Time management or personal effectiveness is an on-going skill to be learned. Even though we have heard lots of tips on this subject we still struggle to implement good practice. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time in a day (24 hours) – some may have more to fit in those 24 hours of course! And some people always seem to be rushing about, behind schedule in their jobs and lives, while others are calm and unhurried and seem to get the same amount of work done in less time.

Time management will help you organise your time so that you are spending more time working on activities that matter and less time on activities that don’t. It can help you become a more effective leader, and therefore more valuable to your employer and your team. It can also help you reduce your stress levels.

One thing you can do to identify where your time goes is to set up an activity log. This is where you record all your activities over a period of time (such as one week) and identify exactly what you spent your time on. This helps you accurately identify some of the time wasting activities.

The ‘To do’ list

Next make a ‘to do’ list. This is a list of the important things you need to get done. Then prioritise this list. Identify what is important and what is urgent. Of course do the important and urgent things first. Try to avoid things becoming urgent as these activities are the ones that cause you to be under the most stress. If you can plan in advance, then you can avoid a lot of things becoming urgent and get them complete before they become so.

Set deadlines for things to be complete and allow a ‘cushion deadline’ which means you actually have some spare time in case of an unexpected interruption. Avoid making your deadline the same as the actual deadline.

Grouping and interruptions

One technique that can save you time is to group similar activities together. If you have a few phone calls to make, schedule a time to make them one after the other and get into a ‘groove’ as you make the calls. If you are reviewing a report from a team member and you find an item that needs discussing, don’t go to them immediately. Finish reading through the report and make notes on all items to discuss and do them together.

It’s also important to manage your email responses. Consider turning off the email notifier and schedule specific times in the day to look at your emails. Unless your job requires you to answer every email immediately, plan times to read emails in batches. You’ll find you have much more ‘flow’ going on in your work and that you are more proactive in your approach.

Being available

As a leader, you must be available for your team members when they need you. However, like any worker you need uninterrupted time to be able to get things done. If your door is always open, your team members will constantly be stopping by to ask you every little question that pops into their heads, and you won’t have any uninterrupted time.

The best way to balance your team members’ need for your input and your own need for quiet time is to set aside specific times when your door will be open, or walk around your team’s area in the office at a particular time every day. You might also set aside a time when your door will always be closed. There will be urgent problems that team members have to interrupt you with, but you’ll find that they interrupt you far less often if they know you’ll be available for them at a particular time.

Find out more in the book: ‘Leading a Team’ available on Amazon here >>>