It’s all in the timing

I used to work with this chap John who was forever whisking frenetically up and down the office like a demented wasp. You could never pin him down to talk shop and if you managed to corner him in his office, he’d pick up the phone and start speaking into it in that ‘buy, buy, sell, sell’ sort of way that infers: “Don’t interrupt me, this is crucial”.

Eventually, the boss cottoned on to the fact that the draft John made was nothing but hot air and gave him his marching orders. In John’s case, his faked activity was a ‘can’t do this job’ facade. Happily, after months of avoidance tactics, ‘the boot’ gave him enforced impetus to find an occupation better suited to his skills set in.

Productive or busy getting nowhere?

Many successful people thrive on intense activity and it’s true that you won’t get far unless you’re willing to work hard. However, juggling the right things and juggling lots of things are very different and can help or hinder your progress respectively.

While time management and organisation don’t come naturally to me, experience has taught me that I can achieve better results if I pay attention to a few useful rules. You’re probably aware of them, but if you don’t apply them in practice, take it from someone who’s innately discipline-resistant, they work:

Stop the rot

Review your habits. Is the format of your day efficient? People often stick to ineffective working patters even if they have an underlying idea that things could be improved. For example, in a Radio 4 programme ‘Slowcoach’, which followed the lives of self-confessed busyaholics, an MD took the advice of a life coach and decided to switch off his email for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.

At the start of the experiment, he was resistant to the idea because he was convinced that his customers expected immediate attention. However, he soon found that, while there were no cries of complaint (his clients didn’t even notice), this seemingly small change resulted in wide-reaching benefits including more time to address crucial business areas from strategy to staff development. Ironically, his wife had been suggesting the same sort of changes for years, but, as most of us recognise, it sometimes takes an objective opinion to help us realise and let go of limiting beliefs and actions.

Make a daily list of priorities. Differentiate between ‘must do today’, ‘must do at another time’, ‘someone else can do’ and ‘could do but actually don’t need to’ – then, be merciless at re-organising, delegating and dropping tasks accordingly.

Work out optimum timing for you. For example, I am most creative and focused in the morning so, where possible, try to put off easy/boring/administrative tasks that don’t take much brainpower until after lunch.

Be pro-active. Many people, especially if they are overseeing or involved in a broad span of functions and decisions, become re-active, i.e., they complete whatever comes their way rather than take a few seconds to ‘filter’ at ‘contact’ stage. This often causes them to work unnecessarily long hours and means that key productive/creative time is spent on mundane tasks rather than on the most important ones that will truly contribute to performance and results.

Self-impose deadlines. Ask yourself what value you’ll get from spending that extra hour on a piece of work and what else will suffer if you do this. This doesn’t mean that you let standards slip but that you learn to assess the level of quality needed and let go when you’ve achieved this.

Be decisive. If you’re procrastinating, get to the route of why this is happening – research, gain information, assess, decide and take action.

Be assertive. Learn to say ‘no’. Explain why you can’t drop everything now and schedule activities when convenient.

While it’s unrealistic to expect your schedule to run to the nearest millisecond, becoming more time efficient will ultimately help you increase your productivity and your ability to react quickly to unexpected events that need urgent attention. Who knows? You may even create more time to spend outside the office having fun – remember that?!

Helping to improve your efficiency

If you’d like help with time management and organisation including training courses and written information for company materials such as newsletters and updates, contact us.

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