Good Time Management – The Cornerstone to High Personal Productivity

Understanding where your time goes

Before you can improve your personal productivity you need to understand how much time you are spending on your tasks.

The easiest way to do this is to record what you are doing every 15 minutes over a two week period. This may mean keeping a note book, or an open spreadsheet or something on your smart phone.

  • Record your time log over the next 2 weeks

Don’t worry about getting it absolutely right but you do need to select a typical 2 week period.

If the thought of creating a time log is off putting, another option is to simply quickly review each task as you come to it and carry out a simple test: is it important, urgent, necessary, a legal requirement, helps you towards your goals. If it does none of these things why are you doing it?

Creating a vision for yourself

In order to make the right choices you need to have a 6 – 12 month vision or objective as to what you want to have achieved at the end of that period so that you make the choices needed to achieve that objective. It allows you to say does what I am doing now help me achieve that goal? If it doesn’t why are you doing it?

  • Write down the key things that you want to achieve within the next 6-12 months

Analysing your time

If you have used a spreadsheet it should be a relatively easy to categorise each activity into important, urgent, a legal requirement, or helps you towards your goal.

Apply the 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle) to the tasks. The 80-20 rule states that 20% of a task’s efforts accounts for 80% of the value of the task. Identifying the 20% of your tasks that will lead to you achieving 80% of what you need to achieve is key to reaching your goals.

Creating an Action Plan

You now know what you are currently spending your time on and you also know what you want to achieve. To achieve those goals usually means doing the important but not urgent tasks. You need to create time for these tasks as they are usually non-routine and require blocks of quality time.

There are a range of tools that will help to improve your personal productivity:

  • Elimination: Can you eliminate the task?
  • Automation: Can’t eliminate it? Can you use technology to make it more efficient?
  • Delegation: Can’t eliminate it? Are you the best person to do it? Can you delegate or out source it?
  • Organisation: Organise what’s left. Clear your desk. Project or ongoing tasks in hanging files in your desk or pedestal. Key files in the filing cabinet. Archive what you legally need to keep. Scan in what you need but don’t need the paper. Shred the rest.
  • Cleanliness: Keep your workstation clean and clear of clutter.
  • Do It Now: If you can don tasks immediately, don’t keep rereading jobs on job lists or emails in your to box. Do it now. You will be surprised how many tasks only take a few minutes.
  • Batch process tasks: Only check you email at set times during the day. If appropriate, put your phone on voice mail and respond to calls at fixed times of the day. As a manager, if you get constant interruptions doing the working day, have times of the day when your door is closed and diarise important larger tasks in that time. Encourage your team to bring you possible solutions when they come to you with a problem.
  • Email Processing: When checking your email: Can it be deleted? Can you Do It Now? Can you delegate it? Can designate it (I.e. block some time in your diary to do it.)? Create reference folders for emails you need to keep. Create an action folder for tasks that take longer to do so that don’t sit in your inbox. Use rules to get rid of automated emails.
  • Sending emails: When sending emails, make the subject line clear. Only email those who need to read it. Keep it positive and short and to the point. No jokes.
  • Meetings: Can you avoid them? Can it be dealt with by email? If not will a phone call be okay? If you do have to have a meeting, make sure that everybody knows what to bring, make sure the meeting objectives are clear, don’t let the meeting be side tracked, arrange another meeting if some areas need further discussion. Agree actions and who will be responsible for their completion and by when. If you don’t need all the time that was allotted, wrap it up early.
  • Planning: Take time to plan your day, week and any projects. Set key 3-6 tasks that you want to achieve each day. Use your calendar to plan your week and what you need to get done in order to reach your goals. Most objectives require you to non-routine tasks. Plan mile stone dates for interim stages of the project and plan what you need to do to achieve them and by when. Consider using an electronic diary or app on your smart phone.
  • Information overload: Consider reducing the amount of information you read. Reduce it to what you need to read.
  • Use a log book: Use a log book to record actions that you need to carry out. Cross them out when complete.
  • Delegate effectively: Identify the correct person. Give the task as soon as you can. Clearly state the objectives. Provide all the information. Make sure that they understand the task. Set a deadline. Encourage a written plan or task list. Regularly monitor progress. Make yourself available for support. Assume responsibility but give credit for successes. Delegate the interesting work as well as the mundane.
  • Walk about: Avoid management by email and spreadsheet. Walk about. Use your eyes and ears to pick on the working atmosphere.
  • Problem solve: Go to the source of the problem and involve the staff with the problem in its solution.
  • Flow charts: Use simple flow charts to identify the flow of work process. Use this to eliminated wasted effort.
  • Identify the best times of the day for creative work: People work best at different times of the day. Organise your day so that you are doing creative and most challenging work when you are most effective.
  • Failure is okay: Sometimes you have to try a lot of things before you are successful. Learn from your mistakes and keep trying.
  • Avoid work for works sake: If a particular task does not help you achieve your goals then look to eliminate. There are always more positive things that you can be doing.
  • Identify customers or people who take time or profit from you: Some customers are so troublesome that they are not worth having as it costs more to service them than the profit they may generate.
  • Outsource tasks that you are not good at or add very little to: If a task has to be done such as payroll which is complicated and carries large penalties if you get it wrong then outsource as it has to be done but does not move you towards your goals.
  • Purpose solutions: If you want to do something that requires permission from either a customer or your boss then propose a solution for them to consider rather an asking them.
  • Less is not laziness: Doing less if it is effective is not laziness. It means that you can focus on more important matters if you have achieved more in less time.
  • Emphasise your strengths: Top athletes work on their strengths. Work on yours and find others to do tasks that you are less qualified to do.
  • Parkinson’s law: Watch and take action on those activities that take the time that they were allotted to it. Work out how you can do tasks more effectively in a shorter time.
  • Work life balance: Try to develop a work life balance. Make sure you are rested at the start of each working week.

