Everyone wants to know the secret. Why do some people appear to get more done? Why do some have their workload under control, while others struggle to make a dent in their to-do list? How can we make better use of the time we have so we can enjoy a little breathing room? Time Management is something all professionals face. The way we were taught to think about productivity has influenced the way we operate, for better or for worse. Regardless of whether you’re a marketer, staff person or partner in public accounting, learning the secrets of time management will be critical to your success.
Below are 3 common myths people have about time management. Shattering these preconceived notions will improve your productivity and help you become a better time manager.
Myth #1: Being productive means getting everything done.
Productivity is about the effectiveness of your efforts, not the totality. Vilfredo Pareto coined the Pareto Principle, better known as the 80/20 rule. This principle states that 20% of any input will produce 80% of results obtained. Effective time management isn’t about getting everything done, it’s about getting the right things done.
- Start by bucketing your items into 3 categories.
- High Importance/High Urgency (your 80/20 Rule items)
- High Importance/Low Urgency (the to-do list that you need to make progress on)
- Low Importance/High Urgency (items you delegate if you are in a position to do so)
Expert Tip: Don’t underestimate the value of a little planning. Focus on prioritizing your day or week around these items.
Myth #2: Time management comes naturally to some, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
Time management doesn’t happen by chance. Anyone that is good at it will tell you they make a concentrated effort to manage and control the flow of their time. This intentionality is what allows the most efficient people to be productive.
- Start by managing expectations. Almost everyone underestimates how much time it will take to complete a task; which is why we tend to overcommit. Managing your availability and accurately estimating your timeframes is critical for responsiveness.
- Turn off email or refrain from checking it every 5 minutes.
- Bundle your meeting times or group them so you don’t have small blocks of time (also known as productivity black holes).
- Consider working during the times you are most productive. Some of us are morning people, while others function better at night. Aim at managing your workflow during your peak performance times, as best you can.
- Avoid communicating everything through email. Sometimes a phone call is faster and more efficient.
Expert Tip: Try not to schedule meetings during your most productive time.
Myth #3: Ease into your day and save the worst for last.
It’s easy to let busy work, like checking email, chatting with colleagues and filling out expense reports eat away at your time. While all of these things are necessary, when you do them and how often you touch them can make a huge difference.
- Instead of starting your day with busy work, consider starting your day with one or two things you need to get done. You may have heard the phrase, “ eating the frog.” This saying is a reference to a Mark Twain quote and means to begin your day with something groan-worthy. If you start your day with the right projects, it becomes much easier to power through the day and ensures your top priorities get done. Pick a time (say 10:00 am, 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm) to check and respond to emails or get menial tasks out of the way.
Time Management isn’t something that anyone ever fully masters. Some days, no matter how hard you try, will be less productive than others. However, with a few tweaks to your notions about time management, a little (or a lot) more intention and a game plan, you can regain control of your day and improve your productivity.