Improving One’s Time Management Skills

Efficient time management requires that you know what tasks you need to accomplish and you use the self-discipline necessary to keep your attention focused on accomplishing them. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for managing time that will work in every case, but there are several time management techniques that can help you manage your time better. At a minimum, you should learn to take the following steps:

  1. Identify your objectives.
  2. Prioritize your objectives.
  3. Make a “To Do” list of the activities that must be done to accomplish your objectives.
  4. Prioritize your To Do list.
  5. Schedule your day.
  6. Try to keep to the schedule throughout the day.

Time management is not something that generally comes easily. It takes a dedicated effort to be a good time manager. It requires learning how to prioritize and how to keep to a schedule. Good time managers also know how to minimize disruptions. There are a number of time constraints, called time wasters, that will steal a person’s time, such as interruptions or phone calls.

How much of your time is wasted time? Let’s try to evaluate. Take a look at the two lists below, and check which time wasters apply to you.

Column A

Column B

__ Interruptions
__ Attending meetings
__ Drop-in visitors
__ Telephone calls
__ Red tape
__ Unclear expectations
__ Lack of clear goals
__ Lack of needed help
__ Unrealistic time estimates
__ Too many bosses
__ Lack of motivation

__ Procrastination
__ Too much work to do
__ Complete easy tasks first
__ Messy desk
__ Unnecessary mail
__ Can’t say no
__ Failure to listen
__ Waiting for others
__ Lack of self-discipline
__ Visual distractions
__ Misplaced items

Now take a look at which items you checked, and see if you notice any commonalities or patterns. Column A lists issues that are not in your direct control. In Column B are time wasters we bring on ourselves. Good time managers can deal with both types of problems. Contrary to what most of us want to believe, every item in both columns is within our control. Many of those things in Column A that we shrug off as impossible to deal with can actually be dealt with quite successfully.

Meetings can become a colossal waste of time, and yet they are often necessary and productive. Always remember that if you hold a meeting, you should have a good reason for it. Meeting just to meet is usually a waste of time. Efficiently run meetings are time effective. You may also want to minimize the time you spend in meetings. If it is not your meeting, request an agenda if one is not sent and find out why you need to attend. You may be able to attend only part of the meeting or to have someone on your team represent you. If not, just go. Don’t waste more time complaining about it or chit-chatting after the meeting. Do what you need to do, and then return to your priority tasks.

Try to practice effective time management to maximize your personal productivity. Attempting to work faster or harder is not the answer; learn to work “smarter,” instead:

  • End each day by reviewing the day’s accomplishments and identifying work that remains unfinished.
  • Prioritize a list of the work to be done the next day, with a tentative schedule and job assignments.
  • When you arrive at work the next morning, make adjustments to include any new events, such as an emergency repair or an absent employee
  • Put your day’s plan to work without wasting time.

Time Management and Problem Solving

Managers should focus their attention on significant problems and weed out the trivial ones. Pareto’s Law states that 20 percent of problems affect 80 percent of the results and 80 percent of problems affect 20 percent of the results. Time is a valuable management resource, so problem evaluation should be completed before beginning any problem solving process. When evaluating the significance of a problem, managers should consider:

  • How much control the individual or group has over the problem and solution
  • How serious, or urgent, the problem is to be resolved
  • How difficult it will be to work through the problem in order to find a solution
  • How much time it will consume
  • What the expected benefits of solving the problem will be
  • If there are enough available resources to solve the problem

Your Planning Skills

Time management is all about your ability to plan. Use the following rating scale to assess how frequently you do each of the planning activities listed beloq.
1 = Rarely
2 = Occasionally
3 = Sometimes
4 = Frequently
5 = Always

  • ___ Write my plan down
  • ___ refer to my plan and make midterm corrections
  • ___ keep my plan in sight
  • ___ communicate my plan to others
  • ___ anticipate obstacles
  • ___ prepare a backup plan
  • ___ delegate
  • ___ set deadlines for myself and others
  • ___ keep track of where my time is spent
  • ___ keep in mind the value of my time
  • ___ focus on those activities that will have the greatest impact
  • ___ review my list of goals
  • ___ have a clear idea of what I want to accomplish next week
  • ___ set priorities according to importance, not urgency
  • ___ isolate myself for quiet thinking time
  • ___ focus on results, not just activities
  • ___ keep the organization’s mission and goals in mind
  • ___ finish on time
  • ___ reward myself for meeting my plan

Total: ____

Add up your points. If your total is less than 60, you need to develop your planning skills significantly You may want to consider BOMI International’s Managing the Organization course.