Saturday, 10 May 2008
The best way to approach this is to record how your time is spent over a period of say a week (and be as accurate as possible - not necessarily what goes on your timesheet) you can see where your time is going and critically see if your time is being used on the higher priority tasks. It is often found that the lower priority tasks have crept into the available time, and or you are assisting someone else with their tasks and it has taken longer than the 'can you do this for me won't take a minute' implies. Try the free time tracking / timesheet at www.pillaritservices.com.
If you review this log of your time, you can:
1) Identify jobs that you should not be doing and re-assign or remove them.
2) Improve your scheduling of the highest priority tasks
3) Reduce the time you spend on personal activities, possibly by grouping them together to minimize time away from your desk.
4) Improve your estimates of task durations
Looking at this list in more detail, you are probably doing at least some jobs that are not really part of your job, often because it seems simpler to complete the task without referring to another person. If say you choose to revise text in a report given to you for review, it just means you will continually have this job to do in the future. Spending time passing on your critique of the work and explaining why the changes should be made mean the situation will be completely removed in the future. Saving time for both yourself and the person whose work you were reviewing. Obviously, if you are delegating a task it is worth ensuring you make some time to monitor it's completion, although hopefully that can be phased out at the next review of your time.
You may also spend considerable time assisting other people with their tasks, whilst it is great to have assistance and have the favor returned, you must review how much time this is taking from your key tasks.
Scheduling high priority tasks when you are most able to complete them with your full focus stops them turning into tasks you need to fire fight later. Friday afternoon is rarely a time when the key report for a client presentation should be started.
Vital for your planning and time management is the ability to accurately assess how long a task will take. This review of your progress will gradually, without even directly checking, improve your ability to do this. Clearly if project planning is a major part of your tasks it pays dividends to explore this in more detail, but that is not covered in this report.
It is important that once you have completed this task you return to step 2 to identify the task that you really need to do, re-prioritize and continue the cycle refining and improving your management of time.
My final point is to ensure you remember to celebrate the tasks and goals you have achieved. It keeps you focused and ensures you achieving results not just hard at work.
Monday, 5 May 2008
Firstly we must revise the task list. Once your current task list is complete, consider how, what and when of your tasks. Specifically how and what you use to complete a task, plus when you do it. Are you doing this in the best way?
Clearly this should be more of a consideration where the task is a higher priority. You could try re-organizing a long working lunch into a short conference call, to focus and improve the task. However, simple adjustments, such as eating breakfast when you get to work to allow you to get through the traffic earlier, can make big gains. It is also possible to combine some tasks such as listening to an audio book / language cd whilst driving. There are now a large amount of MP3 and pod casts available for enhancing your career or simply relaxing. This can enhance how you complete tasks (and make them more interesting).
If possible, estimate how much time you think your tasks will take; give a rough estimate, ensuring that you over estimate where the duration is not clear or the task is new. You may be able to get an estimate of how long existing tasks take you from your timesheet software. Don't worry if you are not sure. This exercise, combined with step 4 (reviewing your progress) can gradually improve your estimating without any real effort.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Everyone can benefit from managing their time, the first step to implementing this and gaining the benefits, is to create a list of tasks you need to complete. This was covered in detail in Easy Time Management - Step One. Here we discuss the second key stage of prioritizing your tasks and the options available to make this task simple.
A variety of different methods exist to prioritize the tasks you wish to complete. Depending on your situation and what you need to achieve you may select a complex or simple approach to the job. Moreover you can combine these methods to further refine the priorities. The key goal of the prioritization of your tasks is to focus your effort on achieving results rather than just being busy.
The following methods can be considered when prioritizing your tasks:
1) ABC analysis
This consists of analyzing your set of activities and grouping these tasks into A, B and C groups. It can include more than three groups. Importantly for this to enhance your time management you need to assign some targets/restrictions for those groups. For example A must be completed within a week, B within the month, C within the year. Further refinement of the method can split the groups into A-1, A-2 groups again with assigned targets.
2) Pareto Analysis (80/20 grouping)
80 percent of the tasks can be completed in 20% of the time. Hence assign a higher priority to the 80 grouping.
