Time. So precious but there’s never enough of it. Well, apart from when we’re doing something that really, really drags like standing in a queue or waiting for the kettle to boil. And it’s always worth reminding ourselves of the irrefutable time facts – we ALL get the same amount of time per day: 24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds. Days may seem slow or fast but they’re 100% the same. It’s what we do with that time that counts.
So what can we do to get as much as possible out of our working days without eating into our even more precious non-work time? I don’t claim to be The World’s No1 Expert but I do have a pretty heavy workload and have picked up a few tips along the way. Whether you’re a busy freelancer or busy contractor (or business owner or employee) I hope at least some of these are of help to you, either as new ideas or simply timely reminders.
Time Management Tips:
Try to reply to and send emails in batches, perhaps at two or three points during the day. We can’t control when emails come in but we can control when they go out! Reading and/or responding to emails as they come in is a major time killer.
2. Shorter Phone Calls
A little personal chat at the start or end of a work call is a good thing – it keeps the relationship on a human level. But have you ever spent 10-15 minutes on a call that should take 3-5? It’s NOT rude to say ‘I don’t mean to be rude. However…..’
3. What’s Your Best Time?
When is your most productive time of the working day? Is it morning or evening? Whenever it is, focus your efforts then and you’ll get much more done. If you’re a lark, pre-9am is your key time. If you’re a night owl, it’s post-5pm.
4. Social Media
Is great fun! But we can get lost on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook for hours if we’re not careful. If you get too many updates to your phone or inbox, it’s very, very easy to get distracted. Like email, social media time should be in two or three blocks during the day (ideally sometime between 8.30-9am and 5-6pm when the likes of Linkedin is at its most active). Social media doesn’t need to be time-consuming – 10 minutes each day can be hugely effective.
Before you scream ‘But I work on my own!’, delegation isn’t just delegating to staff. It also includes outsourcing. If you’re spending 10 hours a month on something a supplier could take four hours to complete more effectively (such as your Accounts, of course!), it’s time to give them a call.
Perhaps the biggest time killer of the whole lot! Meetings ARE absolutely necessary for us all but we should do two things every time. First of all, make an honest assessment – is this meeting really necessary? If conversations can be had by phone – including conference calls – or email, a huge amount of time can be saved over the course of a year.
And secondly, if a meeting is scheduled for one hour, do everything in your power to keep it that way. If you’re running the meeting, it’s YOUR responsibility. And if you’re an attendee with a contribution to make, try to get in early so that – when possible – you can excuse yourself when the hour is up.
Try to be realistic about allocating time to follow-up after a meeting or event. Email is great for this as is social media. Ten years ago no-one connected on Linkedin after meeting for the first time. Now it’s commonplace and you have a method of quickly communicating with each other.
8. Home working
Can you work from home some of the time (perhaps you already do?)? Working from home takes out any commuting time and means that you can work longer hours to have a shorter overall day. It also means you don’t get dragged into other workplace conversations or meetings that you don’t really need to be involved in.
9. Set personal cut-off points
We (almost!) all work better when we have deadlines, so set yourself some deadlines of finishing by a certain time. Look at how productive we are in the run-in to a holiday. If we can do it then, we can do it again!
Andrew Smith runs Aberdeen’s online business community, the 2500+ member ABNCommunity.com and is a former Aberdeen Business Networker of the Year. To contact Andrew, request to connect with him on ABN (he’ll accept!)
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