Time Management Tips and Tricks

Monday, July 28, 2014

By Donna Holm, CPA, MST, Tax Director, Harless & Associates

Do you ever wonder where the day has gone? Interruptions, phone calls, emails and before you know it, the day is over and you didn’t finish what you set out to do that day. Effective time management skills can be applied to your business and personal life to enable you to have better control over your life. It’s important to manage your time and to NOT let it manage you. As a result, stress levels are reduced and a positive attitude with a sense of accomplishment can be achieved.

Six Tips for Effectively Managing Your Time:

1. Be Organized

  • Use time saving tools: appointment calendars, "to do" lists, e-mail, answering machines, file folders, etc.
  • Have an organized workplace (don't waste time constantly looking for your work).
  • Use your appointment calendar for everything.

2. Plan Ahead (Schedule it and it will happen!)

  • Determine how long your tasks will take (do this before agreeing to take on a task!)
  • Consider whether any activities can be combined.
  • Determine if big tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks that may be easier to schedule.

3. Prioritize Your Tasks

  • Use an A-B-C rating system for items on your "to do" lists with A items being highest priority.
  • Set goals for both the short term and long term as to what you want to accomplish.
  • Look at all of your "to do"s to gauge the time requirement and whether additional resources will be needed to accomplish them (if yes, schedule time to obtain those resources). Don't postpone the small tasks.

4. Avoid Overload

  • Include time for rest, relaxation, sleep, eating, exercise, and socializing in your schedule.
  • Don't put everything off until the last minute. 
  • Learn to say "no" when appropriate and to negotiate better deadlines when appropriate.

5. Be Able to be Flexible

  • The unexpected happens, you need to be able to fit it into your schedule.
  • Know how to rearrange your schedule when necessary (it doesn't manage you-YOU manage it).
  • Know who to ask for help when needed.

6. Have a Vision (why are you doing all of this?)

  • Have and follow a personal mission statement (personal and career). (Are your activities ultimately helping you achieve your goals?)
  • Know what is important to you. What do you value most? Don’t forget the “big picture.”
  • Have a positive attitude!

Don’t forget to reward yourself when you have finished a big project, on time of course! 

Once some basic skills are understood, the question then becomes how to manage (and measure) your time. Do what works for you. Maybe it’s an old-fashioned written To Do List to check off as each task is completed. Technology can certainly lend a hand. After all, there’s an app for that!  Here a few that may help, not all-inclusive:

Rescue Time – A Browser Time Productivity Meter, this app will send you weekly reports to indicate your time thieves.

Remember the Milk - If you are struggling to manage everything you have to do and you work with many different devices, this app is for you. It is a great free tool which is compatible with your mobile, computer, gmail, outlook, etc. It helps you to manage your tasks easily and reminds you of them wherever you are.

Evernote - A free productivity tool that allows you to capture all your ideas, thoughts and images in many different ways- voice, notes or images. You can even record your meetings, interviews, speeches and ideas, create lists, add voice or text attachments and share your files. Sync Remember The Milk with Evernote to really optimize your time.

MyLifeOrganized - Check this out as an app for the iPhone if you find it difficult to manage all your tasks, to work with your to-do lists and to organize your goals. This task management system helps you to target what you should be focusing on to reach your objectives. It automatically generates to-do lists, with priority actions for your immediate attention so that you can track your progress methodically. 

Remember to Work Smarter, Not Harder! Now, what are you going to do with all that extra time in your day/week/month/year??