“The time for action is now. It's never too late to do something”.
-- Carl Sandburg
How do you feel at the end of the day when you have efficiently removed a substantial number of items from your To Do list? How do you feel when you don’t cross any items off? Stress in our busy lives can dramatically be reduced with improvement in our time management skills. Three methods you can implement immediately to improve your ability to remove tasks from your To Do list.
One: Do it now!
There is no time like the present for many items on our To Do list; it is just a matter of gaining the motivation to do it now. You can handle the little things that reduce concentration and cause anxiety - the clutter on your desk, the incomplete jobs. In addition to prioritizing the most important jobs to do first, be sure to do the quick and dirty tasks right now! The crises in our lives are often the result of not handling the little things or not reacting to a nagging feeling that something is wrong. Ignore the little toothache and you wind up with a root canal.
You can start by handling the worst tasks first. We create more stress and anxiety, and waste more time and energy, over the things we least like to do. Why not just do them? Break things down into small steps and get started!
Another technique is called the Two-Minute Drill. Anything that comes into your world that can be dealt with in less than two-minutes, do it. This will ensure you complete the easy tasks on a timely and efficient basis.
Here are five steps that you can utilize to implement the “do it now” method of time management. You can take the STING out of feeling overwhelmed with larger projects with the following:
- S: Select one thing to do.
- T: Time yourself. Check the clock, give yourself an hour, and go for it.
- I: Ignore everything else while the clock is ticking.
- N: No break until your hour is up.
- G: Give yourself a reward when the hour is up.
Two: Task Your Duties!
Tasking is a form of time management, but at a macro level. Tasking is best completed when you break down your weeks, days and hours and by assigning tasks to a specific time. By batching your work together into dedicated focused time, you create an atmosphere of productivity.
Just as a factory assembly line will set up to produce a certain type of product, you should also set up to work on certain types of projects. If car factories created one car type, then reset the line to create another car type, then reset back to the original type again, cars would not be produced nearly as quickly and efficiently.
As an example, you may look at your week and decide that Tuesdays will be dedicated to following up with customer calls from the previous week. Daily from 11am – 11:30am and 4pm - 4:30pm will be spent emailing or faxing customer account statements. Fridays from 3pm - 4pm, I will work on my weekly reports. First thing each morning, I will set my daily agenda and last thing each day I will review my completed and outstanding tasks.
All of these tasks listed are critical to the success of a business professional. Rather than saying, “I’ll follow-up with my customers when I’m not so busy and I have more time to dedicate to it”, you should dedicate a specific day or timeslot on a recurring basis for follow-up calls.
Three: Just say “No!”
Those who have difficulty with telling others “no” tend to associate completing tasks with likeability. “If I tell someone that I cannot help them, they will not like me anymore.” The first step in being assertive is to understand that you have every right to protect what is yours, in particular, your time! Others will not like you less when you tell them “no.” They may not like the situation that they are in, but they will not dislike individuals who occasionally tell them “no.”
Why is it that we have a difficult time telling people “no”? Recognizing the reasons why we don’t tell people “no” more often can help us understand how to overcome accepting too much. By accepting projects that are best done by someone else, we are actually creating a less productive environment for us and for our company. In many cases, we accept projects that we shouldn’t because of guilt, fear, recognition or because we are unorganized.
It may be true that no one wants to hear that you cannot help them. While you may have to tell someone “no”, you can still assist them in completing their tasks by offering suggestions or alternatives. Often times you will discover that they did not need “you” as much as they needed your feedback or your group’s representation. Don't be afraid to question whether or not you should attend a meeting or accept a project until after you have asked “Why do you need me?” If you do not feel your attendance is the most effective use of your time, you can turn down the offer, but still be of assistance. For example:
“I’m sorry, Jeff but I won’t be able to attend your planning meeting. Can you forward me the meeting minutes afterwards and I will weigh in on the topics where you need my assistance?”
“No, I can’t be on that call tomorrow. If you are looking for my insights from the LCM Group perspective, I’d suggest you invite Jenny instead. She has a good handle on what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
Take charge of your time by implementing the three methods for effective time management:
- Do it now!
- Task your time!
- Just say no!
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