Create a standard way of doing things

You need to create a maintenance way of working. This means routinely clearing your desk, email and files. It means each day identifying the key tasks that need to be done that day. It means developing habits that help you stay productive.

Sustaining your productivity gains

Like all habits good productivity needs to be maintained.

  • Create time to keep your desk, emails and project files clear.
  • If you have a deluge of important emails block out some time to clear them don’t let them pile up again. If necessary create a reference folder called archive and move them all into it. If it is important most people will resend or call you.
  • Review your goals. Have they changed? If so you will need to review which tasks are important and which can be eliminated.

Personal Productivity – Creative Daydreaming Begins Today!

Personal productivity skyrockets when you tap your creativity! And simple, directed daydreaming energizes artists and entrepreneurs, generating fresh, creative thoughts. So rather than judge yourself for daydreaming, encourage yourself to bring your best energies to it.

Research indicates that people generally daydream for a large part of their day. Doesn’t it make sense then, to allow your mind to dwell upon the things you love, like your originality and your artistic impulses?

Smart Artists Journey Inward.

Daydreaming, like flowing water, carries you around apparent obstacles. Your right brain conceives of new patterns and possibilities. How helpful this is when challenges, like marketing, entering competitions, and technical concerns threaten to paralyze you.

Remember, if you daydream, that you are in very good company! Here are just a few well-known individuals who owe their success largely to creative daydreaming…

Wikipedia.com states, “Therapist Dan Jones looked at patterns in how people achieved success from entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Peter Jones, to geniuses like Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. Jones also looked at the thinking style of successful creative people like Beethoven and Walt Disney. What he found was that they all had one thing in common. They all spent time daydreaming about their area of success.”

It is said that Thomas Edison took a 20-minute nap each day to daydream about his inventions. And more recently, one of the most successful and innovative corporations, 3M, is known for giving many of its employees a fully paid hour every weekday to daydream, doze, or engage in whatever they choose. They have learned that their daydreamers return to their work refreshed and more productive.

