Over the years, many people have told me I’m good at managing time. The focus of this week’s article is to share with you some best practices I use, which might be of help to you. One never should be the hero of their own story, so I’d also like to give you a glimpse into my past shortcomings, which my wife and (now adult) children would gladly reminisce for you.
First and foremost, it’s the realization we actually cannot manage time — that’s a dichotomy. Time marches on and waits for no one. At best, we can manage our highest priorities.
There are different strategies on when to hit hardest on those highest priorities within the work day. I’m an early-morning person, and my energy is at its highest first thing. So, if I have a task I really need to concentrate on, I carve out time in my schedule to do it early in the morning, before the cares of the day carry me away.
I prioritize my task list for the day, and at the top is the word “commitments.” You see, if I’ve made a promise that something would be done for someone else on a certain day at a specific time, that must be at the top of my list. As a young employee, I was taught that my word was my bond and so, if I made a promise, it’d better be done.
I use alarms throughout the day to help ensure I’m ready to wrap up one task and move on, for example, to a scheduled video conference. I’ve had a number of clients tell me that one of the reasons we won their business was because we were where we needed to be, when we needed to be there, and we always did what we said, by when we said we would.
Woody Allen once said, “90% of success is showing up,” and I’d add two words to Woody’s: “on time.”
When I take a phone call, I stand up. I’ve found that it helps me stay focused and it expedites the call. When I sense we’re done, I’ll ask the other person(s), “Is there anything else we need to discuss?” That alone has been a big time-saver. If I am dealing with wordy people, I’ll politely interrupt and summarize back what they’ve said. Most wordy people are that way because they feel misunderstood. By summarizing back, they know you get what they’re saying and their verbosity reduces.
I don’t live in my inbox. I manage email and don’t let it manage me. I will close email down when I am working on other tasks. I prefix the titles of my emails with “Info,” “Action” or, very rarely, “Urgent Action” with the red exclamation point. I choose not to have my email come to my phone. I have an empty inbox every day.
If someone interrupts me in the office and says those universally inefficient words, “Do you have a minute?” I’ll ask how long they really need. If it is a quick one and I’m not in deep concentration on another task, I’ll roll with their request but hold them to the minute (or so). If it needs more time, we’ll schedule time to visit.
My failings in the area of time management, which became corrections I had to make, can be best summarized in this quote from Mark Buchanan, a professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu:
“Generous people have more time. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. There is, of course, a place for wise management of our days and weeks and years. But management can quickly turn into rigidity. We hold time so tight we crush it, like a flower closed in a fist. We thought we were protecting it, but all we did was destroy it.”
What I had to learn over time was when it comes to people, slow is fast and fast is slow — especially in marriage and the raising of children. Taking time to listen is much more effective than trying to be efficient with loved ones on a tough issue.
I believe time management is vitally necessary during the working day, to ensure we have enough hours and energy, to do what we really want to do, with the people we really work for.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]