I had some time management training a few years ago when I actually had some free time to attend but didn’t need it! Over the last few months and definitely since Christmas and my new role on an SAP implementation, I have really struggled with time management. This can be a major factor in causing stress, the feeling you don’t have enough hours in the day, waking up at night remembering something you haven’t done or the constant worry of how much you need to do the following day.
Often, the situation can get out of control without you knowing it as you take on more and more. I liken it to a frog in boiling water: If a frog is thrown in to boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If you put the frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat it will boil and die. Please don’t try this at home.
Ok, so we have established time management is an issue and our volume of work is getting unmanageable so what can we do to ensure we don’t boil to death but still achieve our objectives? There are various techniques around that work for some people, have a look at the Pomodoro Technique – A system where time is broken down in to bite sized chunks helping you get the most out of your day. A top tip for getting things done is to turn off your email and review it every hour; this will avoid the temptation to get distracted. Whats the worst that can happen in an hour of no email? I know DJ Adams used the Pomodoro Technique in the past so would be a good reference point if anyone wants advice.
For me though, I find simple prioritisation works well – Loosely I try to work to Project, Business as Usual, Community Involvement and Self Development in that order. This is great until the project gets behind or goes in to exception and then there is no time for anything else! It is still important to focus on the other areas so I like to use this simple matrix to help me prioritise my busy days:
The Urgent / Important Matrix: Urgent tasks need immediate attention and important tasks can wait a while but still need completing. If you find yourself with “spare time” that is when the non-urgent, non-important tasks can be done. It is important not to neglect community work & self-development as these can form a welcome break from the daily slog and help you not to get blinkered in what you are doing and may actually help your project work. Try making an activity log one day to record exactly what you are doing and when, it could be that there is scope to re organise your day more effectively and you can’t see this until it is logged. A top tip here is to break things in to small sub tasks which are easier to complete – When I run marathons, it’s not 26.2 miles but lots of mile long sections added together.
The use of reminders can take a lot of stress out of your life and most tools sync with mobile devices and can be cross platform meaning you need to carry less in your brain. It has been reported that the human brain can only hold 7 items of information for short term use (the RAM) so trying to do everything without a task management tool is asking for trouble. Have a look at the Tasks App for Android or Toodledo App for iPhone – Evernote is also a great tool and can be cross platform and cross device.
Procrastination can be a big problem for some people and tasks get left until the last minute, I know I put things off if I can. There are some tips to avoid procrastination here: Procrastination Tips But I find telling someone what you will do and by when does help so you are accountable to someone. An ex manager of mine used the letters J.F.D.I standing for Just Focus, Do It (Focus can be substituted for another F word if circumstances permit!)
In conclusion: Avoid distractions, prioritise and use a tool to take some of the pressure of remembering everything off your brain and just get on with it!