Take Time to Envision a Clear Path Into Your Painting.

Let your mind wander as you select a subject to paint. Invite your imagination to guide you. Then, allow the basic design to expand and transform. Play with it! And ask yourself:

1. What is your center of interest?

2. What is the dominant color?

3. Does it appear to be close to you or far away?

4. Is the image sharp and easy to identify?

5. What are the supporting colors and objects?

Nurture Your Aspirations by Envisioning Inspiring Success.

Begin each day with thoughts of a pleasant experience. What a gift to give yourself!

You can visualize something you’ve already experienced or richly imagine your dreams and desires. In this space, there is no one intruding on your daydreams and creativity.

Your daydreams can take you as far and as high as you can imagine. You are unfettered and confident.

Do you remember an exceptionally rewarding time? Maybe it was when you sold a painting before the picture was even hung or the show had begun. Would you like to experience that feeling again? Daydream about that special moment and then jot down the steps needed to enjoy a fresh success like that again.

Draw Upon Your Resourcefulness During Major Life Changes.

Everyone encounters setbacks and apparent dead ends. During these times, it’s especially important to tap your wellsprings of creativity. You may find it difficult to remain focused on goals and how to achieve them when everything seems turned upside down. In stressful times, you may find your emotions hard to adjust to. This is an ideal time for daydreaming.

In other words, daydreaming makes bad times bearable and even opens up life-giving possibilities. In good times, daydreaming relaxes you and helps you retain the big picture. So, use your daydreams to imagine a more capable and confident you, art that stretches you, and successful solutions to troublesome problems.

How to Improve Personal Productivity by Crushing Time Wasters

Now that the year is almost over and you begin to reflect on improving for 2011, let’s focus on time management. How are you at time management? Or as I like to refer to time management, how is your personal productivity?

  • Do you accomplish everything you set out to do in a day?
  • Do you find yourself running from one thing to another?
  • Do you know the “time wasters” in your world?
  • Do you know how to eliminate the “time wasters”?
  • Do you procrastinate?
  • Do you know your priorities?
  • Do you get consumed by email?
  • Do you have time to work on improving your skills?
  • Do you run out of time to accomplish the tasks you want?
  • Do you have enough time for your family?
  • Do you wish you had one more hour in a day?

It is essential for career advancement and leadership to master the art of personal productivity. Like a CEO who leads a worldwide organization cannot afford to waste a single minute when trying to profitably grow their business… and neither can you.

If you started the year off with great intentions and struggled in managing your time, now is a good time to get back on track for. Going through the rest of the year and into next without a good structure in place is not worth the stress and you deserve better.

Begin to identify and crush time wasters- NOW.

Here’s how;

Make a list of all of the things that waste your time and think about what you can do to eliminate them from your day. Then begin to eliminate them one at a time. Alternatively, as you go through the next two weeks, simply record the things that waste your time.

To get you started, here are a few time wasting examples that likely need to be crushed:

* Clutter that leads you to wasting time as you constantly search for things or lose things that then have to be replaced.
* Ineffective meetings that you attend or facilitate where nothing of importance or significance results.
* Wasting time in traffic as you come to work – go home or move around your city /town.
* Misunderstandings of who was going to do what – when. There are many scenarios that can lead to last minute panic and / or resulting in doing things twice.
* What other time wasters do you experience?

Once you identify the things that waste your time and don’t contribute to your success it’s time to eliminate them. Crush them.

In my experience, anything that is a waste of time can be crushed.

If you don’t know how to eliminate them from your day get some help.

Ask your boss, co-worker or a mentor for some help or advice on how to deal with a particular time waster.

As a result of crushing those things that are robbing you of productive time, you will experience less stress, enjoy your work more, be more effective at what you do and enable you to spend valuable time on professional development which will position you for career advancement.