Life is very busy and it seems that there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything we would like to, right? You have your job, your children, your church, your charities, soccer games, and the list goes on and on. I, myself, for example, currently serve on 13 various Boards and committees on top of those directly associated with the day to day operations of my job. I attend a lot of meetings and still keep up with my house, my yard, my dog, my friends, my health and my family – does this sound familiar?
A business owner recently asked me how I manage to get everything done and if I could offer any tips on time management and completing tasks efficiently – so I thought that perhaps this is a topic that others may like to hear about as well. These are the tips and tricks that I use, they may not work for everyone but I have found them very effective.
In my opinion, the most important attribute of efficacy is organization. I find that keeping a list of everything I need to do assures that I don’t “drop the ball”; I jot down every little task that needs completed. If I’m in the middle of something and receive a phone call asking me to write a letter, for example, I add it to the list so I don’t forget because I may have 10 more things to do before I actually get that email sent and I don’t want to forget any one of them in the shuffle. Ideally, I would take care of the email at that very moment but that is not always possible.
My ‘to-do’ list is an all-inclusive, dynamic document, with items being added from a variety of origins. There may be member requests, phone calls, emails, walk-ins, tasks that need to be completed weekly, monthly or annually or tasks that I acquire at meetings. I star items that I need to accomplish at the top of the agenda for each meeting and those items are then moved to my ‘to-do’ list. I take 5 to 10 minutes each day to update my list and make sure that everything from the last meeting attended has been added. I then color code the list as tasks get finished or delegated out. In my case, pink means that it is completed, yellow means that I have turned it over to someone else in my office and green means that I have done due diligence and “the ball is now in the other parties’ court”. This method is very effective because I can quickly glance at the list and see what is still “untouched” – those are the things I try to tackle first each day.
Another way I stay organized is that I try to clean out my email in-box every day. I read my emails, tend to all imminent issues, add the others to my ‘to-do’ list and then move that email to a folder or delete it. I apply this same concept to postal mail; I open it, put bills in one pile, checks in one pile, requests in another, etc. I enter all of the bills in to QuickBooks and then file them in a “Bills to pay” folder so I can easily pay them at the end of each week; the checks are also entered in to QuickBooks and entered into a “Receivables” folder so they can easily be deposited each week and everything else is tended to almost immediately; this keeps my physical in-box cleaned out as well. This concept applies to my voice mail box too – I return calls, add items to my list or otherwise handlethe matter and delete those messages too – the less clutter, the more organized I feel.
If there is a large project coming up, I keep more than one list; I have my “master to-do” list but may also have a shopping list, a packing list or a variety of other lists as well. I don’t want to boggle my mind trying to remember all of those types of details so I put them on paper and free up my mind for more productive thoughts.
Another beneficial attribute of efficiency is your ability to save time. Continually look for ways to save time by cutting down or eliminating the major time wasters from your life at work or home. Only then will you have enough time to work on the goals that are central to your success and happiness. Stay focused.
Another tip I would give is to be sure to schedule time for yourself – I block out my vacation time at the beginning of each year to ensure that I don’t schedule anything during those times; it is critical to your well-being and your productivity to be able to recharge occasionally – you will only increase your effectiveness by decompressing and coming back rejuvenated.
Different methods will work for different people and we would love to hear any tips that increase your level of productivity. Please send any suggestions that you would like to share and we will communicate them to our members! Now, back to work!