Time Management: Survival Skills for Even the Busiest Professionals
Time management skills are essential for personal and professional success. People who manage their time effectively find that they have better control of their lives, both at work and at home, and often feel less stress and pressure from work overload. Are you sick of feeling like you're in a constant frenzy of activity, but still achieving very little? Here are some simple time management tips that will help:
Carve out planning time.
Did you know that every 15 minutes of planning can yield an extra hour of time? So, when life gets hectic and your head starts to spin, try taking a "planning moment." Some people like to have shorter planning moments at the end of each day, and others prefer to have longer planning moments at the beginning or end of each week. Whatever your preference, make sure to carve out some time on your calendar for planning and watch your productivity (and free time) soar.
Create and maintain a "to-do" list
No matter how proficient you are with the latest technological productivity devices, often times the good old fashioned "to-do list" is the simplest to create and maintain. During your planning moments, here is a tried and true strategy to try:
- List out all of the projects that you need to complete on a piece of paper or on your computer. For example, "re-model the kitchen" would be a sample project that you might have on your list.
- Break each project down into its component tasks — your "re-model the kitchen" project may have some of the following tasks: research contractors; call top five contractors; and set up appointments with top five contractors.
- Assign dates to EVERY task. TBD is not a due date! A due date not only makes you accountable to that task, but also is a simple way to prioritize. The more time sensitive the task, the higher priority it is.
- For projects that you know you don't need to complete in the near future, but that you don't want to forget about, list those out at the end of your list, in a section called, "on radar." That way, it's not forgotten, but you're not accountable for it yet.
- For any project that you do on a regular basis, make sure to save its task list somewhere you can easily access it; then, the next time you need to get that project done, you simply just need to cut and paste the tasks you previously outlined, and set new due dates with them.
It's important to note that the initial creation of your to-do list can be time-consuming and a little intimidating; but, once it's done, you simply just need to maintain it.
Don't forget the 80:20 Rule
The 80:20 Rule, or the Pareto Principle, suggests that of the things you do during your day, both at work and at home, only 20 percent of those things really matter. Broadly speaking, 80% of all results come from 20% of all efforts; so, if you identify which 20% of the tasks on your to-do list are the most important, and you get those done, you can't help but be more efficient and successful.
Understand the Time, Budget, and Quality Triangle
Do you sometimes feel that your clients, customers, boss, friends, family etc. want everything from you…yesterday? A great way to negotiate with them is to ask, "Do you want it good, fast, or cheap?" The Time, Budget, Quality Triangle reflects the fact that the three properties of a project are interrelated, and it's impossible to optimize all three properties—one will always suffer. The next time you feel pressured by others, outline their three options to them:
- I can do it quickly and to a high standard, but then it will not be cheap.
- I can do it quickly and cheaply, but it will not be of high quality.
- I can do it with high quality and cheaply, but it will take a long time.
Learning to manage your time better takes a lot of self discipline and involves finding the time management tools and strategies that work best for your lifestyle; however, make a commitment to planning, creating and maintaining a to-do list, and negotiating with others, and the saying "so much to do, with so little time" will be a thing of your past!