Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin
Whether you are climbing the corporate ladder or are an ambitious entrepreneur, the way you manage your time is the key to your success. If you keep missing deadline, are late in submitting reports, feel overly tired, or simply cannot cope with work, there may be a chance that you fail to manage your time correctly.
Are you like this?
• You believe you could not get so many things done if it were not for all the interruptions.
• You keep blaming others but yourself for all your unfinished tasks.
If you feel you are buried with so many responsibilities, it is time you learn to use your time effectively. Try some of these tips:
• Understand how you spend your time.
Keep a diary of how you spend your time in fifteen minute segments. At the end of the day, assess if what you did per segment is the most productive. Do this for one week so you can have a better idea of your work routine.
• Make a ‘to-do’ list.
Prioritize or highlight tasks that need quick attention. Make a timeline as to when each task must be addressed. Consider not only the importance but also the urgency of the job. Make sure you finish your work from the order of the most prioritized to the lowest priority. Post your to-do-list on a conspicuous place, so you will always be reminded on what you have to do.
• Delay other activities unless your priorities are done.
You could waste your entire day doing activities that have little impact. I know of one entrepreneur who spent most of her time in the warehouse arranging stocks when her company’s sales were fast declining. She neglected to address the more critical problem, and soon her company became bankrupt.
• Have your receptionist screen calls.
Give a list of callers who you have identified as “must be replied to quickly,” “call may be returned within the day,” and “may be asked to just leave a message.” It helps if you buy a portable phone which you can use wherever you are in the office. You may also buy a speaker phone, as this allows you to attend to your calls while you are doing something else.
• Return calls at a certain time.
Be prepared. If it is a sales call, make sure you have your product information and price list on hand. Keep calls short and direct.
• Clear clutter from your desk.
Unless this is what it takes to keep your boss from dumping more work on your table, put your paperwork in their proper places as soon as you process them. It wastes so much time if you have to look for missing papers.
• Learn to delegate.
This is the ultimate time saver, and if you are a manager, you must always be on the lookout for tasks that may be delegated. This is a double-edged sword, however, and one must be prepared to handle the risks if a subordinate is unable to perform.
• Have a schedule for opening emails.
Check no more than twice a day: in the morning after you have taken care of the more urgent maters, and in the afternoon, around one hour before leaving so that you have enough time to properly compose – and review – a reply. Answer what needs to be answered, and trash emails that you think are junk. Do not leave email unanswered as you will surely waste time getting back to them later. Answer and be done with it. Do not procrastinate.
• Identify time wasters.
Avoid pursuing prospects you probably cannot sell to, or paying too much attention to low-yield prospects. Internally, you can check if a traditional meeting is still relevant or it has outlived its usefulness.
• Learn to say “No.”
If others delegate more tasks to you, politely reject the proposition. You may state that you are currently working on a project, and will probably be free on a certain date.
• Use your free time wisely.
Reduce your time catching up on gossip. You may read personal email during coffee breaks or read trade books or magazines related to your work.
• Invest time in taking care of your health.
Nothing can consume as much time and create as many expenses as a major illness. Do not skip your scheduled checkups. Exercise regularly; it not only will make you healthier but it will also give you additional energy to do more work.
Making effective use of your time is not easy at first. Lifelong habits are hard to break and sometimes everything seems urgent. Nevertheless, as you keep on sharpening your time management skills, eventually you will overcome the inertia. With more time on your hands, not only will you succeed in your career, but you can also spend more quality time with your family.
(All rights reserved. Copyright by Manila Bulletin and Ruben P. Anlacan, Jr. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)