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Effectively Manage Your Time When You Have More To Do and Less Time To Do It

Time management is becoming an issue that is interfering with our work ethic. While computers have dramatically increased efficiency, they have also provided the ultimate in distraction. For example, yes I will admit, it has taken me about eight days to finish this time management blog . . . Ironic.

The Web and e-mail offer so much distraction, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis that we find in nearly impossible to devote our attention to a higher task. It is tough to establish boundaries and focus on any one thing, especially now Time Managementthat American workers have more to do and less time to do it. And when we have too much to do, it is important to have good time management.

From my experience over the past few days of trying to write this blog post, I have been aware of my time management skills and now see why I have not been able to complete this task in a shorter amount of time.  Shall we?

  • I open my e-mail before I do anything else. Before I know it, I have spent more time clearing out my e-mail then I know I should have.

In the article, “Time Management Secrets Anyone Can Use,” written by Susan Adams, Adams gives great advice by saying we will have a more productive work ethic if we check our e-mail only a few times a day, rather than incessantly. Allen says “If replying to an e-mail takes less than two minutes, you should do so right away.” And make sure they will only take a few minutes of your time. We have all experienced a task that we say will be a ‘few minutes’ and all of the sudden we are working on the same task an hour later. Allen advises to turn off e-mail alerts that pop up on your screen every time a new e-mail comes in. “Send less to receive less: Keep your e-mails short and write fewer of them.”

  • I share the responsibility of answering the office phone and doing small administrative tasks on top of my job. When I am working on a task it is hard to focus when I am being interrupted more often than not.

From the telephone ringing, to midafternoon meetings, e-mail dings, and co-workers popping in to ask for a “quick favor” are ways that our ‘to-do’ lists can expand. The sticky notes start to take up desk space, and the flagged e-mails are buried by new incoming e-mails. Maura Thomas, author of Personal Productivity Secrets, says what we are all thinking: “The pace is frantic, with a new interruption every few minutes; it feels like there is no time to stop and organize it all.” If you agree, chances are good that you have trouble managing your time efficiently. You’re not alone. According to a survey by Salary.com, 90% of workers waste at least a half hour each workday, not including lunch or scheduled breaks. Thomas agrees by stating:

“I’ve found that most knowledge workers spend their days in a state of constant distractions and task switching. The results are perpetual stress, and being busy instead of being productive. More than a quarter of the time someone switches tasks, it is two hours or more before they actually resume what they were doing.”

The problem is that we are getting distracted from important work, by other work. All this distraction takes a toll on the quality of work. The training we follow for time management is not cutting it for today’s work load. Many companies are renewing the training on time management and offering training on productivity skills that help employees to overcome these new challenges. The renewed training should have three components:

  1. Clarity around role priorities rather than specific task priorities.
  2. Attention management skills rather than “time management” skills.
  3. A comprehensive workflow management system.
  • As tasks come in, how do you organize and prioritize them if they are all important?

You can overcome this challenge once you understand the time management phrase, “Eat That Frog,” by Brain Tracy (author of Eat That Frog!-  21 Great Ways To Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time). Tracey relates the meaning of it to a Mark Twain saying,  “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!” Your “frog” is the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it now.

Brain Tracy introduces the ABCDE Method of Time Management. Make a list of the things you have to do for the coming day. Label each task with one of the following:

A = These are the very important tasks. They are tasks you must do and if you do not, there will be serious consequence. Tracy calls these tasks the “frogs” of your work.

B= These are the tasks you should do. There are mild consequences if you do not do them. Never start a ‘B’ task when an ‘A’ task is undone. Tracy calls these tasks the “tadpoles” of your work.

C= Tasks that would be nice to do. There are no consequences if you do or do not do it. These tasks do not affect your work life (making a phone call to a friend during work hours). In fact, people spend 50% of time in ‘C’ task –which again has no relevance to work at all.

D= Delegate tasks that anyone else can do, so you create more time for the ‘A’ tasks that only you can do.

E= Eliminate the task all together. It no longer affects your work life and it will not matter if you do or do not do it.

Remember, the time wasted can never be recovered. Practice discipline and stay focused until the task is complete!

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