Your profits: Time is money

How to make the most of yours
By Richard Voreis
November 5, 2012
AUTO : HUMAN RESOURCES

Few of us blatantly waste time.  We could not have gotten this far in our professional lives by doing so.  However, a majority of us do misuse our time to some extent, and it is this misuse that we must recognize and remedy with effective time-management techniques. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending more time with your email than your friends or family?
  • Are you trying to do too much yourself?
  • Are you dealing with constant interruptions?
  • Do you feel like you are going in circles?
  • Are you always playing catch-up?

If this sounds familiar, you could benefit by implementing the following time-management techniques.

1. Delegate.

This is probably the most effective way to create extra time.  Don’t try to take on other people’s responsibilities. For example, let the customer service representatives do their jobs rather than putting yourself between them and the customers.  Rely on your support personnel.

2. Realize your limits.

You cannot do your best work if you constantly take on too much.  Set your priorities and address the most important ones first.  Don’t work on things that are not important.  Do not allow delegated responsibilities to fall back on you.  Don’t overschedule yourself and don’t promise too much to others, especially if you cannot deliver.

3. Don’t always strive for perfection.

Striving for excellence is healthy and characteristic of a good manager or employee; but striving for perfection is unhealthy and a terrible waste of time.  Don’t ask yourself―or others―to achieve the unachievable.

4. Work more effectively.

There are numerous ways to work more effectively, but the following “big four” are probably the most important:

  • Minimize interruptions.
  • Establish priorities and action plans.
  • Develop an email system.
  • Review personal habits.

5. Minimize interruptions.

An hour of concentrated effort is more productive than two hours of 10- and 15-minute sessions punctuated by interruptions.

As you already know, phone calls and emails can be major obstacles to minimizing interruptions.  When you make calls, call just before lunch or toward the end of the day, when people are less likely to simply chat. Designate a specific time during the day to handle phone calls, and make your frequent callers and good customers aware of it. Be flexible when necessary, but try to stick to your phone time allotment. The same technique can be used with email; set aside certain times of the day to respond to messages.

People can also be a source of interruption. If you work from home, don’t allow your home office to become another family room.  Keep your business separate from family business in your office environment.  In the office, tactfully advise your coworkers of mutually convenient times to talk. If you explain your reasoning, your efforts at time management should be understood and even appreciated.

6. Establish priorities and action plans.

Use your smartphone, Outlook calendar or other organizer to create a daily to-do list. Rank your to-do list priorities on an “A, B, C” basis with the “A” items being the most important.  Begin each day by working on the “A” items so they receive the priority attention they deserve. Your energy levels normally peak in the morning and decline as the day progresses, so work on your most important tasks early in the day, reserving the less important items for later.  

If you have a large project, schedule it into smaller segments that you can accomplish over an extended period of time. Also, start these large projects as far ahead of the deadline as possible.

Along with your daily to-do agenda, establish priorities and action plans on a yearly basis and evaluate your progress periodically. 

7. Develop an email system.

There are three kinds of emails:

  • Immediate action – Read, take appropriate action and delete.
  • Pending action – Read, initiate action, save the email pending completion of action and delete.
  • Informational – Read, distribute or delete.

Above all, remember to handle each email only once before taking action.

8. Review personal habits.

Take an honest look at your habits and correct those that are detrimental.

  • Make use of your spare time effectively. Protect and plan your weekends.  Rest and relax so you’re revitalized for the next week.
  • If you are too busy to maintain your physical condition and health, you are too busy!  Fitness increases your energy level and increases your “prime time” for handling priorities each day. 
  • Organize information into hard-copy or electronic file folders that are easily accessible on your computer or in your filing cabinet.

We all have the same number of hours each day.  By effectively managing our time, we can get the most out of each hour.

Richard Voreis is CEO of Consulting Collaborative, www.consulting-collaborative.com, a nationwide management consulting firm with specific expertise in strategic planning and related initiatives. Write him at rdvoreis@consulting-collaborative.com.