It's time to save time….

Again I’ve seemed to have slipped out of the blog writing for a while, so I thought I would write a very appropriate post about time management. Yesterday my company made us all go to a time management course, at first I was a bit suspicious thinking they would just say stop pissing about and get on with it (which is fair enough), but I actually came out of the course quite surprised and inspired to make some changes =)

Without this sounding like a “poor me I’m so busy” rant I’ll give you a quick summary. I’m a single mother with a 3 year old daughter, work full time as Head of Search, do some freelance work on the side, do photography projects, run this blog (with the other chicks), and also occasionally have a social life….BUT my point is that no matter how busy you are, in fact the more busy you are, the more time there is to be “saved”. Organising yourself, and your time can not only save you time but save you a lot of stress. I know for a fact that what I spend the most time on is stressing about all the things I need to do, not actually doing it! Procrastination damn it, why do we do it?

So here are some tips on how to gain some “lady minutes” back:

The ever increasing to do list
If you are anything like me you will have 101 to do lists, I make them in spreadsheets, in my calendar task list, post it notes…you name it! It’s pretty obvious but sticking to one program and doing just 1 to do list, will you time! But even when you have 1 to-do-list it’s sometimes difficult to priorities. What is actually urgent? What can wait until tomorrow?

How about dividing your to-do-list into the following categories:

1. Must Do’s: What can not wait, and needs action taken straight away. This would be things like your boss saying “be in my office in 5 min or else”, or “if you don’t phone this client now
2. Should Do’s: What you should do as it will become a must do pretty quickly if you don’t do it now. The fact is most of your work should come into this category, if you deal with it when it should be done, it won’t get to the urgent stage. That’s logic I know, but for some reason it was still a bit of a “aha” moment when the course speaker said this =)
3. Could Do’s: this is the stuff that you can do if you have time left at the end of the day. The bitty little things, unfortunately this is the kind of time wasting stuff that you end up doing first, it only takes a minute right? Much easier than the BIG strategy document that needs to be written, or the 200 pages website that needs content optimisation…mwaaa..
4. Do do’s: ha ha it’s no category called that, just wanted to say do do…come on..have you not seen the episode of friends where Chandler says “do do” in an interview…

Stop Procrastination
– Do the “nasty” tasks first! Getting the difficult things out of the way first dramatically improves the day and makes everything seem easier. Again that’s logic.
– Give it 5 min! You know when you go to the gym, erm…who am I kidding, I NEVER go to the gym! But, I used to do kickboxing and although I really enjoyed it when I got going I was always thinking of other things I could do instead. But when I did go and was 5 min into it, I felt pretty good about it, not to mention how great I felt afterwards. I actually moved about for an hour, and kicked ass! Wohoo…Same applies to work, when you get into it, it’s not that hard, it’s just the start that blows..

Don’t always turn to email – it might actually take you longer
Now I’m an email slave, I even email my poor junior SEO that sits next to me. Now is that really necessary? The other day I had a client that couldn’t view their web analytics report, it showed no stats. We kept on emailing back and forth for a whole day!! Then I finally called her and the problem was fixed in less than 5 min! Jeese, what a waste of time the emailing was. Sometimes talking to someone on the phone can save you time, after all it’s difficult to get everything across in an email. And sometimes actually meeting someone in person might be even better, I find that after meeting a client face to face it’s much easier to understand them and know what they actually want later. Is that very female?

Spring clean your desk
Have you ever looked for something and found yourself distracted by a random article on your desk about “how a Flash programmer/designer finally admitted flash isn’t always necessary”???, nah? neither have I. But the point is that storing a lot of crap on your desk can be bad, really it can! How about going through all the documents and files on your desk and ask yourself the following questions:

– Would I pay 5 (ehm..that’s $10) for this, if not, chuck it!
– When did I last use it? Is it more than a year ago? Will you be likely to need it again? No? Chuck it!

Uninterrupted Time
Sometimes it’s just impossible to get some time to get on with your work, people interrupt me all the time to ask question, request meetings etc. I did try writing a post-it-note and stuck it on my forehead saying “Fuck off I’m working”, but it didn’t go down very well. Sometimes you need time to think about a project, planning or simply getting on with it. That’s difficult if you keep on being interrupted. Don’t feel guilty about needing time to think. Go to a quiet part of the office, maybe even a cafe with WiFi access (I love it when they have free WiFi).

Delegate if you can
One of my big problems is that I’m terrible at delegating, I always think it will be quicker if I do it myself. I have only been managing people for just under a year, it’s quite hard getting out of the habit of just doing it, and actually evaluating whether this is something that someone else could be doing. But when you do delegate it’s important to let the other party exactly what you are expecting from them. Be clear what you want the end result to be and not only what they need to do! Give the person room to do it their own way but be clear that you need the end result to be this and this.

Listen to your body clock
I’m one of these disgustingly chirpy people in the morning, I work best in the morning and work much more efficiently in the morning than late afternoon. So it make sense for me to arrange important meetings in the morning and early afternoon and not 4 o’clock when all I can really do is “no brain needed” type of work. Listen to your body clock and arrange “heavy task” work and meetings for a time that you are at your best.

Just do it!
All this is probably logic to most people, but I am surprised at how many of these “logic” things I don’t do! So I’m hoping by doing some of the above; I will save some time, improve my efficiency and become a fabulous manager. It might also give me a brighter smile, a knight in shining armour and a calm inner peace….

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