Managing Your Time - Part 2

How do you allocate your precious time? Do you think about it? Or do do you decide based on what is needed next?

When we don't plan and prioritise our work, we end up being reactive; because we are so busy, we don’t have time to plan and because we don’t have time to plan, we are constantly busy.

Planning is a long term activity, as Stephen Covey tells us ‘Start with the end in mind’ Ask yourself 'What am I trying to achieve? What is the medium or long term goal?'

If your goal is to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just head out one day and try to run 26 miles, you would break it down into a series of smaller steps, working backwards to a starting point, which may be to run 1 mile today.

To improve your planning and prioritisation skills, begin by finding out where your time goes throughout the day. There is often a big discrepancy between your subjective time and reality. For example if you work from home and have children, it’s easy to underestimate how much a school runs can eat into your time.

Build in ‘slippage’. Always build in time to allow for setbacks, give yourself some breathing space, it’s better to under promise and over deliver.

Take a few minutes on Sunday to create a plan for your whole week. Cure procrastination by breaking down your weekly goals into daily tasks, so you only need a glance at this list while working.

Make sure you start every day with a clear idea of what you need to do – what needs to get done that day. In fact, make it a habit, at the end of each workday, to review your schedule and task list for the next workday. That way you can hit the ground running the next morning.

Starting work with a plan for the week will help you focus on priorities, making it easier to transition from your weekend mindset to a productive Monday morning “work brain.”

Prioritising is different to planning. If you find yourself working in your business, instead of on your business, it’s because you’re not prioritising well.

The simplest way to prioritise work is to take a sheet of paper and divide it into four quadrants, as follows:

Quadrant 1 - Important and urgent: Do these tasks right away.

Quadrant 2 - Important but not urgent: Decide when to do these tasks.

Quadrant 3 - Urgent but not important: Delegate these tasks if possible.

Quadrant 4 - Not urgent and not important: Do these tasks really need to be done at all? if they do, set them aside to do later.

Understand your energy. Are you a morning or an evening person? When do you do your best work? When do you feel energised? How do you work best? do you do things straight away or take an iterative approach? I'm a red-zone operator, nothing motivates me more than an imminent deadline. Instead of trying to change how I operate, I build my schedule to support my style. 

Remember –your energy and creativity levels fluctuate throughout the week. Schedule low-priority tasks for low-energy times, creative and demanding tasks when your energy is at its best and your favourite tasks for when your energy starts to decline. For example, I like to use Fridays for networking, planning and writing.

Finally, it's important to 'Eat the Frog'. Get the most unpleasant, uninspiring and difficult tasks out of the way by doing them at the first opportunity. This will reduce your propensity to procrastinate and dispel those nagging thoughts, that will follow you around until the task is complete. It's very satisfying and energising to start the week with that work out of the way.