How To Improve Your Time Management Skills
We all have the same 24hrs in a day, yet it can sometimes feel like the day has just disappeared and you haven't even made a dent in your task list! If you find yourself thinking "where did the day go?" it might be time to review and renew your time management skills.
Effective Time Management Starts With a Time Audit
To understand where your time is "disappearing to", you must understand how you are spending your time. The best way to do this is to conduct an audit of your time. Just like a diet diary where you record everything you are consuming, a time audit records everything consuming your time - the important part of this is to be 100% honest. You may be surprised to see what you are spending chunks of time throughout the day doing (think social media, personal distractions, etc. The Perato principle (80/20 rule) says that often people spend 80% of their time on activities that are a waste of time.
Get Clear On Your Tasks
Now that you know how you are spending your time, it's important to know exactly what tasks you are responsible for completing. List down everything you can think of that you need to do - you can split it up into personal and professional - get it all onto a consolidated list.
Follow the 4 D's of Time Management
Now that you know what tasks you have on your "to do" list, it's time to decide their level of importance. The most efficient way to do this is to follow the 4 D's of Time Management as follows:
DELETE (Also known as "DROP")
Check whether the task is worth your time. If it isn't, then simply delete it. An example of this would be emails that are spam or a list you have subscribed to that you seem to always archive or delete - simply filter by "from" and bulk delete all the emails (another tip to avoid spending time deleting the same emails from the same senders in the future is to unsubscribe then and there). If there are some emails that are not important to attend to right now, but you would like to have a look at them later, then you can DEFER them (see below for this method), and move on.
Ask yourself, is it important or necessary for YOU to do the task? Is it your responsibility to do? If the answer is no, then delegate it. You might still be ultimately responsible for the task being done, for example having your tax return completed for end of financial year (so ultimately this is your responsibility), however it is better time-wise to delegate the task of getting the tax return done to the accountant. There is a fine line between delegation and washing your hands of all responsibility. Ensure that there is some measure in place to check that the task has been completed by the person to whom you have delegated. At the same time empower them to do the task and be understanding if the task has not been completed in the way you would have done it yourself. Delegating does not just have to be to subordinates. You can delegate across, upwards and to other departments as well. You can also delegate at home – can someone else take care of or help with the dishes, cooking, grocery shopping or laundry to free up your time?
This step requires you applying the one touch rule - if a task can be completed there and then in a few minutes, then as Nike says – “just do it” (provided it is not a task to delete, delegate or defer). In other words, if it is important for you to do and you have the time to do it, then get it done straight away. Postponing important tasks often leads to procrastination or feelings of stress. If it is worth your time, then focus your time and efforts on that one task until completion, then move on.
There are some tasks on your list that you may just not be able to deal with straight away. It might be an email about booking a family holiday. It is not important during your working day, but it still needs to be done, so you can defer it and look at the email later in your free time. It might also be that the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not of a high priority at that time and as such you can simply defer it. You might even find that some of the tasks that you defer could become obsolete and be deleted later on.