As your business grows and your time becomes more and more important, with your staff, customers and vendors all demanding it, you’ll soon find your calendar and schedule filling up to a point where it might become unmanageable.
Trying to keep up with it all can be exhausting and even end up taking more time to just manage it all. By employing some strategies to make the most of your limited time and creating strict ways of managing it, you can get your schedule under control.
Don’t React to New Email Immediately
One of the quickest ways to become distracted and lose track of a task you’re busy with is to react to something else. Not only are you giving up time that you have dedicated to focusing on something else, you’re interrupting your thought process too. This might be a phone call or message – or it might be the steady influx of emails popping up on your screen.
Whatever it is, reacting immediately to these distractions will mean you’ll spend an enormous amount of time switching between tasks and getting back into the groove of each.
It’s for this reason that you should be ignoring your phone whenever you can, and make sure your email is closed. Dedicate specific hours of the day for reading and replying to email or taking phone calls. This way you’ll maintain focus on a task for longer and that means your productivity will be much higher.
Plan Every Hour of Every Day
There’s a reason why many business schools and MBA programmes teach the importance of planning everything in detail. Learning the value of time management will make you infinitely more efficient and this efficiency can only lead to an increase in career prospects, which come as a direct result of the teachings and your adoption of these programmes, as Aston University explains.
Don’t leave any part of your day open without planning something for it. This doesn’t mean your intention should be to fill your day with meetings, but blocking out an hour in the morning to read and reply to email or an hour in the afternoon to work on a specific report means that you’re not going to end up running out of time for vital tasks. Adding a good amount of structure to every day is an excellent way to start taking back control of your calendar.
As Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Don’t Eat Lunch at Your Desk
There’s a good reason why you’re encouraged to take a lunch and take it away from your desk or office. It breaks up your day, allows you to re-energise and refocus and, more importantly, it means that you’re not going to be subjected to interruptions and people dropping by your office for work-related matters, interrupting your quiet lunchtime.
Leaving your desk and even the office for a walk or a quick coffee at a local coffee shop means you’re giving yourself time to collect your thoughts and reflect on the morning, as well as get yourself mentally ready for the afternoon to come.
Use a Time Management Method Like 43 Folders
Time management is an interesting subject that entire books are dedicated to, and for good reason. Perfecting a time management strategy that works for you should be an absolute priority early on in your career. This might be a technology solution like a managed to-do list application that syncs across your devices, or it could be a specific strategy that can take any number of different forms.
A popular time management technique is one by Merlin Mann called 43 Folders, in which the idea is to break up your work into manageable chunks. It involves creating 43 folders, either on your computer or physical folders and numbering them from 1 to 31 and then from January through to December.
This allows you to assign specific work to a day of the month, and longer-term projects to months. Once one month ends, you can plan the upcoming month using the numbered folders, moving your projects from the next month’s folder into days of the month to break up your to-do list into days. It might sound like a bit of a superfluous system, but its effectiveness is noticeable after a few months of use.
Colour Code Your To-Do List and Keep it Short
Colour coding your calendar or to-do list sounds like a rather pointless exercise, but it can have an important function. If you assign colours to different activities – like project planning or reports – or if you assign them to different projects, you can very quickly see what your day looks like. You might even consider using a red, yellow and green system to prioritise your tasks so you know where your focus should be.
Colour coding your to-do list takes no time at all, so even if it offers just a small advantage, it’s highly recommended.
Maximise Your Meetings by Stacking Location or Attendees
Travelling between meetings or waiting for meeting attendees to arrive at a venue wastes quite a lot of time. A meeting across town or even in another building can take time to get to, so stacking these meetings strategically both by their physical locations and the attendees is a good idea.
If you have meetings where specific people need to attend more than one, having those meetings run one after another means you’re waiting for fewer people to travel and arrive, and your time will be better spent.
With the increase in the ease of use of video conferencing applications and software, conducting meetings where possible remotely makes a lot of sense for efficiency and reducing cost, particularly when travel is involved. Why use an entire day flying across the country when you can simply meet on a video conferencing call?
While you might sometimes need to react to changing pressures and remain agile with your day, the more structure you have built into the way you manage your time, the less time you’ll waste with inefficient time management and the more productivity you’ll get from your limited hours every day.