Let’s face it – there’s never enough time to get everything done that we plan to do. It’s necessary to be smarter and sometimes a bit strategic to find ways to manage our business life better. Indeed, it’s often the most organised and disciplined people with a career mindset who get ahead in their working lives rather than treading water. Therefore, it certainly pays to get your time management, and everything connected to it, in order.
Accordingly, the following are seven tips to help executives stay on top of their workday.
1. Advance Planning Saves The Day
Have you ever gotten halfway through your business day and wondered where the day went? Usually, when this happens, it’s not because you got ‘into a flow state’, but it has more to do with losing so much time on mundane tasks that little purposeful was achieved.
Instead, what you want to do is either plan your day in the last half hour of the previous business day, or do so as the first task next morning. If necessary, get in early before the hustle and bustle of the office heats up and you keep getting interrupted.
Once you know what you have planned for the day, at least you start knowing what your plan of action is.
2. Set Aside Time For Deep Work
Cal Newport coined the term, Deep Work, and his book of the same name focuses on the value of having quiet time to get important tasks completed without interruptions.
The publication of his book was timely, as it was when the number of distractions for the average executive became intolerable. Trying to get anything serious done which requires total concentration has become difficult, especially for people in more senior positions with a greater level of responsibility.
3. Knowing the Value Of Turning People Down
As a manager or a director, there’s only a finite amount of time in the average workday. For many executives in the UK, they’re taking work home with them, catching up with emails during coffee breaks, and they rarely seem to stop to take a breath.
To avoid burning out by taking too much work on, it’s necessary to master the art of saying, “No, thank you” or just “No”.
Sometimes, it’s tough to do so if the person is more senior to you. In which case, you may need to explain what you have on your plate, how long it will take to complete, and when you can schedule in time to work on their task. Given the delay until you can get to it, the person may choose to complete it themselves or delegate it to someone else.
4. Getting the Right Tools To Get Ahead
You may have reached an invisible ceiling on how far you can progress with your employer. Indeed, it’s possible you’ve switched more than once to a new employer and still haven’t successfully moved up significantly. Rest assured; you’re probably not imagining it.
The issue could well be because you’re lacking in a master’s level degree like an MBA, and this is the sticking point to being more seriously considered for higher positions. It’s worth pointing out that while people learn many new things on this type of degree, time management skills are just as valuable as ever. Indeed, as an online student taking a degree, they’re juggling time pretty well.
To help with this problem, Aston University Online has provided some tips of their own for time management, which their students no doubt rely upon to get through the coursework while holding down a job.
5. Manage Email Like A Boss
It goes without saying that the average executive at most businesses will lose over an hour each day wrestling with email. This tends not to work too well.
Instead, here are some quick thoughts on email control:
- Write shorter emails that answer or address points briefly.
- Set aside time to process email in batches at fixed times between periods of deep work.
- Consider handling non-essential emails the following day (you’ll know how many there are to process based on the email date).
- Use Boomerang to get emails out of your inbox and resent at a fixed time (it can return to your inbox several hours later on a schedule).
Above all, find a system that works for you where you can batch process email. Separate the urgent emails and people whom you should respond to soonest from those who can’t wait until the next time you’re set to go through your inbox.
6. Get Tiny Tasks Out the Way Immediately
Unless you’re already involved in something detailed, when a small two-minute task crops up, skip adding it to your To-Do list. It’s already too packed!
Just set about taking the action necessary to get the tasks completed right away.
7. Avoid Getting Hung Up on Non-Specific Tasks
When managing your time, don’t get stuck with items on your To Do list which never get completed.
Why Does This Happen?
It occurs because some tasks are not really tasks at all; instead, they’re vague ideas or suggestions like, “Find a way to sort out the Maintenance backlog” which doesn’t provide enough specificity to it.
As a result, it requires thinking time to figure out what exactly is the next action to take on this item? Even projects with multiple steps need to be broken down into action items to prevent inertia.
Only once you’ve got a To-Do list filled with next actions can you prevent tasks moving in and taking up residence.
Effective time management isn’t a fixed subject with only a few ideas; it evolves as business does, with some techniques no longer being efficient, and others coming into favour for the first time. It’s important when new ideas or apps crop up to ensure they’re ready for “prime time”. Otherwise, you risk wasting time trying out endless new approaches instead of refining what’s already working for you.