Making the most effective use of time available is a very powerful skill. I’m certain you can think of more tasks you need to do today than you actually have time to complete.
Many people set themselves an impossible goal with a page long to-do list, immediately setting themselves up for failure.
The first rule of time management is therefore to recognise that no matter how hard you work, how late you stay, or how short you make your lunch hour; the list is never complete.
At the end of the day they just see how much work is left, rather than congratulating themselves on the work complete. Do not see that as the goal as you will only ever end up disappointed. This list needs to be broken down.
If you don’t have a to-do list, then that is however your first job. In fact at the end of every day you should write the to-do list for the next day and prepare your work environment so that you can start straight away in the morning.
I’m going to highlight the techniques discussed in Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. This small book is based around a metaphor and suggests that if you had to eat a live frog every day that you should get it out of the way first thing in the morning, so the rest of your day can only get better.
Tracy suggests you prioritise your to-do list for todays tasks as follows:
A = Significant impact if not complete
B = Some impact if not complete
C = No impact / like to do
D = Delegate
E = Eliminate
If you have multiple tasks identified as an ‘A’, then prioritise them; ‘A1, A2, A3…’ and so on.
The key to success is discipline. You should stick with task A1 and not move on until that task is complete, i.e. eat your biggest, most important frog first. Do not move onto any ‘B’ tasks until all ‘A’ tasks are complete and so on. This ensures that you make the most effective use of your time.
Checking all the printers are fully-stocked with paper is helpful, but finishing the end of month report is far more useful, so let’s get on with the report.
Often people suggest this is too simplistic and that they have to respond to emails, phone calls and even instant messages. All of these interruptions are a distraction.
It takes several minutes to read an email, decide if it’s important, possibly respond and then remember where you were with your A1 task and get back to it.
Where possible, shut down emails to give yourself time to focus on your most important task.
Say you’re going to give task A1 40 minutes and see how much you can achieve just by focusing for that time period.
Take time mid-morning to review emails and respond quickly or add them to your prioritised list but don’t let them continually distract you from your important work. If you do, within 30 minutes you will find yourself sucked into a C task, reviewing recommended books on Amazon or watching a YouTube video of a skateboarding cat, what are you doing?
Remember, prepare a to-do list, prioritise it, then stick to the prioritisation. As you complete the most important tasks you will achieve a sense of accomplishment that will increase your motivation for the rest of the day.
“I’ve eaten my largest frog…phew, I’m glad I got that out of the way”.
Filling staplers or deciding to make everyone a cup of tea does not bring the same sense of achievement so stick to the plan and make the most effective use of your time.