Effective time management for getting important things doneFeb 10, 2023
I once went to a meeting to help Liz from payroll improve the efficiency of one of her tasks and reduce her stress levels.
I got the three people involved in the process into a meeting for a quick chat.
Liz said that each week she creates an Excel spreadsheet with a list of injured and sick employees and sends it to Tom.
Tom said he extracts a report from the timesheet system and sends both reports to Becky.
Becky said she used the report from the timesheet system to create the pay run. Liz asked what her report was used for and Becky said she didn’t know, as she hadn’t used it.
Liz had spent two hours a week for the last year creating a report that no one ever read or used.
It doesn’t matter how efficient I made Liz with time management automation and hacks—it would have only made her more efficient at wasting her time.
What’s your goal?
Here’s a handful of useful questions to use when it comes to a new project or task:
- What’s our goal?
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What does success look like?
- Why are we doing this?
Effective time management starts by getting really clear on what your goals are; this applies to both work and personal life.
We only have 24 hours in a day, so start by making sure you are clear on what is important to you and make time for that first.
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”
~Henry David Thoreau
Actions speak louder than words
You might think you have good time management skills, but if I only looked at your actions or how you spend your time, what would I guess are the most important things in your life?
Watching TV? Spending time on social media on your phone? Talking to friends?
I’m not saying you should never talk to your family or watch TV; you need some work-life balance.
I’m saying, get clear on what you want from your one precious life and make time for the important tasks first.
What’s going to have the biggest impact?
The Pareto principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule, is a concept that states that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs.
In other words, only a few of the things you do will have the greatest effect on your life. For any project, activity, or goal, we will have a long list of things to do.
One of the best time management strategies is to find the 20% of those things that will have the biggest impact on your progress and results.
If you have a to-do list of 10 items, think about which two would make you feel most productive at the end of the day and do those two first.
One place for all tasks
One of the best time-management tips I found was from Getting Things Done. This great book said that the most important thing is to store all the tasks you have to do in one place.
For me, the best way to manage my list is through my inbox. All of the tasks I need to take action on remain there until I complete them.
I use an app called Braintoss to send myself an email if I’m out and about, so when I get back to my desk, all of my tasks are there and ready to be prioritized.
You can use a scheduling tool or app, a diary, or write a list on a piece of paper–whatever works best for you. However, effective time management requires one source of truth with all of your important tasks and reminders.
That frees up your brain to focus on the present moment.
“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”
~ Brian Tracy