It seems every professional is busier than ever – much of it due to staff cuts and organisations expecting more from their employees. But it is possible to manage your time more effectively so you can be more productive even when you think you have less time and more to do!
So here are my favourite time management techniques that will help you make better use of your time:
In my experience people fall into 2 categories when it comes to lists – those who hate lists and those who love to make a list at every opportunity. Whatever camp you fall in to it is important – if you want to effectively manage your time – to make to-do lists. That means daily or weekly to-do’s and long-term to-do’s for managing your own tasks and your team’s tasks.
Every weekday morning I like to make my daily/weekly to do list on paper in a special notebook I keep for that purpose. It is a cheap notebook with perforated pages that can be easily torn out and binned (or should I say recycled) daily or weekly, depending on what tasks I am working on at any given time. You could equally use a task management tool if you prefer.
As the tasks on the to-do list will vary in importance and priority I long ago learnt that I also need a long-term list of those tasks I will (eventually) get around to but for which there is currently no pressing need. Nevertheless I don’t want to forget about them. So, if I find an item on my short-term list that is low priority I will transfer it to my long-term list, particularly if it has been hanging around for a while with no progress being made.
So, at the start of each day I should know what I expect to achieve by the end of that day or (if I am working on some longer tasks, which I often am) by the end of the week.
This daily agenda provides you with a good idea of what you should achieve during the day so will help you plan your time. Of course, days don’t always run smoothly but the following morning you can reassess the situation for a new day.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
No project manager can function effectively without delegating tasks and responsibilities, but you do need to be clear about what delegating really means and ensure you have the right delegation skills yourself – it doesn’t mean handing over a task to someone else on the project team and then micro-managing their every move and telling them what to do and how to do it every step of the way. That is not delegating.
What is delegating is ensuring the person to whom tasks are assigned has the skills, experience and resources to carry out the task. If not, then they do initially need to be shown or even trained in the skills they need.
Once your team have the necessary skills to complete tasks that you might once have done then you need to trust them to do just that. The advantages are well worth it – no longer will all the pressure and responsibility be on your shoulders alone, which can free up your time for other more pressing matters.
Remember, if you don’t delegate tasks to your team they could start to believe that you don’t trust them and value their skills which could lead to a lack of motivation amongst them and every project manager’s aim should be to build a motivated project team.
These are just a few ways to become better at time management – there are many more effective time management strategies, but the important first step is to commit to improvement and get started – it’s not as hard as you might think.