Time Management Tips -- 3 Quick Tricks to
Improve Performance and Productivity
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
1. Make an appointment with yourself
Use an appointment book to plan your day's activities, even if you don't have appointments per se. Call the appointments "meetings" if it makes more sense. For some reason, people respect time-set delimited "appointments" much more than a "to-do" list. Not only will you respect a set-time, but also others will respect it if you say "I have an appointment at 10" or "I have a meeting at 10." Keep affirming to yourself that these appointments or meetings are real and valid. They are.
(Extra tip: If you need to have something done by three o'clock and it takes an hour to do it, make an appointment or set a "meeting" with yourself at one o'clock to start work. Give yourself twice as much time as you think it will take if you are "last minute," because it always takes longer than you think and interruptions always can arise.)
2. Keep a time log (personal timesheet)
Keep a detailed running record of your tasks, time and activities while you are engaged in them and as you finish them. Include phone calls, breaks, personal conversations, absolutely everything you do. Obtain samples of timesheets used in your organization or other organizations or on the web and design one that fits you. Use it for all activities, work and personal.
Many professionals are required to keep time sheets for billing purposes, but they are useful for so much more. Having a running record of how you are using your time is invaluable in showing yourself how you are actually spending your time, where the congestion points are, where the waste is, when you are most productive, what are the interruptions that you can reduce or eliminate, and more.
Even better, keeping a time log is motivational: even if no one sees it but you, it has the effect of a "report card." When you put something in writing it becomes more real and believable. You are more likely to do something about what you see in writing. It doesn't matter if you go manual or digital with this, but I do recommend that you get a print out if you go digital, because it's good record-keeping in case you ever need proof of what you were doing and when -- for instance, in a performance review.
3. Post a task list, but only three items at a time.
Make them your highest priority items and don't do anything else until they are all crossed off. Use taped notes or Post-it® notes because they are more prominent and noticeable than on-screen and it is satisfying and stress relieving to be able to crumple them up and trash them when you're finished.
Make sure that the items on the list are sufficiently small that they can be done in one day at most. Break down big jobs into components that can be easily handled. Don't write "Save the world;" instead break it down into the subtask "find a low-carbon-emissions car" or "get a bus schedule to start commuting."