Timely Time Tricks
Time management is one of those things you can never learn enough about. All the little ideas often make a difference – and those little minutes add up quickly! If we were to save just 12 minutes of time per day, it equals one hour per week; four and half hours per month, and the equivalent of six working days by the end of the year! We will always be busy, and always need time management tricks, so here are just a few of my old tricks that are still important. Going back to the basics will definitely save you time!
1. Use a “slush” box – have a specific place to put all the papers, which are not important enough to file permanently, but which you feel uncomfortable throwing away just yet. Many people are afraid to throw things away! (and yes, this works for your virtual paper – email – as well).
Here’s how a slush file works: take an empty photocopier paper box, and put it under your desk. Every time you come across something that doesn’t have a real home, if you aren’t sure if you should keep it or not, or you are afraid you may need in the next couple of weeks, put it in this slush box. When this box is full (and it should take a while), place it in the bottom of a closet, or filing cabinet. Start with a new empty box under your desk. By the time the second box is full, the idea is that you “dump” the first one if you’ve never had to take anything out of it!
2. Avoid clutter. Keep everything you are not working on out of your immediate working area and out of sight, if possible. Always tidy up your desk and work area before leaving the office. A statistic I came across said the average “messy” person spent 1-½ hours per day looking for things! It’s incredible how quickly 2 or 3 minutes here and there add up. That 1-½ hours per day is 7 ½ hours per week! Over a full day each week wasting time looking for things. Take some time during the first week of the month and find a place for everything Even if it is on the top of your desk, make it organized! Take a little longer, and attach your name to the bottom of things like your stapler, desk calendar etc. Every once in a while one of those things will go missing, and it saves you a lot of time to find your own if your name is on it.
3. Plan each night what you are going to wear the next day, and lay it out ahead of time. As childish as this sounds (and even sometimes feels), it will make a big difference. I used to do the same for my kids when they were smaller. It avoided any last minute arguments about not wearing that outfit. I still take my clothes right into the bathroom the night before. It saves me time every morning, guaranteed.
4. Rewrite and reprioritize your goals and activities at least every three months. The world changes, our job changes, we change, and so must our goals. This assumes, of course, that you have written goals somewhere that you can re-examine. If you don’t have a specific goal, how on earth can you be happy with what you have? Society sets far too many expectations for us to realistically complete. Ignore society, figure out what you want, and then plan to get it (or keep it!).
5. Don’t impose your perfectionism on other people. It is frustrating for them, and time-consuming for you. Remember when you were a child, and your mother re-did something you were proud of (like making your bed)? How did that make you feel? When we need things done a certain way (like folding towels, cutting the grass, using a specific font etc.) we not only create far more work for ourselves (because others won’t do things your way), we are also increasing our stress levels. Save time and stress, and let others do things their own way. As long as things get done – does it matter?
6. Purge your files – annually. You will be able to find needed items quicker and it will save on storage costs. We keep so much electronic information that I’m amazed that I need to even put this on the list! However, many of you are still very fond of the paper backup. Get rid of the garbage (physical and virtual)!
7. Stand up while on the telephone. Your conversations will be shorter. We tend to do this at home or when on the cell phone, so why not at work?
8. Try to avoid being placed on hold on the telephone. It takes less time to call back. In my “Caring for Customers” workshop, I tell people to always control the outbound calls. Don’t give others your number and have them call you at their convenience. Call them at yours! Plus, if you are good about returning calls, people will consider this approach an extra-added touch. You look good and you save time!
9. Divide seemingly overwhelming tasks into small tasks and attack them one at a time. It’s that timeless issue: “How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.” Sometimes projects are far to big to handle, and we never get enough to time to even start them, let alone finish. You will never find an uninterrupted block of 8 hours to do the budget – yet your may find 16 separate chunks of 30 minutes if you look for them.
10. Remember in any organizing process, things often feel worse before they feel better. Resist the temptation to pile everything up again and have a cup of coffee. Keep going, keep positive and focus on what you have done as opposed to what you still need to do.
Time management isn’t easy. It takes time. But the basics will always get you back ON THE RIGHT TRACK so you can feel in control again.