Time management – it’s a term most of us are familiar with, but a concept few of us actually employ. It’s easy to blame the daily onslaught of meetings, emails, phone calls and other distractions for our scattered focus and overwhelming calendars, but laying blame doesn’t solve the problem. As summer gets into full swing, most of us will try to find that perfect (im)balance between personal and professional commitments, so, while the temperatures rise, let’s keep our cool and learn how to manage our time, rather than the other way around.
Problem: You’re overextended, finding yourself double- or even triple-booked. Even with the wonders of technology on your side, it’s impossible to be in multiple places at once. Not only is overbooking yourself unhealthy and unmanageable, it also turns you into a bottleneck. You can’t properly focus on a task or complete your duties efficiently, and you run the risk of missing deadlines. And if you still believe multi-tasking is a skill to master, think again. Neuroscience shows multi-tasking only increases the possibility of you getting more than one thing wrong at the same time.
Solution: Organize your personal calendar and stick to the schedule you create. Block off specific times in your calendar for meetings. Let your clients and your colleagues know ahead of time when you’re available and avoid accepting meetings outside of these hours, unless the meeting is urgent. Decline meetings you cannot make, and suggest a new time if your presence is required. Alternatively, send a trusted colleague to a meeting in your place, where they can take notes and report back to you later, this allows them to grow through succession training while giving you more time to get work done.
Problem: Your schedule is so overloaded you can’t find the time to create or actually do work and when you do find the time, you’re exhausted, uninspired or so distracted that you accomplish nothing of value.
Solution: Use your energy wisely and allocate it accordingly. Figure out when the best time of day is for you to work uninterrupted and then set that time aside in your calendar. Don’t answer emails and don’t accept meetings during this time frame. If you have to, use a physical or virtual “Do Not Disturb” sign and disengage from any active chat sessions, you can even set your favorite chat tool to automatically forward messages to your inbox for viewing later. You might even communicate this ahead of time.
Problem: Sometimes the only goals we have in mind are the ones we receive via our social media alerts about our favorite (or not-so-favorite) team scoring in the latest Soccer match. When we say goals, we are referring to the personal and work-related objectives that make you feel like you actually make a difference. You can set mid- and long-term goals, but remember that you must learn to strategize and plan so you’ll achieve them in spite of your hectic schedule that never affords you enough time. When you fail to put time into achieving a goal, it feels like they don’t really exist.
Solution: Get SMART about your goals by being specific and staying on track. Focus on ONE thing at a time and to ensure you follow through, get organized by setting aside the time to accomplish something relevant to your role or objectives. You should also define the scope of the goal and dedicate at least one hour a day or several per week, depending on the scope, to plan and work on your goal. When you do achieve a goal, give yourself a pat on the back, celebrate your success and tell others, it’s contagious. Recognizing your accomplishments can fuel a sense of growth, drive up your motivation and get you inspired to do more – and that’s no waste of time. When you actually do manage to achieve a goal, it will feel like you scored while the whole world cheered you on!
Managing your time makes you a better partner, a happier person at home and a more desirable team member and leader at work. Take control of your schedule and encourage others around you to do the same. It also helps create a healthier workplace culture that starts with each of us. We are all accountable for adopting better time management skills, so let’s take a step in the right direction. By working together, we can help improve our productivity and meet our collective goals. That is not only the efficiency of doing the thing right, but the effectiveness of doing the right thing.