Time management not for the faint-hearted

Time management tips

You may fall into one of two types of reader when it comes to this article – the one who reads this out of interest or the one who really does need to do something about their time management skills.

If you are the latter, then all the time management tips in the world will make no difference unless you start with a strong decision – a strong decision to finally do something about it and to turn intellectual understandings into actual understandings i.e. you take action.

What I’m about to share with you works consistently in giving my executive clients outstanding and measurable results and, if applied, can do the same for you.

What are your goals and what are you looking to achieve? Be very clear on what you will be measured on at the end of your performance period. What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? What will your boss or investors be focusing on during your performance review? You need to identify and clarify these to be able to manage time effectively.

Procrastination & Purpose
Why are you doing the things you are doing? Purpose is vital and provides emotional fuel to the goals we set. What I recommend is you write next to each item on your action list, why you need to do it. Making it real and compelling will help you get over any procrastination.

A vital distinction to make here is between ‘Being Busy’ and ‘Getting Important Stuff Done’. Simply put, what you do needs to help deliver your high-level KPIs. If they do not, you need to question what they are doing on your ‘action list’. Watch out for other people’s urgencies too. Again, if they do not help to deliver your outcomes or your team’s outcomes, you need to question and clarify appropriately.

If you are in a position to delegate then you have a duty of care to do so. It makes you more efficient and you are assisting with the growth of members of your team. Two common reasons why people do not delegate are:

  1. Control – “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself!” This is poor leadership and you need to find a solution around this. One approach is to get someone in your team to complete as much of the task as possible and then you review the output. This sounds obvious; however there are too many people who fall into this ‘control’ trap.
  2. Enjoyment – So many of us carry on doing certain tasks instead of leaving them to someone else because we love doing them so much. This is often found with someone who manages a team of experts and is one himself/herself. You need to identify if you do this and do something about it quickly.

I have highlighted emails (and meetings below) because they can take up so much time. Getting through emails can give us the impression that we are busy and efficient, however they can get in the way of more important tasks. Here are some quick-fire tips that have worked extremely well for my clients:

  1. Firstly the obvious – switch off all email notifications. Use your common sense if you are always receiving time-sensitive emails though.
  2. Scan your emails and only respond to important ones (connected to your KPIs).
  3. Colour-code emails from key stakeholders.
  4. Get taken off distribution emails that are not important.
  5. Ask colleagues not to copy you if it’s not important or required.
  6. Start using your PA effectively. A modern PA must be able to deal with the majority of your emails with a little guidance.

Exceptions to the rule can be managed. Start as you mean to go on.

It’s crazy how so many people have to fit their action list around days of back-to-back meetings.

See if any of these work for you:

  1. Always distinguish between outcomes and agendas. Stick to what you want the meeting to achieve and if you are chairing it, make sure you stick to time and purpose. Be disciplined and encourage others to do the same. Consider recommending meeting guidelines for the company to adopt or updating existing ones.
  2. Can you delegate to a member of your team to attend as part of their development? Be sure that you manage the expectations of the meeting owner in a collegiate way. A good coach can show you how to achieve this.
  3. For the meetings you must attend, consider asking the meeting owner to place the agenda items that affect you and where your input is needed, at the beginning of the meeting, explaining that you cannot attend the entire meeting. You can always have a quick debrief with them afterwards. Remember that you must manage relationships with key stakeholders in a positive way if you plan to adopt this approach.

Multitasking vs. Mindfulness
As part of my coaching portfolio, I conduct workshops on the creative and productive benefits of Mindfulness in the workplace and can safely say our minds are not designed for multi-tasking items that require brainpower. Studies show that multitasking can make you up to 40% slower and can increase your stress levels. Can you see how this could then turn into a vicious cycle? You are far better off giving your full attention to the task at hand and being mindful of what you are doing.

The Best Time Management Tool
There are many useful time management tips available to us from many sources. Ultimately, the best tool is the one you actually and mindfully use.




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About the author

Manj W is one of the UK’s premier coaches, an international keynote speaker and a best-selling author. He holds several non-executive directorships, is a visiting speaker at the London Business School, has co-produced a series of audio books published by the BBC and is the creator of the success system, The Merlin Approach™. Manj heads up three coaching brands and has consulted for Peers from the UK House of Lords on the areas of mindfulness and leadership and is regularly interviewed by the media. He is a performance consultant to highly regarded organisations including Vodafone, New Look Retailers, Santander, Logitech, Lloyds Banking Group and British Telecom, as well as being a trusted advisor to high net worth entrepreneurs. More blog posts by Manj W ››
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  • Michael

    “Scan your emails and only respond to important ones (connected to your KPIs).” – I don’t like that advise at all. It’s not only your own KPIs that matter. Other people in your organization have different KPIs, but they matter, too, and if you’re being asked a question it’s your obligation as a member of that organization to respond. “No” and “I don’t know” can be perfectly fine responses, but not responding at all is not an option. It’s just bad manners. ;-)


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