Are you looking for more time in your life to do the things you really want? We can't create more time, but by using time more effectively, you can streamline work and responsibilities. Here are some ideas for the New Year:
- Observe yourself. The first step in time management is to know how you currently spend your time. Log all the hours and what you are doing for one week. You will quickly discover time that is lost with inefficiencies, interruptions, and lack of planning. Be especially wary of the great time waster - - television (and of course, the Internet). Discipline yourself to make better choices.
- Go to bed. According to the 2005 Sleep in American Poll, approximately half of American workers report that lack of sleep regularly affects their performance on the job and at home. Adults in the U.S. report that they receive, on average, 6.9 hours of sleep each night. The recommended amount is 7.5 to 8.5 hours for a healthy adult. Don't skimp on sleep to get everything done. You may be more productive by sleeping that extra hour
- Have a "don't do" list. Be clear on what things you don't want to do or interfere with your efficiency. I am often asked to lunch by people who want to "network." While I enjoy meeting new people, I have found this to be an enormous waste of time with little benefit to either party. I now refuse these requests and invite them instead to join me at a larger networking event.
- Go paperless. You have the technology, so use it. Eliminate the paper trails, files, and copies. Use the computer to put your documents into files and organize your projects. At least twice a year, take a few hours to go through files and delete what isn't being used.
- Make e-mail the communication of choice. Eliminate as many phone calls as possible. Integrate voicemails and faxes into your e-mail system to avoid wasting time on other technology.
- Use e-mail filtering. This will keep the amount of e-mails at an acceptable level. Tools like "in-box rules" and search folders can mark and group messages based on content and importance.
- Ignore new e-mails. It's fine to have the e-mail notification icon on your toolbar but discipline yourself to ignore it. Each time you switch between screens to check the latest incoming mail; you lose your flow and your productivity. Rather open your mail no more than once per hour.
- Learn the computer programs. Most of us use less than 10% of the capacity of the programs we have installed on our computers. Yet, you can save time by using macros and other tools. Don't have time to sign up for a course? Download a free list of shortcuts from Microsoft.
- Use a computerized contact management system. There are a number of great ones available such as ACT. Many also can integrate into your palm pilot for scheduling, contact, info, etc. It's a great way to keep track of key customer, contacts or even your Holiday list.
- Set short deadlines. Long deadlines are the fodder for procrastination. Most of us wait until we are under the gun and then work like crazy to complete the project. Create a deadline system for yourself that includes daily goals even if it is only part of a project.
- Understand who does the typing. Consulting with large corporations, I am often amazed that they try to save money by eliminating support staff. How many hours of time are wasted by folks who are typing with two fingers? Either learn to type or hire someone who does. This holds true for other projects too. If there is someone who can do it better, faster, and more efficient than you, outsource the work.
- Systemize everything you can. From scheduling to grocery shopping, calendars to cleaning, create a system. Systems turn into habits and organized habits increase efficiency.
- Eliminate everything from your schedule that does not add value. Too often reports, measurements and routine tasks are of little benefit and interfere with other projects. There is an old Scottish proverb: "Weighing sheep won't make them any fatter." Measurements have their place but periodically evaluate if they are still needed.
Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro.