There is no challenge in the professional world more prolific than that of our overstuffed work days. In his recent article for Forbes, Peter Bregman, author of the bestselling time management book, 18 Minutes, points out that “we start every day knowing we are not going to get it all done. So how we spend our time is a key strategic decision.” Here are 5 time management tips for improved productivity and sales effectiveness:
1. Start with a Daily Plan. Take a few minutes at the start of every day (even before you dive into email) to consider what will make this day productive and successful. Bregman writes, “By taking a strategic step back, you can set priorities for your day and determine what will make your precious time most rewarding.”
2. Put it on the Calendar. Take those most important things you just identified, write them down, and then schedule them into time slots. “There’s a tremendous amount of evidence that…if you really want to do something, you have to decide when and where you will do it,” writes Bregman, asserting that making a list or having a vague sense of intent is not deliberate enough.
3. Tackle Hardest, Disliked Items First. Procrastination is among the most detrimental time management flaws and is often prompted by tasks we dislike. Make it a rule that you cannot dive into other tasks until you have finished the dreaded task (like when your mom made you eat your vegetables before you could have dessert). Tackle them early in the day when you are fresh and have more energy.
4. Learn to Say “No.” The work may be infinite, but our time is not. Learn to distinguish between urgent and important tasks, and then give important tasks the priority (see Start with a Daily Plan). Use this insight to guide which requests you will accommodate (and in what time frame) and which you will decline.
5. Review and Refocus. Every hour or two, stop for a moment to assess whether you spent your last hour (or two) productively. Identify where you made the most progress and where you wasted time, and utilize that insight moving forward. If you have drifted off task, these mental check-ins will prompt you to refocus on your strategic goals of the day.
There are many different ways to address time management, but if you don’t really understand why time management is important, even the best tips and tools won’t help. Time management isn’t just about time; its true objective is to focus your time on the most important, high impact activities as a means of maximizing your effectiveness and overall success.