I’ll admit it. I don’t really get what’s so hard about time management. Maybe I’m jealous of David Allen, the Getting Things Done guy who makes millions helping people get better at.
But I don’t think that’s it.
I think it’s that time management seems to be a smokescreen for other kinds of problems. When people say time management, the problem is really something else, something more specific. Like these: Problems with assertiveness, problems with setting priorities, problems with transitions.
These kinds of problems can be fixed without reading another book or taking a course.
Here are 6 strategies that really work.
1. Take A Nap. Quite a few of my CEO clients close the door and take naps some days. Just short ones. When they wake up they’re refreshed.
Recent research has suggested that sleep can help you think more clearly and creatively, have better long-term memory and preserve important memories. Most people are least productive during the hours of noon to 6 pm. As my friend T mentions, it’s no wonder that pilots take naps during flights while their colleagues are flying.
You may not have the luxury of a nap , but you can give yourself some time to clear your mind and relax.
If my day gets bogged down and I start feeling overwhelmed, I go out, take a walk. At the head offices of one of my clients, people hide in the toilets. They told me it was the only place they could relax. Find the place that works for you, even if it’s the toilet.
Don’t stay chained to your desk all day and night. There are no chains there unless you put them there.
2. Get In The Office Early. Even a half hour helps. You can get a lot of work done without anyone else around. I hate to do work at night. I’d rather have a glass of wine or talk with H.
2. Schedule Everything You Can. A colleague wants to discuss a project with you on Tuesday afternoon. Schedule the time specifically including the ending time and the place. It cuts in to your productivity when someone just drops by when you are doing something else.
This includes phone calls. When someone says “call anytime on Tuesday”, I reply with a specific time. They write it down and so do I. And we’re both ready.
3, Just Say No. Scheduling everything doesn’t mean you have do everything. You can’t do everything. You can’t meet everyone. There are some assignments, meetings and tasks that you’d be better off not doing. Don’t volunteer for more work when you’re already overwhelmed. Seems so obvious but it’s a hard lesson for some people to learn. Especially if you confuse getting more assignments with popularity. [As in, “they really like me at work, I keep on getting new assignments.”]
4. Schedule Yourself Like A Therapist. Give Yourself Transition Time. You have meetings back to back? Stop it. Schedule meetings with 10 minutes in between, like a therapist.
Therapists book their appointments to start on the hour. But the hour they schedule is a 50 minute hour. The session that starts at 2 o’clock ends at 2:50, not at 3:00. This allows time for a trip to the toilet, telephone and most importantly the “letting go” of the finished session and mental preparation for the next one.
We all need transition time at work. We can’t go directly from a marketing meeting to a meeting on finance without first clearing our minds and doing the mental prep for the next meeting.
5. Don’t Gossip. It’s a big time waster. You feel better in the moment–maybe. But soon after, you begin to feel revengeful, exhausted or guilty. Friendships and relationships based on gossip have a pretty weak foundation. And you know who others will gossip about when you’re not there.