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Managing your time by managing yourself

ast month we asked you to take part in our survey on time management to give us an idea of your challenges and concerns regarding time management.  Thank you to those of you who participated.  What our survey revealed (unsurprisingly!) is that for most of us, time management is an issue.

Here is what you told us:

  • 100% of you said that you felt under time pressure at work
  • Over 50% of you said that you often do quicker or easier tasks before tackling the bigger more complex tasks
  • All of you said that you are easily distracted some or all of the time and the most common distractions are e-mail, ringing telephone, colleagues interrupting and social media
  • Around half of you said that your time management at work impacts on your non-work life

Do the right things

Time management is one of the most commonly requested topics when people are asked what training they feel would help them perform better at work.  Most of us feel we could be better at managing our time and, from your survey responses, you agree!

That feeling of not having enough time, or having too much to achieve in the time we have, is a feature of modern life.  We live in a fast paced society where the main focus is on activity and getting things done, perhaps at the expense of getting the right things done.

Become more purposeful

Activity is not enough.  Some of the busiest people are the least effective people!  There is a fabulous article, published by the Harvard Business Review, called “Beware the Busy Manager”* which describes the challenge for managers in striking a balance between energy and focus.  Just doing lots of things, and even delivering lots of outputs, it not necessarily going to get you (or your business) where you need to be.  The trick is to direct that energy into the activities which will make a real difference, which means being focused about how and where you spend your time.

Brian Tracy has a great way of helping you to become more purposeful, and it is the title of his world famous book “Eat that Frog”**.  What Brian Tracy tells us to do is identify your frog – the biggest, most important, possibly scariest task that you need to do – and force yourself to eat it at the start of the day.  That way, just as though you’d eaten a live frog, everything you do after that is easy!

Psychological barriers

No-one is born with good time management skills!  There isn’t a time management gene that some people are blessed with and others aren’t!  It is something that we must learn and develop over time.  However, some people do seem to have a more natural propensity getting things done and using their time effectively than others.

We have identified four psychological barriers to effective time management:

  1. The stories you tell yourself….”I’m no good at managing my time”.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can or can’t do something and the more we tell ourselves that the more we believe it and the more likely it is that we behave according to our story.  Imagine if you were to start saying “I am really good at managing my time”…what difference could that make to your behaviour?
  2. Some of us see managing our time as restrictive, inflexible and stifling to our creativity and fun.  For some of us, being spontaneous is an important part of how we like to interact with the world.  We prefer to be in the moment and go with what feels right at that time.  This can feel in direct conflict with the idea of planning and organising our time, and as a result turn a lot of people off or even make it feel like an impossible task.
  3. The way we have been brought up, educated and socialised can have a significant impact on how we approach time management.  For some of us, we strive for perfection which can mean we spend a disproportionate amount of time on tasks trying to get them 100% right, when in fact 90% is all that is needed.  For others, we are always in a rush.  We have good intentions but time slips away from us and we end up running late or having to rush things at the last minute.  For others, the challenge is that we are always trying to please others and as a result allow other people to manage our time for us.
  4. Many of us don’t value our time.  Take a minute to think about the thing you value most in the whole world.  How much care do you take of it?  What would you do if someone tried to take it from you, or even borrow it for a while?  Successful people place a high value of their time.  It is precious to them so they use it wisely and maintain control over it rather than letting others steal it from them.  It is not about being selfish and unwilling to share your time with others but it is about choosing who, how and when to do so.

It’s all about desire

Isn’t it true that the things were are good at are the things we are interested in and that we enjoy doing?  Is time management something you are interested in or enjoy doing?  Perhaps not!

So, to become good at it you need to build the desire!

Ask yourself these questions:

– how important is your time to you?

– what would you do if you had an extra 2 hours in your day?

– how would it feel to be in control of your time?

– what have you not achieved that you could achieve if you have more time?

– on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) how much would you like to improve your time management skills?

You could choose to continue as you are with regards to your time management, and if you do, you are likely to get the same result as you do right now.  If, on the other hand, you do something different…you are likely to get a different result.

Get more time for yourself

We have developed a unique approach to managing time which is guaranteed to improve your time management immediately.

We have called it the GET MORE time management system© and it is based on years of coaching and training managers and small business owners to help them value their time and get more from it.

Get focused

set goals; daily, weekly, monthly and for the year.  Have them written down and somewhere prominent so that you can refer to them each day.  Goals will help you prioritise which tasks to do first and also keep you motivated. (Remind yourself of what we said about goal setting in last month’s SG Survival Guide).

Equip yourself with your “tools”

don’t start a task until you have everything you need to complete it.  That way you can gain momentum and reduce the chance you will have to stop part way through.

Turn off distractions

or at least minimise them; phone, e-mail, Skype and clutter on your desk.  A clear workspace (and headspace) makes it much easer to stay focused and get through your tasks.

Mix it up

break your day into chunks and vary your activities.  Short bursts of activity is the way to keep motivation and concentration levels up and if you can vary your activities that will also help.

Open once

whether it is an e-mail, text message, letter or document, open or pick it up once and make a decision about what to do with it.  You have four choices – delete/bin it, refer or delegate it, take action, file it for later.

Reward yourself

a reward is your incentive to finish what you have started.  Whether it is a cup of coffee, a chocolate biscuit, an extended lunch, a chat with a friend/colleague or a glass of wine at the end of the day, plan your reward at the start of each task

Engage with your circadian rhythms

our body’s natural energy patters (based on sleep cycles) influence our ability to concentrate and stay focused.  So identify when you are most alert and allocate that time to important tasks that you need to concentrate on and assign simpler, less important tasks to times when your energy is lower

We know that you can’t actually “Get More” time, it is a finite resource, however, by following our GET MORE time management system© you achieve more in the time you have available AND ensure that the activities you spend your time on are the right ones.

* “Beware the Busy Manager from Harvard Business Review

**  “Eat that Frog” Brian Tracy

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