10 Time Management Tips

English: Gentaur schedule

English: Gentaur schedule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February is Time Management Month. This is the month to put all those New Year’s resolutions that you made in January start to fall apart. Don’t let it happen! Instead plan wisely and soon you will see how easy it is to stick to your goals.

According to a survey done by Greenfield Online, “If given an extra two hours each day, US repondents would spent that time at home with family.”

What would you do with two extra hours per day? Good management of your time can help free up extra hours. Here are ten tips to help you best manage your time.

1) Always Look Ahead

It is human nature to want to live in the past: to savour accomplishments or to wallow in defeats. However, you will not effectively move forward if you are constantly looking backwards.

There is a law of diminishing returns at work here. Take encouragement or learn a lesson from your past experience and use it to move on to new challenges and opportunities.

2) Consolidate Similar Tasks

Much time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save timeby grouping similar tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time. Organize your errands into a single run. Reply to e-mail once during the day. This is a more efficient use of your time.

3) Count on Interruptions

No matter how well you organize your schedule, there will be times when interruptions get in the way. Here are a couple of things you can do to minimize the effect of interruptions:

  • Buffer your schedule. If you know a project will take 2 hours, add another 30 minutes to buffer for time lost to interruptions.
  • Identify periods of interruptions. If get more interruptions Monday mornings than Wednesday afternoons, plan high-concentration activities for Wednesday afternoon.

4) De-clutter you schedule

If you find you are racing from one place to another, with little time to breathe, your schedule is too full. It’s time to prune.

If you’re involved in too many activities, eliminate those that are not important. Organize and schedule your errands. Consolidate them into a single run. This will free up time in your day.

5) Plan your phone calls

Time spent on a phone call can easily get out of hand if you don’t have a plan in place. Make notes of what you want to say before you make your call. List all the information you need to obtain. It will keep you on track in your conversation and eliminate follow-up calls for missed information.

6) Set routine and stick to it

Crises will arise and interruptions will occur, but it will be a lot easier to get things back on track if you have a routine in place.

7) Set Time Limits on Tasks

There are certain types of tasks, reading e-mail for example, that can occupy all your time if you allow it. Most tasks fall victim to Parkinson’s Law, expanding to fit available time. Get into the habit of scheduling fixed time slots for your tasks. Once you reach the end of the time limit, stop what you’re doing and head to the next task or appointment.

Once you’ve spent some time with this system, you can refine the way it works. You will know which tasks will fit in the half-hour before meeting starts and which tasks are better suited to a full afternoon.

8) Simplify

If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have the time to do that,” I’m too busy right now,” or “I’m too tired to get that done,” you may need to simplify your life. Don’t let the stresses of life control you. You need to take control of your life.

9) Take a break

It may seem counter-intuitive to getting things done, but it is important to feel energetic. If you’re not eating properly, or your muscles are tight from too much time in one position, or your stress level is rising, your productivity will decrease. Take a break.

Take a few minutes for lunch—away from your desk. Take a 10 minute nap or a short walk to relieve stress. When you return to your work, you’ll have energy to tackle the job.

10) Write things down

Unless you have very little to do or the tasks you have are highly repetitive, you cannot depend on your brain to recall everything that needs doing. The things that are most immediate are going to push away things in the background —often the most important. By writing things down you free up you brain to analyse the information and make productive decisions.

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How to Set Up a Home Communication Centre

It’s getting close to back-to-school time in this part of the world. Another couple of weeks and the summer lull will be over. You’re going wake up on the Tuesday after Labour Day and realize you have three more people to get out the door in the morning. Don’t leave the preparation to the last minute.

One of the handiest tools in our home is a communication/organization centre. It’s a two-part system, a message board and a calendar (see images below). We keep both in the kitchen, which is a hub in our home.

LUNS writing magnetic board IKEAFor the message centre, we use the LUNS board from IKEA. This is a magnetic chalk board, with two trays below the blackboard, a storage space under that and a couple of hooks on the bottom. The board is attached to the kitchen door through which we generally leave and enter the house. The dry-erase calendar is magnetic on the back and is stuck to our refrigerator.

