By Kenneth Surbrugg, Business Consultant, Missouri Small Business Development Center at Missouri Southern State University
William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
There just never seems to be enough hours in the day, week, month, or year. I can’t be alone in feeling this way. Do you ever feel like that? You get up in the morning and everything is going well. You get to work and then the phone starts ringing, the emails start accumulating, the texts keep appearing, people start showing up, and before you know it, your day is out of control. The whirlwind has taken over and you feel as if there is no time to work on what you want (or need) to accomplish.
With fall just around the corner, and the fourth quarter starting before we realize it, now is as good a time as any to plan for getting control of your life by better organizing your time. In the chaotic world of business, trying to be effective can be somewhat challenging. We talk about trying to be more productive at work, but unless we utilize a time management system, we can end up wasting a great deal of time and accomplishing not much of anything. As Coach John Wooden once said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” So, don’t procrastinate. Be self-disciplined. Below are 7 + 1 tips to assist you with organizing your time and making your work day more productive.
- Utilize Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 Rule). Concentrate your efforts on doing important tasks first. Pareto’s Principle says that 80 percent of your effectiveness, or the good results of your actions, comes from 20 percent of your activities. It’s important to find out which 20 percent of your activities are really important, and to concentrate your efforts on these activities.
- Develop a great team by training employees and delegating responsibilities. Don’t waste your time thinking that an employee you trained today will try to find another job tomorrow. Train your employees well, and then delegate tasks to those who are trained to successfully do their jobs. Work with other employees in your firm to save time by helping each other be more productive.
- Write down your goals. Set weekly, monthly, and annual goals for your personal life as well as your work-related duties. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, time-bound, and realistic. Don’t discourage yourself by setting goals that you know you can’t meet by a specific date.
- Use a calendar or planner. I know individuals that use paper planners and others who use an app on their phone to organize their time. Do what will work for you and remember to keep it simple. Enter your appointments, meetings, and deadlines and check your calendar daily. Many companies have employees in each department share their calendars in systems like Outlook or Google so that they are aware of each other’s schedules when booking appointments and meetings.
- Make a daily to-do list. Each morning, sit down and create a list of what you think you can realistically accomplish during the day. Does your list follow your established goals? Do you have the items on your list also listed in your planner or calendar system? As you follow your to-do list, work on one activity at a time. Sometimes, multitasking results in lots of unfinished projects and clutter. Don’t procrastinate doing unpleasant tasks; just get them done. Like Mark Twain once said, “Eat that frog.”
- Organize and limit time spent on email. Check your email at designated times throughout the day. To better organize your email, set up folders for main subject areas and have rules set that automatically move emails into your subject areas.
- Organize your desk and your files. Clean out your desk, filing cabinets, and other storage by recycling outdated and useless paper files. Scan any important papers to convert them into digital files. Organize your computer files by setting up folders with names that you can easily identify and delete old computer files you no longer use. Back up your computer files on a regular basis to an external device or to the cloud.
- Learn when to say “no.” This is a hard one to follow. It is tempting to just say “yes” to a request or just do it yourself because you don’t trust someone else with the work. However, you can quickly burn out by filling up your plate with too many obligations. There is a time to say “yes,” but remember that there is also a time to say “no.”
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Time is money.” What was true centuries ago, is still true today. If you want to have a more profitable company, succeed at work, and be happier in your daily life, then be more productive by getting your priorities in order and spending your valuable time doing what is really important. Yes, Ben; time is money!