Is your schedule running you or do you control your schedule?
If you are serious about career advancement you’ll have to exercise your management skills over your time. Complaining that there is never enough lets decision-makers know that you may lack management skills.
There never seems to be enough time in our workday. Time management systems require time and effort that you’d rather not give up to learn how to use them; then more time to tweak to make those systems work for you. In the end, you fall back to your old habits, and you wish you had that lost time back. Sifting through the onslaught of information, honoring responsibilities, and pressing toward professional and personal goals will leave you with a full schedule and with unchecked items.
If you don’t know this, you are doomed before you start
Know what your time is worth and keep that in mind when you decide to spend an hour sorting through your email, or socially chatting with a colleague instead of spending time on those essential items on your daily agenda.
It’s easy to calculate. Take your annual salary, divide that by 52, then that number by the number of hours you generally work each week. Use that per hour rate as a measuring stick for how you decide to use your time, then determine whether you are investing your time in a manner that will match your career, professional and personal development, as well as your family goals.
There are five strategies that I’d like to challenge you with, so that you can fit everything you need to do in that the limited time that you have. This will ensure your ability to demonstrate management competence (only incompetent people lack the skills to manage their time), and to move through your day accomplishing what is important to you, giving you time to spare.
Add only the Essential Items on Your ‘To Do’ list
Be ruthless when you decide what you intend to add to your daily agenda. If you have pressing goals, add only the items that take you closer to those goals. Often we have to decide between a networking event, which can provide opportunities to meet the right people, and completing a report, a presentation or mentoring a direct report. How many networking events have you attended where you have had 30 business cards in your hand by networkers hoping you’re their next big contact? Can you skip the networking event?
If you cut items off your agenda, delegate them to direct reports, colleagues, assistants, family members or your assistant. You’re not alone if you are hesitant about delegating, because no one can do it as well as you can. But this is the very attitude that stalls many careers – holding on to things that got you to the current level in your career because you’re comfortable doing them. It’s important to let them go and give someone else an opportunity to shine. If they don’t do it to your level of excellence, but it is good enough, then let it go.
For more information about how to decide who you plan to delegate, and the benefits for your career in doing that, read “Relieve Pressure on Your Time – Delegate.”
Avoid getting overwhelmed. Delegate.
Maintain Good Energy Levels
One thing time management courses neglect is the struggle people have managing their energy. Consider your energy levels throughout the day when deciding when to do specific tasks. You can systematically expand and renew your energy by establishing specific behaviors throughout the day. For details about how you can manage your energy read “Forget Time Management – Manage Your Energy Instead,” an insightful and useful article.
Escape the Noise
Social media has ramped up the desire for social interaction both live and virtually. It has also increased the amount of frequently valuable information we receive. Now, more than ever before, you have to a diligent effort to protect your time. Close your office door, find a quiet space, schedule online time, and keep in mind that professionals whose career advancement seems to be on steroids don’t spend a lot time online or checking their email.
Again, be ruthless about protecting your time to reach your goals.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Spend your time working on the tasks that will take you closer to your goal. These can include completing reports, managing projects and programs, personal and professional development, expanding your network and developing relationships within your company, developing direct reports, and supporting your family.
Your timer is your ally
When a colleague appears at your office do for a social chat, give him or her the index figure signaling for the to hold on a minute, and tell them you need a second to complete what you’re doing. This puts them on alert that they have disturbed what you’re doing. Set a reliable online timer for 10 minutes, or even less depending on how much you value your time. When the alarm sounds, excuse yourself and let him know you have to get back to your work, make a phone call, or step out for a meeting. Or, simply let them know that you are protecting your time today, and you need to return to working.
Use computer time wisely. Taking five minutes to check an email response will always lead to 30 to 45 minutes as you check the rest of your email. Don’t do this. If you have to check your email, set your timer. Don’t let email or other activities on your computer divert your focus and steal your time. You won’t get that time back. You’ll have to decide what goals you are willing to delay.
A timer is your best ally. You can set it while appearing to look like you are completing an email or a sentence, adding an appointment, and other smaller tasks. It alerts you and the intruding person that you have to move on. It keeps you alert to your progress that you’re making on your to-do list. It keeps you on track to your goals.
You decide how you spend your time.
Clearing out your inbox, doing busy work, social chattering, holding onto work that you should not be doing are just a few things that may be wasting your productive time or your family time, or whatever you are prepared to give up.
A schedule that consistently overwhelms you makes you appear as though you don’t know your limits or that you do not know how to manage your time.