17 May 2016

Seven practical tips for better time management

With people these days under pressure to do more with less, the need for time management techniques has seen a strong resurgence.

However, I often find it difficult to locate practical advice in this area. It seems like there is a mountain of generic advice, but little that you can do immediately at your desk.

So I’ve compiled a quick list of things I find that help me regain time. I hope you find it as valuable as I have.

Sync all your calendars

Don’t run separate calendars to schedule your work, social and health activities. One source of truth will stop you double booking or forgetting things like travel time between appointments.

Colour code your calendar

This will help you check what you have on at a glance, easily distinguishing between appointment types like whether it’s client-facing, an internal meeting or time allotted for an individual task. As others have found it might also make you reassess how you actually spend your time, and how balanced your days really are. You can do very easily colour-categorise using Outlook.

Make time to prepare

We’ve all had days where the meetings run back-to-back and no one builds in time to travel between them, let alone prepare. It’s worth highlighting appointments that need any type of preparation in your calendar, even if that preparation is just for the five minutes prior to walking in.

Switch things off

If distractions are a problem for you, try switching off your second screen when only one is needed, using Do Not Disturb on your instant messaging when you need to concentrate, or turning off your email client on the desktop (or at least the desktop notifications). You’ll be surprised how much gets done when the technology around you isn’t constantly alerting you.

Priorities, priorities

The internet is full of rules for completing tasks but here’s mine: the first task of the day should always be your highest priority one. The second task should be the one you don’t want to do. Follow this rule and you will always feel more organised by morning tea. One more thing – so many people prioritise poorly, partly by calling too many things “priorities”. The more priorities you set, the less you’ll get done.

Touch it once

Take the ‘one touch’ challenge. When you open an email, deal with it right away. Read, reply, delete or archive and then move on. Much time is wasted by handling things twice. This is why you sometimes see people advocating to only open your email client a couple of times a day. Email psychology can be a real time sink.

Sweat those tools

Make the most of your Microsoft Office tools. Use Outlook Tasks to prioritise emails that need response and remind on follow ups, or OneNote to create, manage and share task lists. You can also expand time and project management capabilities with plug-ins. Ask your Brennan IT account manager how you can take better advantage of your Office environment.