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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Soft skill - Time Management

Continuing our series on soft skills, one of the most important might be time management.

Time management is important to business owners to meet deadlines, to plan for the immediate future and to be profitable.

One of the first places to exhibit a proper sense of time management is submitting applications, paperwork and arrival at an interview.  If you have met those deadlines, you have a good start.

525,600 minutes is the time you have in one year - as made famous in the musical "Rent" song Seasons of Love.  How you use the time is up to you.  Managing time is what we will discuss.

What are some of the symptoms of poor time management?
You always feel like you aren't accomplishing anything, you miss deadlines, you take work home, you spend an overabundance of time socializing at work, interrupting others, or too much time on the telephone.
Do you have a problem saying "NO"?  Do you end up doing others work?

How do you manage time?
Four basic skills you need to manage time well are:
  • Strategize, Organize, Implement, & Monitor
Strategize - try to envision the outcome.  What do you see?  Now, make a plan with the goals and time line to achieve each step.  Determine how to measure how effectively you meet each goal.
Organize - what resources will you need to accomplish your goals or steps. Do you need to consider money, time, help from others, equipment, or team work.
Implement - Who is going to complete each step, do you need interim due dates, and then follow-through to complete each step.
Monitor- how effective are you, do you need to reassess and adjust to meet your time-lines?

Stephen Covey wrote in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that Habit 3 is Personal Management includes knowing how to define what is urgent and essential. The whole concept is to be able to work within quadrant 2 - deciding when you can accomplish something, not feeling like it needed to be done yesterday.  This process comes along with learning to be pro-active rather than reactive.  If you work in a team, who delegates the duties?  If you work independently, who can help you when you are under a bit more time pressure?  How can you work smarter, not harder?  Where do you focus your energy?  What things do you control and what things do you have no control?

Here are nine ways to help you begin to manage your time better and accomplish more:
  1. Plan your activities the day before.
  2. Know the time of day when you accomplish certain types of tasks better - i.e. do you need to be more physically active in the morning vs. the afternoon?  Identify your high energy time of day.
  3. Deal with your toughest tasks during the highest energy time of the day.
  4. Learn and use current technology effectively - work smarter, not harder.
  5. Use an agenda and keep to a time schedule for meetings.
  6. Alert others if you need time "to concentrate" without interruptions.
  7. Segment your schedule - block out a time of the day or week for all your meetings, desk/computer time blocked out, only make phone calls from xx AM to xx AM, or only read your emails 2-3 times a day instead of checking constantly.
  8. Organize your office/work area so that it works best for you.
  9. Use a personal organizer - does paper work better for you or do you use a digital calendar/planner.
The whole focus is to make time management work for you.

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