1. Don’t let yourself be driven up the wall
We live in a complex and volatile world. Everyone is always available and has big dreams and wild ambitions. We work through our bucket lists, we want a fantastic career and, in our private life, we want to be happy twenty-four hours a day.
But guess what? Don’t let yourself be driven up the wall!
If you concentrate too much on all the things you don’t have, then you’re at a high risk of running into a brick wall, in your private life and at work.
That’s why you should concentrate on the things you do have and aim for realistic and healthy ambitious goals. This promotes serenity and focus.
2. Use the 80/20 rule to your advantage
The 80/20 rule, also known as the ‘Pareto principle’, states that 20% of causes will account for 80% of results for many aspects in life.
Applied to the business world, that translates as follows: most people spend 80% of their time achieving 20% of the results and 20% of their time achieving 80% of the results.
In other words, there’s a mountain of ‘waste’, something that the supporters of ‘lean’ (and most people who simply want to work more efficiently) rightly want to avoid.
In the future, make sure that you are involved as much as possible with tasks that are urgent and with which you can achieve tangible results in a short time. Use the 80/20 rule to your advantage.
3. Eat that frog: start with the annoying tasks!
Those who have read Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat that frog‘ will already know this: make sure that you always carry out the day’s most annoying and/or important tasks in the morning.
That will avoid you having these annoying issues at the back (or front) of your mind all day. It creates serenity and therefore also focus for the rest of the day.
4. Always leave some space in your diary
As we all know, things don’t always go according to plan. So, always leave some space in your diary. Otherwise, you won’t give yourself any alternative ways to tackle unforeseen issues. Being ‘busy’ 100% of the time doesn’t mean that you’re also 100% effective.
Therefore, make sure that you set priorities well and leave space in your diary to deal with unforeseen issues (or plan time later). This will allow you to keep your schedule on an even track. Serenity and focus, remember?
5. Be SMART
When you start on a task or make arrangements, make sure that the goals or outcomes for everyone involved are ‘SMART’:
Otherwise, you run the risk that one of the parties makes other proposals and consequently extra work is needed to achieve a result that everyone’s satisfied with.
That extra work takes extra time, energy and money. The best course of action is therefore to first make ‘SMART’ arrangements, before starting with the implementation of a project. In other words: “Look before you leap.” Some old sayings remain true to this day.
6. Protect yourself
The above principles are obviously useless if you let yourself be interrupted all day long by e-mails, phone calls, WhatsApp messages and colleagues.
These distractions can really upset your schedule. Your serenity goes, your focus goes and your energy goes. The results go up in smoke.
Make sure you work with respect for yourself (and your diary) and with respect for your colleagues, instructing parties, customers, etc. who need your help:
- If you have no respect for yourself, but only for the people around you, then you may well be nodding ‘yes’ too often and neglecting your own diary and appointments.
- If you only have respect for yourself, but none for the needs of the people around you, you won’t make many friends. So that’s not a good option either.
- If you have no respect for yourself or for the needs of the people around you, you’ll quickly end up in a manipulative situation. That’s something you obviously want to avoid as well.
- If you have respect for yourself and for the needs of the people around you, then you can be ‘healthily assertive’ and maintain proper control over your diary and appointments.
Let’s do it! But how?
7. Be healthily assertive and respect your diary
Finally, some tips on being ‘healthily assertive’ and respecting your diary and appointments:
No means no
If you tell your colleagues that you can’t help them (at the moment), stick to your words. Otherwise, your colleagues will know in the future that they can always twist your ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ after enough insistence.
No means yes actually
If your colleagues keep insisting, you can also tell them that you can’t help them at the moment (because otherwise you won’t be able to do your own tasks and/or tasks for other colleagues), but that you can help them at another time, such as the day after tomorrow. This is a nice middle way that won’t wreak havoc with your schedule.
0, 1 and 2
You can also say: “I can’t solve your problem completely at the moment, but I can give you some quick pointers right now, then more detailed help on Friday.” Another nice middle way.
The broken record
If colleagues keep insisting that you listen to their urgent questions while you’re busy, your best approach is to continually refuse using the same words and intonation.
This avoids confrontation and allows you to respect your diary. Everybody will realise that you don’t have time right now. That is an objective fact, not an emotional decision.
Bonus tip: don’t try to change too much at once
Finally: changing behaviour demands conscious efforts on your part. That takes time, energy and a lot of repetition. Therefore, don’t try to change too much at once. Instead, always concentrate on one or two working points.
Only when these working points become routine, can you choose a next working point. Don’t run before you can walk, otherwise you will again become agitated and frustrated (because you don’t achieve the hoped-for results) and lose focus.
One step at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Effective time management is becoming increasingly important. Otherwise, your life will be dominated by your phone, e-mails and WhatsApp messages and you’ll get less and less done.
That results in agitation, stress, negative assessments and other unpleasant consequences, while serenity and focus usually lead to the best results and peace of mind.
Are you interested or do you have questions?
Do you have questions, tips or suggestions about time management or would you like to attend a Pauwels Consulting Academy session on time management? Céline, our learning and development coordinator, will be delighted to help you. You can also reach her by calling +32 9 276 31 43 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article was based on a Pauwels Consulting Academy session on time management, provided by Luc Keppens from T&C Training & Consultancy.