We hear over and over that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. We hear we cannot stretch time. Time is set and that is a truth we cannot change. Therefore, we must learn to manage it or we will live in a constant state of panic. If we don’t learn to manage our time well, our lives become chaotic and we feel like we always have “unfinished business.” We become unfulfilled individuals. Here are some tips that I have discovered throughout my working life that I think may help you as well:
Know yourself. First things first. Let’s start with you getting to know yourself well as a person and as a worker. What type of environment do you work best in? Are you having a challenge managing your time? Are you naturally an organized person? Do you struggle prioritizing your responsibilities in the various areas of your life? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can create a plan to improve in this area of your life.
Know your job. It is extremely important to know what the expectations of your job are. You need to know what the deadlines are. Is your job project driven? If yes, then you need to plan way ahead in order to meet your deadlines. Do you have daily deadlines you need to meet? For example, in one of my previous banking jobs, I had to review business customers’ accounts, pay down on their loans, or invest excess funds by 11 a.m. each day. If I missed that deadline then there would be consequences such as the client didn’t earn interest on their accounts or paid too much interest on their loans. Do you have regular meetings you need to attend? If yes, are they in your calendar for the entire year? Doing this in advance will avoid you double booking yourself in the future.
Organizational skills. I believe having time management skills is closely related to having good organizational skills. Organization starts in your mind. Some people are definitely better than others. But it is a skill that we can all improve on with practice. Try organizing small projects first, like organizing a one of the utensil drawers in your kitchen or your tool box in the garage. Then you can move on to organizing your desk. It is essential to have an organized work area. I cannot believe the amount of time people spend looking for things on their desks. The same concept applies to your electronic work area. If you don’t organize your electronic folders in a way that makes sense to you, you will never find documents when you need them.
Set your priorities in life. Life is busy enough just because it is. When you have a family and then add work and community involvement, your commitments could overtake you. Therefore, it is very important to have your priorities well defined in your life. Only then will you be able to say “no” to activities and commitments that don’t fall under one of your priorities.
Equipment. Do you have the appropriate tools to do your job well? This includes the appropriate computer systems, calendars, and mobile devices that can assist you in managing your time. Sometimes using the alarm on your phone for example, can help you stay on task or not forget to make an important phone call at the right time. Even though some people may think that printing your calendar in addition to having it on your phone and your computer may be a waste of paper, for me it’s an additional tool to help me stay organized and thus to help me management my time. I also color code my calendar based on the type of activity. For example, business meetings are blue, Board meetings are red, phone calls are yellow, and personal activities are green. So at a glance I can see if my calendar is filled with business, personal, or community commitments. This helps me ensure I’m staying true to my priorities.
Schedule everything—even free time. I learned through the years that I have to schedule even the time I need to keep free. This includes time to work on a specific client project, time to develop a new presentation, and what I call “inspirational time” to write my books. If you don’t protect your time by putting it in your calendar, you will fill it up with other activities. Of course, I have also learned to be very flexible with my schedule but you can start by attempting to do certain activities at specific times on a regular basis until they become a habit.
Invest your time in Social Media wisely. Even though social media has become part of our culture and daily workload, we need to manage our time spent in LinkedIn, Facebook, and other media wisely. I try to connect with other professionals and read business articles through LinkedIn during business hours and leave Facebook for the evenings during my personal time. Social media is important to the success of our businesses but we need to be careful to not spend unnecessary time looking at things that only reduce our productivity.
Focus on one task at a time. It is now known and proven by various studies that our minds cannot multitask. So why do we insist in making our brains work so hard when we are not designed to do that? I now simply focus on one activity at a time. This means I only answer emails during a specific time of the day but I’m flexible as to what time of the day that is based on what I have going on each day. I also only make phone calls during a specific time. I also write only one day a week instead of trying to sneak in an article here and there or trying to write one chapter on my book today and another at other times. It takes me at least twice the effort when I write that way versus when I’m in the “mode of writing.”
I hope these tips help you manage your time better and become a more productive and efficient worker. Even though we cannot add hours to our days, we can definitely produce more during the same amount of time if we improve our time management skills. Try it!
Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can purchase Marci’s books atwww.Amazon.com.