Time: not on your side?

David Kentish discusses ways of managing your time better to make the most of your working day.

If you often look at your watch in the middle of the day and wonder where the time went, struggle to meet deadlines or complete tasks on time, you would benefit from better time management. Only by admitting that you can’t manage your time well will you be able to start learning how to manage yourself.

We all suffer from procrastination – those moments when you stare at the computer screen and think ‘I’ll go and make myself a cup of coffee’. But the task will still be there when you come back, and the longer you put it off the more daunting it will seem.

Or is your time management problem one of disorganisation? Do you waste time looking for that file you think you saved on your computer last week, or turn up at meetings late because you’d mislaid the notes from the previous one or forgot the meeting entirely?

The benefits of time management are clear. If you manage your time effectively you’ll have a more positive attitude to work, which will improve your performance and your level of success in your job.

Begin by identifying common time wasting habits
There are lots of ways people can waste time at work – too many to list here, but they include a lack of planning, failing to delegate or taking on other people’s jobs, ‘going walkabout,’ untidiness and spending too much time on personal activities. This last example used to describe time wasted by booking holidays or making personal calls from work; but now it’s more likely to refer to people who spend more time checking social media than their corporate in-box.

To help identify your own time-wasting habits, sit down and make a list. You probably have some idea already of what these are – but making a list will help you figure out how much time you’re spending during the day on activities that are not work.

Write all these time-wasting habits down then underneath each one, put a more productive habit in place. The lesson here is – to give up time-wasting habits you need to put another, more positive habit in its place. A bit like a smoker finding a displacement activity to help them stop smoking.

So, for example, instead of going onto Facebook to check your friend’s status update, use the internet to research a project you’re working on. You’re still doing something you find interesting but are replacing a negative, time-wasting action with a positive one.

Get organised
Another important way of managing your time better, unsurprisingly, is to get organised. Begin each day with a ‘to do’ list. Write down all of the tasks you want to complete that day. The first task is of course – write a ‘to do’ list, which will be easy to cross off.

The ‘to do’ list should also include the times by which tasks should be completed. That way, if you’re not sure what you need to do next, just refer back to your checklist for the day.

To help you decide which tasks take priority and which are less urgent, class your priorities in order of importance. ‘Well of course that’s what I do’ I hear you say, but do you really?

Begin with any potential crises, pressing problems, important meetings and deadline-driven projects – for instance, a health and safety compliance form that has to be completed by the end of the day. Planning for the week ahead will help you with your daily ‘to do’ list.

Here’s a tip. Whatever you perceive as being the most difficult and scariest item on your list, do it first, get it out of the way: everything else will seem easy.

Armed with your list, if something unexpectedly urgent crops up (which, let’s face it, is a common occurrence for an FM), by having your ‘to do’ list ready, you’re able to move any less urgent things to, say, the following day, quickly and easily.

Once all your important tasks are ticked off the list, you can reward yourself with more pleasant activities, such as fetching that coffee.  And if you do stop for five minutes to chat to a colleague, you’ll still be making good use of time by building positive inter-personal relationships with your team.


This article first appeared on www.i-fm.net on 30 March 2016

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