Rosemary Brown Heart of Business Mentor, registered and approved Growth Accelerator Coach, specialising in the Wholesale, Retail and Manufacturing sectors shares her top 6 time management tips.

Most people know the quote from Cyril Northcote Parkinson that became known as Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.  This was his reflection on bureaucracy in the civil service in the late 50’s and usually seen as a pretty negative comment.  However Horstman* looks at things differently to Parkinson and suggests “Work contracts to fit the time we give it” which in my opinion has a much more positive feel. I realised that I structure my time management that way.

6 Tops Tips that Work for Me:

Tip 1 – Create structure and a framework 

Look at the big picture first.  I plan my week and day, and usually the next month or two – it never works out that way but I have a plan and know what I didn’t achieve as well as what I did.  Some of this is weekly/daily routine, things I know happen regularly – I put them in the diary first then slot the rest in around them.  By looking at the big picture first I can see if there are any clashes and there is plenty of time to adapt.

Tip 2 – Make time to think and plan 

I spend 5 minutes most mornings reviewing my ‘list’.  I have to have an action list, everything stems from it and I kept it up to date after meetings, phone calls and emails.   I don’t resort to technology other than my Outlook calendar, but then I am not working in a team.  A simple piece of paper with different columns for different areas of my life is very effective, quick and easy.

I split out work and home, most important they are both included.  Mondays, or sometimes Sunday evening, I spend a bit longer ‘timetabling’ the week, so I know in advance what I can do and what I can’t.  I’m not that keen on surprises but when they happen, which they will, I can handle them.  I give myself deadlines and really try to stick to them.  If a job only needs 30 minutes I make sure it gets done in that time, I can then fit other tasks into the rest of the day.  That doesn’t mean it is a ‘rushed job’ – if it needs more time I reschedule.

Tip 3 – Keep it simple  

Work through a task logically from beginning to end – one step at a time, don’t start in the middle because it’s the interesting bit.  If the task turns out to be more complicated than first thought, I break it down into chunks and make sure I at least make a start.

Tip 4 – Prioritise

Workload and priorities will continually change – that’s what makes it interesting!  I regularly review priorities and try to adapt to whatever is most important that day, but only if it really is a priority and not just more exciting or new.  I then know what I need to reschedule and make sure nothing falls through any cracks – well that’s the ideal.

Tip 5 – Organisation

Although my office is full of ‘piles’ they are ‘organised-filed-piles’ and I can pretty well lay my hands on what I need straight away.  My work space is cleared so that I can focus on the task in hand, and not get distracted by ‘the rest’.

Tip 6 – Just do it

Quick emails/phone calls don’t go on my list – they just need doing so I plan time into the day then they are not forgotten – things I sometimes put off for days can be zapped really quickly, it gets them out of the way and give me a good feeling of having achieved something.

I cannot say hand on heart I manage this all the time, but I do try.  The most important thing is to find the way that works best for you.  Everyone is different and everyone works in a different way. Look at how you work best and how it fits into your lifestyle.  Experiment and just give it a go.

I also want to make reference to Alan Hester’s excellent recent blog about “Time Management for Business Leaders: Busyness versus Business” so true!

*Mark Horstman is co-founder of Manager Tools

Next Step 

If you would like some help contracting your workload to fill the time available, and getting some grant aid to help you do that why not arrange an exploratory conversation over coffee.

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