It is the year 2000 (the distant past) and a time when I was still finding my professional feet.
I found myself working in a business where the direction was rudderless at best and a place where sending you on a course seemed to be the solution to all the problems that management faced.
I went on pointless courses for just about everything, but I can still recall that the most pointless of all was that of the ‘time management’ course. Not that I think time management is pointless, otherwise that would render the rest of this blog pointless in itself. It was just that this particular time management course was a complete waste of time management in itself.
The two takeaways from the day was basically that we should all do a ‘to do list’ and we were all given a fancy Filofax (remember those?). But time management was always more to me than a to-do list and carrying around something akin to a leather bound phone book.
So with a further 13 years of work under my belt since that fateful time management course, I thought I would impart some of my own time management tips, that could save you the pain of sitting through a talk from Mr Foster (sorry Mr Foster).
Time Management: Meetings for meetings sake
Firstly is the meeting absolutely necessary? I used to work in a job where I could meet 10 to 20 suppliers on a weekly basis. Looking back I am certain that the majority of those meetings could have done over the phone.
Secondly it is vital to have an agenda for meetings. That may sound like a simple measure, but I’ve been in many a bun fight because the meeting isn’t chaired or doesn’t have a structure.
Put together an agenda of topics and circulate it before the meeting commences. That way there will hopefully be less time spent trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing and more time actually getting it done!
Time Management: Daily to-do lists
Without wanting to sound like Mr Foster here, I have always had a to-do list in my working life. As well as listing tasks that can be tackled on the day, I also include tasks that are more long term.
If you regimented, you could spend 5 minutes at the end of each day to write your tasks for the next day. Or, if you are like and your brain is nothing more than a jacket potato by 5:30pm, then first thing in the morning I believe is also acceptable!
The to-do list is also a great way to track your work and it can be much easier to give your manager an answer on what you’ve been up to, if it is detailed in black and white.
Time Management: Tracking deadlines
To-do lists are great for simple tasks, but for those long term projects it is best to use something like a calendar function on Outlook or Gmail. I use the monthly view on Outlook to track projects and colour code them to reflect the urgency of the deadline.
Of course there is always the desktop calendar or even the cumbersome Filofax, but surely an electronic solution here is going to be the best fit?
Time Management: Plan, plan, plan, plan
That sounds a bit like an old Monty Python song. Oh, sorry, back to the serious business of time management. I learnt very early on in my career the advantages of planning, especially when it comes to working on projects with myriad elements.
I’ve written nearly 300 recruitment blogs in the space of just over a year and planning those is quite simple. I will usually research a list of blog topics at the start of the week, including the importance of researching some Google adwords to ensure the piece is always keyword optimised.
When it comes to writing the piece itself, I always find that coming up with the section titles first and then filling in the blanks is usually the best method.
But when it comes to something more complicated such as a nationwide road show, that I organised a few years ago in a different role, I found that spending the time to detail every element was vital for the success of it.
Some people like gantt charts to ensure that everything is timed to perfection, personally I just write down a list of key dates and work around that.
Time Management: The curse of the email
Isn’t it a crying shame that we live in an age when a lunch time at the average office canteen is usually just a sea of people with their heads down, updating their social media status on the latest 4G device? What happened to people communicating face-to-face?
Unfortunately the same can also be said about the humble email. I’ve been guilty of sending an email to someone who sits less than 10 feet away, when I could, and perhaps should, have gone over and spoken to them face-to-face. And whilst an email is a great way of recording the things you have been asked to do, they take longer to put together than you think.
Even a telephone conversation can often be prove more productive and quicker than a chain of emails.
Never under estimate the importance of face-to-face interaction with your fellow worker. It will help create bonds and increase trust.