Effective Time Management

Bev CouzensStandard

Ever notice that some senior managers confidently fulfil their daily responsibilities and successfully take on additional projects, tasks and meetings without breaking a sweat? Unlike most senior executives, who sometimes feel over-stressed and over-worked, these execs take work in their stride. They remain calm, collected and highly  effective, no matter what the day throws at them. 

Not you? Don’t panic. In this blog, we’ll go through three top tips for maximising  effectiveness so we can give these executives a run for their money. 

  1. Steal Time Back from the Time Thieves

If we’re always available at the drop of a hat for team members to ask questions of us, interrupt us and re-direct our attention, we’ll get very little done in a day. Everyone’s ‘quick questions’ add up to a lot of time every week that we could’ve been devoting to other, more important things. 

This applies to e-interactions as well as face-to-face ones. How many hours a week do we spend tending to our email? For most people the time really adds up. So too, if we attend to emails in the order they were received, we can end up dealing with tasks in a random order, rather than in order of priority, minimising efficiency.

We can combat these effects with strategies such as:

  • Working in a separate space: Fact is, if we’re working in an open plan office at all times, we send out signals that we’re available for interruption at any time. Taking ourselves away from that space can be instrumental in our team members resolving questions or problems on their own in the first instance, only approaching us with matters of greater importance. 
  • Identify high, middle and low priority challenges: Our team members need to be able to identify which tasks, questions and challenges are worth disturbing you about. We can do this by making a list of tasks of different priority and the action we’d like team members to take in different cases to help preserve our time for only the most important interruptions.
  • Having an ‘office hour’: We can take control of the situation by giving our team members specific times at which we are happy to talk with them and deal with any middle and low-priority challenges they are facing. When and how often we makes ourselves available to our team will be a personal choice, so we need to think carefully about when the best time of day will be for each of us. Recently, a client shared with me that by adopting this strategy she estimates she is saving 5 hours of interruptions a week.
  • Managing email effectively: Several  strategies can help us to reduce the amount of strain placed on us by our email inboxes. We can set our email programme to automatically archive certain messages, e.g. newsletters, into folders for future reference so they don’t clog our inbox. We can create templated emails for messages we find ourselves sending frequently so that we don’t have to start from scratch each time. We can prioritise 20% of emails that contain important, business-critical information, archiving the other 80% either into a folder marked ‘respond to by date XXX’ or not to be responded to at all. We can also reduce the amount of emails we receive by being clear with our team members which emails we should and should not be copied into. And, at the very least, we should turn off the sound and visual notification that an email has just arrived, so that we control when we check our mail throughout the day.

All of these tips can reduce the amount of time we spend dealing with email by a critical margin. 

  1. Say Goodbye to Multi-tasking 

Doing more than one thing at a time sounds like an effective strategy to improve productivity. After all, we’re using the same 60 minutes to do two things rather than taking two hours to do both tasks consecutively, right? Wrong! 

When we attempt to multitask, our brains are, in fact, switching from one task to another and back again and back again very quickly. It’s as mentally taxing as it sounds. According to a Stanford University study, heavy “multi-tasking” is associated with long-term effects on our working memory and attention spans, which can cause us to underperform. And because of the extra time it takes for our brains to turn off the neurons associated with one task and reinvigorate the neurons associated with another, we necessarily take longer to perform two tasks when we try to do them both at once, than if we do them consecutively. 

So, those two things we were doing for 60 minutes may have each taken just 25 minutes of our undivided attention. Add that up over the course of a single eight hour day spent multitasking and we’ll free up an extra 40 minutes. Over the course of a five day working week, that means saving over three hours of our time, and over the course of a single year, it’s an extra 140 hours we can spend on other important things.   Focuses the mind!

To avoid multi-tasking, we can turn off email notifications or Wi-Fi, open only one document on our computer at a time and put devices like mobile phones on silent or out of our reach, encouraging us to focus on one thing at a time and maximising our productivity. 

  1. Delegate Tasks Appropriately

According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey, small business owners spend an average of seven hours a week dealing with low value tasks that could easily have been dealt with by someone else on staff. Often, we’ve got to where we are because we are driven, proactive individuals who want things to be done right. This can make it difficult for us to allow other people to take the reins. 

Businesses truly thrive when business owners learn to delegate tasks to other team members, ensuring they have the appropriate skills and training to do a good job. This frees up our time to focus on business-critical tasks, driving our businesses forwards and enabling us to take on more work than we could handle on our own.

         For example, working with a coaching client recently, this person recognised that by delegating the running of a key meeting, the Executive has been able to save 1 hour a day.  This has allowed the Executive to concentrate on more strategic issues for the business.  His comment – “I’ve been running this meeting for 4 years – I can’t believe I haven’t delegated this before!”  An hour a day amounts to 5 hours a week, or (assuming holidays) around 30 days a year!

In order to expand, we need to delegate work appropriately to other team members. If we’re not confident team members will do the job well enough, we need to train existing employees up to standard or hire others with greater skill sets that we are confident delegating to. It’s one of the  areas which the most successful executives excel in.

Find Out More About Building Time Management Skills

If you or your team members need help building time management skills to maximise efficiency, get in touch. Our executive coaching programmes teach business leaders how to take control of their workloads and maximise productivity, so they can be like those calm and collected, successful executives we encountered at the start. 

We also run regular Masterclasses on Effective Time Management, so for just half an hour of your time, you can learn more and have a toolkit you can apply immediately on leaving the room.

To find out more, simply call 01594 564803 or email bevcouzenseec@gmail.com.