5 Easy Steps To Improve Your Time Management

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According to US business development expert Brian Tracy, your greatest resource is your time.

But it’s often the most poorly managed and under-utilised resource of all. Think how often you’ve uttered the words “what a waste of time”.
While most acknowledge that time is important, all too often people don’t manage it effectively. Inefficient time management can negatively impact your career, your personal life and your relationships, and be an ongoing source of stress and tension.
So what can you do to boost your time management skills and make the most of every day? A good start is to commit to an action plan to better manage your time – and watch your productivity improve in the process.
5 time management skills to make time your own
1.    Create a task list and prioritise the tasks
The late leadership guru and author Stephen R. Covey is best known for his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Perhaps the most relevant of Covey’s habits is Habit 3: Put Things First. 
“Prioritise, plan and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency,” said Covey. “Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values [and] propel you toward goals.”
At the start of each day, create a task list. Prioritise the top three most important things you need to do. If you have a seemingly insurmountable task list, consider dividing your day into two-hour blocks for each particular task. Then move onto the next project. Chipping away at tasks in blocks will help keep your mind fresh and engaged and ensure you’re not letting things fall onto your “too hard” list.
2.    Do a time sheet for one week

Tracking your time is essential in order to identify where it’s being wasted. A time sheet is an effective way to do this. Create a table with five columns and include the following headings:

•    Time – in this column, record the time you started the project
•    Activity description – give a brief of the type of work undertaken
•    Duration – give an approximate time spent working on the project 
•    Category – write whether it is administration, email, budgets, etc.
•    Client/project – write the title of the project or client you’re working for
At the end of the week, review your time sheet and rate yourself. Look at where time is being wasted or not being spent effectively. How many minutes/hours in the day are you spending working on things that are actually bringing value to the business?

3.    Get control of emails
Schedule email time rather than checking them intermittently. Avoid hitting send/receive! While email is a great resource, it’s easy to let it take over your day, often without you even realising. You might be in the middle of a task, see your email icon flash and before you know it, you’ve interrupted that task to focus on the email. 
“Email pours in with no break to its flow,” writes Peter Bregman in his Harvard Business Review blog. “And, like addicts, we check it incessantly, drawing ourselves away from meetings, conversations, personal time or whatever is right in front of us.”
Bregman says it’s not just the abundance of emails that’s our problem, it’s the inefficiency with which we deal with them.
To tame the email beast, consider designating three set times during the day to check and respond to emails – for example, 8.30am, midday and 4pm. Allow 20 minutes to do this – equating to one hour per day – rather than allowing yourself to be constantly interrupted by incoming emails, which makes it harder to get back into the task you were working on. 
File or delete your emails as soon as they have been addressed to avoid having an overflowing inbox, which can be the source of stress.

4.    Consider procrastination your enemy

Putting off things you are reluctant to do is a trap many fall into. And it’s not just in a work sense – it can be putting off that dentist appointment, returning your friend’s phone call or paying the electricity bill. 
Procrastinating creates chaos in your life, making you feel like you’re constantly chasing your tail. The to-do list doesn’t go away. It just builds up until you feel stressed and overwhelmed. 
Put those dreaded tasks at the top of your task list and try to knock them over at the start of the day. If you find this daunting, remember the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BC-531 BC) that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 
Learn to lead yourself. Try to focus on the feeling you’ll have after completing the task, so you can approach it positively, rather than holding onto the fear or negativity that surrounds these tasks.
Use your procrastination time for small tasks. “It’s a good idea to make a separate list of tasks that are not important but have to get done at some point, says Tracy. “Whenever you feel like procrastinating, look over this list and see what you can knock off without much effort. You still get work done even when you feel like you are procrastinating.”
5.    Commit to minimising distractions
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn… we live in an increasingly digital world and it can be easy to let time fly while using social media. Remember, time is money! Whether you have key performance indicators or not, every employee is judged on effectiveness, attitude and the ability to get the job done. 
Don’t let social media take over your life. Consider checking it just once a day and preferably at home in order to allow you to concentrate on what really matters in your work day – getting your work done!
Finally, make it your goal to improve your time management skills and therefore your effectiveness. In the words of US-based sales trainer Michael Altshuler: “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.”

[Source: www.itbdigital.com]