Top Tips To Manage Your Time

Many of us walk around stressed and feeling overwhelmed much of the time. Try the following techniques to help create more space and focus in your day.

1. You've put your big rocks in. Now delegate, ditch or systematize other routine or low value tasks. You've decided what your key priorities are, scheduled them and committed to doing them no matter what. Focus on your strengths and find people who are better at doing things you're less good at. Where possible seek to reduce the amount of routine tasks by (a) delegating tasks to someone else (preferably to someone who might enjoy the new responsibility because it would grow their skills) (b) ditch it (who reads your monthly record, or acts on it? If following a few key questions the answer is nobody, ditch it once and for all) or (c) systematise it e.g. by creating a checklist you can tick off or automating it so it gets done more quickly and with minimum effort.

2. Efficiency vs effectiveness. Most time management techniques focus in on getting the most done in the minimum time. But effectiveness is better. Effectiveness is about what's the best way to achieve my outcome versus what's the obvious or fastest way to get there. You can't be efficient with people if you want excellent results. Efficient would be telling a colleague to do this job with a few instructions. Effectiveness is about involving them in the solution so that any time in the future when they get this task again, they take full ownership and do it really well. Often we play 'email tag' when a short phone conversation would be quicker and more effective.

3. Factor in time margins for everything. Finish your work 10 minutes before the start time of a meeting to give you plenty time to gather what you need and arrive with a clear head and ready to participate. You'll never be late for or 'all over the place' for a meeting again. Set aside 'buffer time' i.e. one non-bookable afternoon a week in your Calendar. Then if the unexpected comes up, you'll still get the important stuff done.

4. Underpromise and overdeliver. Similar to the last one this means every time you make a promise, you factor in 'wiggle room' before you commit to delivering it. Then if you get the task done quickly you can impress the client by delivering far earlier than they expected. The result? Delighted customers and a happy manager. Even if you have an off-day or fall sick, you'll still deliver on time.

5. Over-respond, don't react. When something goes wrong it's easy to react in the moment and attempt to solve the problem there and then. In that moment of high emotion however we don't usually have the perspective we need to solve it completely. Next time a problem flares up, take time out to consider the source and come up with a plan that doesn't just solve it this time, but will also prevent it ever coming back to bite you.

6. One thing at a time. We've all become used to multi-tasking. But we are not designed to do this and we don't work at our most effective this way. Stop! Become present in the moment and focus on the task in hand until it is complete. Then, give yourself permission to move onto the next task.

7. Schedule breaks and stick to them. When was the last time you took lunch away from your desk? A computer break in the middle of the morning to rest your eyes and fingers? From now on, take lunch. Every day. It doesn't have to be a whole hour - it could be fifteen minutes. But do get away from your desk and ideally get some fresh air and walk. Catch your breath!

8. Learn to say no. It is a complete sentence. And saying no frees up space to do the stuff you want to say yes to. If you can't, say 'Can I get back to you?' Offer alternatives (see above)

9. Nip your procrastinating tendencies in the bud. Procrastination produces huge stress. Identify the thing you most dread and just do it! Slay the monster while it's small. A useful way to get over the inertia is to commit to just 15 minutes, and give yourself the choice of walking away at that point. Usually you've gathered sufficient momentum to work on. Or break the task into much smaller chunks. If the reason for your delay is your perfectionism tendency, commit to getting something down that is 'good enough'. There will be time later to make adjustments, if required.

10. Have a filing system that works for you. Keep docs in places that make sense Review how you file your documents. Are you labeling online files in a way that makes sense to you and is searchable? Do you attach documents to Appointments and Tasks so you don't have to hunt for train bookings or meeting agendas? Does your filing cabinet make sense to you? Do you keep your current files in one easy place and ensure anything you're not working on is nicely filed away? A clean desk and a working online/offline filing system clears the head and focuses the mind.

Bonus Tip: Prevention is better than cure. Before making any promise, before taking on any task, ask does this actually need to be done? Why am I doing this? Keep the outcome in mind and find a way of achieving it with less effort on your part.