The message centre holds reminders for items that aren’t attached to a date or that need to be completed quickly. For example, the top item on our board is dry cleaning that needs to be picked up this week. The slip from the dry cleaners is attached with a magnet. As we head out, we check the board. If we’re going in the direction of the cleaner, we grab the slip and pick up the cleaning.

The board has slots that can be used to hold things like bills until it’s time to pay them. We also leave things like coupons and entertainment books in there. so that they are readily accessible when we go out.

There are a couple of hooks on the bottom that holds keys. As we come through the door, the keys are hung on the hook and they’re the last thing we grab on our way out.

The calendar serves to track what is going on in the month. Both my wife and I use separate PDA-based calendars. At the start of each month, we transfer information to the dry-erase calendar. That way, we have a quick, at-a-glance view of what we have scheduled. We also note repeating reminders such as garbage and recycling pick up.

Setting up your system

Set up a zone with a family calendar and a bulletin board. Have family members pin invitations, schedules or school events to the bulletin board.  Enter each family member’s information on the calendar. If you assign different colours to each family member, it makes it easy to see which activity belongs to who.

Review your paper clutter. Decide what to keep and what to toss. Sort your papers into categories that work for you. For example: to do, to pay, pending, and to file.  Other categories might be: the names of children and partner, ongoing activities, current schools and contact information.

Now that you have categories, decide what organizing product might assist you best in keeping these papers in order. Look around the space, measure the area for size, and think about your personal organizing style.  Do you prefer to see paper or not? If so, think of open box-like items to use for each category.  If not, look for a desktop file suited to the décor of the space with hanging files to label with each category.  Be sure to choose a product you love and this will help you stay organized.

Have routines for your family communication center.  Hold a family meeting regularly to update your calendar.  Take turns as secretary to add information. With paper processing, designate a time to work with each of the categories. This will likely take an hour a week, especially if you choose a time you are high energy to get the job done.

A family communication center makes a difference in keeping information accessible. Find the right space, categories, tools and time to make it work. The organization you teach now will serve you and your family a lifetime.

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Improve Your Life with Time Management

Time management is fundamentally about focus. The Pareto Principle states, 80% of effort not managed or focused generates 20% of the desired output. On the other hand, 80% of desired output can be generated by 20% of effective effort. You see how much is lost or gained with well-managed time.

Time management involves scheduling appointments, goal settings, planning, to do lists and prioritizing; core skills that need to be understood to develop efficient personal productivity. These basic skills should be personalized to fit your work style. However, there is more to time management than these basics: decision making, emotional intelligence and critical thinking are also important to personal development.

Time management involves everything you do. No matter how big or small, everything counts. It’s not just to get your tasks completed on schedule. Time management should lead to a balanced life.

Time management is about getting results, not about being busy.

Time management should improve six aspects of life: physical, intellectual, social, career, emotional and spiritual.

  1. The physical aspect involves having a healthy body, less stress and fatigue.
  2. The intellectual aspect involves learning and other mental growth activities.
  3. The social aspect involves developing personal or intimate relations and being an active contributor to society.
  4. The career aspect involves school and work.
  5. The emotional aspect involves appropriate feelings and desires and manifesting them.
  6. The spiritual aspect involves a personal quest for meaning.

Having a to do list for each of these key areas is not practical, but knowing which areas of your life  are not getting enough attention is part of time management. Each aspect is part the whole. If you ignore one then you are ignoring an important part of yourself.

Personal time management is not a daunting task. It is a reasonable approach in solving problems. These steps should be a regular part of your life:

  • Set goals and review them regularly. Write them down and keep the list where you can check it easily
  • Determine what tasks are necessary by asking yourself if they are helping you achieve your goals or maintain your balanced lifestyle.
  • Use your peak time to best advantage. Know your natural energy cycle. Complete difficult tasks you have the most energy.
  • Learn to say ‘No’.
  • Reward yourself for completions.
  • Get cooperation from people who benefit from your time management efforts.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Attend to necessary things immediately.
  • Have a positive attitude and set yourself up for success.
  • Set realistic goals and break them down into manageable steps
  • Track your activities. This will help you get things in their proper perspective.

Once you integrate time management practices into your life, you increase options that provide a spectrum of solutions to personal growth. It creates more doors that opportunity can knock on.

