2013 will have 525,600 minutes. In honour of reminding us that we have a finite amount of time to make this year the best yet, here’s a “lucky 7” shortlist of some of the simplest, most effective time management behaviours that you can implement right away:
1) Pick up the phone or book a meeting if you need to have a conversation. E-mails aren’t for conversations…and typing is way slower and less accurate than just speaking. If need be, action items can be recorded in an e-mail after the fact.
2) Have written agendas for all your meetings. It will keep you on track. If the agenda’s not clear, don’t have a meeting.
3) Don’t round up meetings to the nearest half hour. Send calendar invites for 20 minute meetings, 35 minute meetings, etc. It will send a message to those you’re meeting with that you respect their time and that you are very intentional in how you spend yours.
4) Just say “no”. Make sure you’re not the guy/gal that happily takes on anything and everything in terms of work. (Do you say “sure – no problem!” a lot?) If this rings true, you are probably known as just about the nicest person on earth, but you’ll at some point begin to resent it, as you’ll be spread very thin and your hours and days will get swallowed up. If tiny tasks are distracting you from important projects and bigger-picture thinking, look carefully at how you might redirect requests.
5) When responding to a request that is definitely yours to handle, ask “when do you need this by?” Don’t assume that just because it came from the big boss that it has to be done immediately. Acknowledge that it’s important, but still ask explicitly about the urgency. Then you can prioritize accurately.
6) Set a timer when working on a task. Turn off your e-mail program, grab your iPhone and put 20 minutes on the clock to do your admin, finish the proposal, proof read the report, whatever. (I enjoy the polite “xylophone” to tell me when time’s up…) You’ll be shocked not only at how many times in the 20 minutes you must resist bouncing to something else, but you’ll also be amazed at how much you get done. And if you’re dismissing this one because you think you can multi-task, read this and then reconsider: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/io9/full/~3/UGN5U9KqlNg/think-you-can-multitask-congratulations-youre-probably-living-a-lie
7) Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you know of someone with experience in doing what you’re doing, ask about what they did, what you might borrow, or at least what templates or resources might get you further ahead, faster. You will find that people are generally quite enthusiastic to share their wisdom.
Happy new year!