Sunday, May 9, 2010

Forget Time Management

The American Heritage Dictionary defines management as: “The act, manner, or practice of managing, handling, supervision or control.”

Webster’s New American Unabridged Dictionary defines manage as: “To take charge or care of; to dominate or influence; to handle, direct, govern or control in action or use.

The reality is that you cannot manage, supervise, dominate, influence, direct, govern or control time. There are 60 seconds in every minute. There are 60 minutes in every hour. There are 24 hours in every day. My day, your day and every day. Time marches forward unrelenting and unstoppable. To think you can manage time is simply foolish.

What you can manage is yourself and your energy. How you structure your day makes all the difference. Are you organized in thoughts and your actions? The more you bounce from one thought to another and from one activity to another the less productive you become. You need to establish some routine to your day(s).

Do you check and react to every email as they arrive in your inbox. I’ve told my staff that e-mail is for non-urgent communication. If they need something immediately they should pick up the phone and call. I check work email first thing in the morning, before lunch, early afternoon and before I leave the office. To keep e-mail from interrupting my day I keep Outlook reduced on my computer screen and my computer sound off.

Do you make/use lists? I make a short list of tasks I need to complete each morning. And before I leave the office I make a note/list of where to start the following morning. This system allows me to keep moving forward on projects, but also frees up my mind to think of other things. Once I write them down I do not have to keep concentrating on remembering.

Do you group similar tasks together? For example you may have invoices that need to be reviewed and approved, you may have personnel performance reviews to audit, and you may have reports to read and analyze. All can be combined into one focused session at your desk. Another example – Keep a running list of phone calls you need to make and/or return. Pick a time to sit down and go through the list top to bottom. By grouping similar tasks together you immediately become more efficient.

Speaking of efficiency - Do you strive to touch each piece of paper only once? Once you open an envelope or pick a piece of paper up from your in-box take care of it right then and there. Moving paper from pile to pile around your desk, cubical or office is a tremendously unproductive habit. By focusing on and changing this one behavior you will greatly increase your personal productivity.

How does your energy level change throughout the day? Does your energy seem to slip away mid-afternoon? If so you likely need to change your lunch habits. A burger and fries or other heavy lunch does nothing to provide for your afternoon energy needs. And that mid afternoon vending machine pick-me-up is even worse. The short term sugar rush is followed by an energy crash. What you need to do is eat a sensible low-fat lunch and keep a healthy snack on hand for the afternoon. A handful of walnuts for example is a great afternoon snack. They refuel the body without the crash an hour or two later.

Regular exercise also helps regulate your daily energy levels. If you are physically fit you’ll find your natural energy levels will be more than enough to meet the demands of even your most hectic day. A strong heart and body are natural fatigue fighters.

Stop looking at the clock and wishing for more time. You cannot slow the pace of time, but you can make yourself more organized, energized, and productive throughout each day.

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