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Being an effective time manager requires you to identify the difference between that which must get done, and that which it would be nice to get done. You cannot really mange time; merely your use of it. You will always want to do more than you can manage. The ability to determine which tasks are more deserving of your time is one of the key skills of an effective time manager.
Former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower was reputed to have said:
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important
Eisenhower, an outstanding time manager, died in 1969 but these words of wisdom have become more accurate in the time since. Everyday, people rush around trying to get more done. New technology is regularly introduced to help achieve this aim. Companies constantly strive for greater efficiencies. So much so that millions are spent each year on courses, resources and advice which are aimed at improving time management skills.
The advice given to the aspiring time manager usually involves using a diary, creating a to-do list or prioritising. This advice is aimed at helping you get more done but this is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Living an effective life is not about getting more done, it is about getting the right things done. What is the point in doing more, if you are not getting the important tasks done?
Does it need to be done?
Before you commence any task, you should first determine whether that task really needs to be done. All tasks you perform should add value to your life and should be consistent with your goals. If you cannot justify why you are doing it, then it is possible that it does not need to be done.
Do ‘I’ have to do it?
You have determined that the task needs to be done but that does not mean that you are the right person to do it. You may not possess the necessary skills; there may be someone better able to perform the task; or, it may not be the best use of your time. Delegation is an important skill, not just in business but in everyday life. As I referred to in may e-book ‘Stress Free Productivity’; people often think that delegation is only available to those with subordinates. However, delegation is simply the act of assigning the task to the most suitable person e.g. a colleague or even your boss. Outsourcing is another form of delegation, as too is automation. There are many different options available and all should form part of the time manager’s arsenal.
Also, just because you were once the right person to perform the task does not mean it is still the case. A client of mine started his own business a few years ago. At first, he did not have enough budget for marketing materials i.e. flyers. So, initially, he printed up his own flyers and delivered them himself to houses throughout the county. This consumed a great deal of his time. Nowadays, he has a little more cash flow. He now has a specialist company print his flyers and deliver them for him. This has resulted in more professional looking flyers and greater custom. Questioning the need to do every task himself has enabled him to become a better time manager and as a result, he saves time and is able to invest it in more profitable areas of his business.
When should I do it?
Once you have eliminated the tasks that you do not need to be doing, via the first two questions, it is time to schedule and prioritise.
The goal should be to avoid allowing tasks to become urgent. This allows you the opportunity to plan your activities and thus ensure that the most important things get scheduled and get done. The key to proper use of your time is to schedule the most important activities first. Be realistic with the time you allow for each task; a good time manager never accepts a deadline he cannot meet. By taking this approach you avoid spending your life putting out fires.
For more great time management tips, check out The Organised Mind.
I struggled with time management for a number of years. I spent all my time putting out fires. My day was hectic and full, yet, at the day’s end, I could not have told you what I had achieved for my efforts. I now use these three questions on a daily basis. In the past year, I have done less than I have ever done before but I have achieved more. For the effective time manager; less will always mean more.
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