feel more manageable and again, keeps you from forgetting things as they become monotonous.
- Break things up. Not like…your desk and chair, but your big tasks. If you have one big project you’re dreading, try breaking that project up in to smaller tasks that you can check off quicker and more frequently. You’ll feel more accomplished as you check things off and that motivation will keep you pushing through to finish the project.
- You are not Superman. You are also not a first grader. What’s this mean? Don’t put too much on your plate and don’t leave it too empty. Accepting too many tasks leaves the most organized person frazzled because, as it turns out, the day does not get longer no matter how hard we wish. However, idle hands, they say! Give yourself credit for what you can get done in a given time and load your plate accordingly. Leaving holes with ‘nothing to do’ makes time go by slower, too.
- Close the circle. Once you’ve completed a task or project, put it away! This fulfills the sense of accomplishment for a job well done and also allows you to move on to the next task (never done, right?). This is also the time to follow-up with anyone else on your team that may need to know the results of whatever you were working on so everyone knows the task is complete.
- Start tomorrow today. This might make it sound like I’m insinuating the key to time management is to just never sleep, but I promise I am not. All I’m suggesting is before you leave the office or stop working for the day make your to-do list for the next day. This way, you can make sure to note whatever didn’t get done from today’s list for first thing on tomorrow’s list. It will also help you sleep better tonight knowing you’re prepped for the next day, trust me. Work this in to your routine from tip #2 and thank us later!
- Stuff comes up, but don’t forget it! Within a day’s time, there are many conversations where a quick comment a colleague makes reminds us of something we need to do…write it down! I have more than one post-it pad at my desk and I take at least one to every meeting I attend. I can then take notes on extra things that need to be added to my to-do list and add them to the master list according to priority once the meeting is over. This also keeps my to-do list fairly organized, which is also extremely helpful.
- Speaking of priorities…a fatal flaw to any plan is the inability to prioritize the steps to implement the plan. Basically, put the cart before the horse and let me know how far you get. When you go to make your to-do lists, assume you’ll make a few drafts and even scribble a few arrows around to show that this now needs to be done here. The important note is that when you’re ready to start your day/week, you have the most important tasks at the top of your list that way in case you don’t get to something, it will be something that can stand to wait until the next day.
- Yes! You can say no! As I’ve mentioned a few times, things will come up throughout any given day that you are requested to do that you hadn’t planned on. Sometimes you have time, and sometimes you don’t. When you can say yes you should and when you can’t, politely decline or give a reasonable delivery date based on your current task load. Everyone wins!
- Give yourself a break, man. When you get a big task or a chunk of small tasks complete, take a few minutes to soak in the chill. Rewarding yourself with a few minutes looking away from your computer screen or whatever you’ve been focusing on for hours is one of the easiest and best ways to re-motivate yourself to keep busting through that list and get to the end!
Now that we’ve shared our tips for how to more effectively manage your time, tell us what you do to keep yourself organized, productive and on task! Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below and thanks for reading!