3) The Eisenhower Method
All tasks are reviewed and put into the following groupings:
Tasks that are Important are completed personally; if also urgent they are completed immediately. Otherwise, they are given an end date by which they must be completed.
Tasks that are unimportant are delegated; if also not urgent then they are dropped completely.
The teal trust has a slightly different version of this - you can find them easily on google. See the time management section of their website. They see the Important/Urgent section as a fire fighting tasks and the important/not urgent tasks as key tasks. They suggest that the key aim should be to maximise the time spent on such 'Quality Time' tasks and allocate time when you are feeling your best to focus on such tasks, the theory is that many fire fighting tasks result from completing them when you are not at your peak and make mistakes or you have been distracted by a lower priority task.
4) The Fit Method
This really is just the application of current resources to the prioritization of the tasks you have. Tasks that fit with the available resources at the time are given precedence. If you have 30 minutes available, it is best to do something that can be completed in that time with the resources available.
How can you select a method?
The choice of prioritization method is really down to the best fit for you. The great thing here is you can try them all or even devise your own method. Personally I recommend a refinement of the ABC analysis method for most situations.
You may find it easier to prioritize your tasks if you set out some goals for yourself. It is important to have selected goals in all areas of your life (not just say work) this is to ensure that you are aligning the task's importance with your personal goals not just those of the business.
Setting your goals is a topic not covered in this article, but you can ensure you have appropriate goals by using the SMART criteria - Essentially making sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and timely.
Many people would end their time management at this step. However, once you are prioritizing your tasks and are comfortable with the method you have chosen then you need to start some assessment to review the tasks you have completed over a set period. The Easy Time Management articles cover both revision and progress review in the next post in this series Easy Time Management - Maximise Returns.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Step 1 – Identifying your tasks
The simplest approach to this step is identifying the tasks in a task list or ‘to-do’ list. These can simply be crossed off when completed. There is a vast array of methods of doing this; often the best are usually basic options such as a notepad or white board. However, if you need to manage many complex tasks, many software programmes now exist to hold your task list and allow you to assign priority to them and define them in more detail, with a hierarchy of sub-tasks. These can be part of a timesheet suite or dedicated software.
A key part of identifying the tasks is to select any which you regularly put off or delay. These either need to be divided into sub tasks to allow you to complete the tasks in achievable chunks, or reviewed to identify why you put them off. Often recording the positive benefits of having completed the task will help to get it completed.
Similarly, lengthy tasks with distant deadlines need to be broken into smaller tasks to ensure that they are not overlooked and you can see progress on a weekly or monthly basis.
When considering the list of tasks, those you regularly complete need only be recorded when they are of a significant importance. Most routine tasks can be discarded, particularly if you complete them daily.
It is also important to remove tasks that realistically you will never complete; otherwise the progress will be making will be hidden by the constant presence of these unachievable tasks.
Finally, try to include a task you like to complete on a weekly basis, possibly the last task for the week. This can be a good driver to complete your task, even those you are not looking forward to doing.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Everyone can benefit from managing their time, and in most cases you probably are doing at least a little time management already. If you use to-do lists or enter time sheets regularly you will have some time management knowledge already. Adding a little more focus and effort can realise the full potential of this skill. Even if you are new to time management, it is a simple skill to learn, but one which can bring you huge benefits.
What is time management? I define it as
Management of priories to maximise the goals achieved given the requirements and resources available.
You are not really managing your time but ensuring you achieve as many of your tasks with the resources you have. Of course a key finite resource out of those available to you is time.
A frequent goal for time management is productivity and this can be given a significant boost with these practices. However, time management can be used to improve many other things such as your work-home balance.
Managing your time can bring the following benefits.
- Increased Efficiency
- Increased Effectiveness
- Personal Development
- Increased responsibility
- Reduce Stress
- Empower colleagues
Ultimately time management can be used to improve your life and even that of your colleagues and friends.
If you want to manage your time you have already made the first step, consciously deciding to manage your time and revisiting this every few months, can have an enormous positive impact in the way you live.I'm going to cover the four steps which can bring you all these benefits and then more tips and tricks to make time work for you.