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Time-Saving Tools for Busy Lives

Amazing, isn’t it? Every day, you’re given 24 hours. Some days, you feel like you’ve lived every hour. Other days, the time seems to slip through your fingers like grains of sand.

Even though time can’t be pinned down, we live in a society that tries to do just that. Schedules, timetables and deadlines are the framework of modern life. But being organized doesn’t necessarily mean living by a lot of rigid rules. It means making choices—your choices—about what’s important to you and then arranging your time and space to focus on those choices.

Take a moment to reflect on the pace of your life. Does it feel like you are rushing from task to task and worrying about how you will ever get everything done? When you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pick up your organizational tools and create some time and space in your own life. Here are five easy tools to get you started.

Make it easy for employers to see what you can do for them by going a couple of steps further:

The daily planner

Many busy people find that they cannot get along without the help of their daily planner. A useful daily planner:

  • is both a calendar and a notebook
  • should be small enough to carry with you
  • should be big enough to hold your to-do list, appointments and plans
  • has a section for phone numbers and addresses
  • doesn’t have to be expensive—you can find one for around $10.

The daily planner helps prevent the urge to leave notes all over the place and keeps all your vital information together. By glancing at your daily planner each evening, you can plan the following day. You could also write out your goals in your daily planner at the beginning of each month to help you stay in touch with what’s most important to you.

The to-do list

Time management experts say that list-making is one of the most useful kinds of tools because it helps you visualize your plans. Once you have made your list, try to sort the tasks according to how important each one is. You can assign ratings or underline the most important items on your list. If you manage to get only those things done, you have still made the best use of the time available to you.

The done list

Reward yourself for all your hard work. At the end of each day, take a moment to write out or just think about your “done” list. Include all of the items on your to-do list that you’ve completed as well as other important things you did. If you’re a worrier, your done list can show you how much you have actually accomplished.

A place for everything

This well-known saying has been around a long time because it’s true: A place for everything and everything in its place. When you think of all the time spent frantically hunting for your keys or your wallet or the bill that needs to be paid today, it really makes sense to organize your living space. This may take some effort at first, but putting things in their proper place can become a habit before you know it. Try telling yourself: don’t put it down—put it away. This simple rule works wonders.

Escape from the phone and TV

This may be the hardest thing to do, but it can make a big difference in the time you have to spend on more important things. You can start by keeping track of the time you spend in one week in front of the television—the number of hours may surprise you. When you think of how much time in a month or even a year is spent watching TV, you may decide it’s time to make some changes. You might decide to turn off the TV while you’re eating dinner. Or you may choose to make certain days of the week TV-free. The extra time can be spent with friends or on hobbies or maybe taking a course at a local college.

The same strategies can be used for deciding when to use the phone and when not to. You can choose to take calls when you have the time to talk. If you don’t have an answering machine, you can unplug your phone or turn down the ringer when you don’t want to take calls.

Making time, saving energy

Take some time to find out which time-saving tools are right for you. You can sometimes make very simple changes in your life and discover that you had much more time available than you thought. Then, you can effectively use the time you do have to accomplish what’s most important to you.

From ALIS

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4 Tips for Basic E-mail Management

Is your email killing your productivity? Then it’s time for some basic e-mail management. With a few simple steps, you can maintain control over your in-box:

  1. Use the software: Set up your e-mail client to manage as much of the incoming mail as possible. Create filters to route unnecessary messages past your in-box and into a folder. Make sure your spam settings and databases are active and up to date. The more you automate your e-mail, the less time you spend reading and deleting.
  2. Turn off your new mail notification: You don’t have to read every piece of e-mail the moment it arrives. Pop-ups, beeps and “you’ve got mail” notifications can be too distracting to ignore. Turn them off!
  3. Don’t read and respond to each incoming message: Dealing with each e-mail as it arrives can create constant interruption to your work-flow. Set aside time each day where you deal with your e-mail. Have a process —such as this one— for clearing your in-box.
  4. Manage e-mail during times of lower energy: Don’t deal with e-mail during your most creative or productive times of the day. Processing e-mail doesn’t require much energy. Don’t waste your creative periods on something as routine as e-mail.