I. Speaker’s Notes: This training session is designed to help you make better use of your valuable time. The session will focus on practical techniques and information that you can start using right away, today, to gain more control over your busy schedule. We will cover everything from planning, to prioritizing, to delegating, to controlling the people who control your time. We’ll talk about how to deal more efficiently with meetings, phones, paperwork, interruptions, and emergencies without letting them sidetrack you and sabotage your schedule.
I. Speaker’s Notes: First, we’ll talk about potential ways to waste time to help you identify your personal hit list. Next, we’ll discuss the many ways you can organize your workday more efficiently so that you have time for all the things you need to accomplish. Then, we’ll suggest ways to avoid getting sidetracked and keeping to your schedule, despite meetings, paperwork, interruptions, and the inevitable unexpected situations that demand your time. Finally, we’ll wrap up the training session with a summary and a personal time management audit to help you find out exactly where you need to take tighter control of your time.
We can manage time. We cannot manage time. Nor can we save it. Time ticks away relentlessly in spite of our efforts to control it. We are provided with 24 hours of time each day to use as we like. The key is in how we use that time. We can use it wisely, or we can waste it, but we can never save it. At the end of the day, it’s gone. Time management involves getting more done in less time. Some people may believe that, but effective time management refers to getting done fewer things of greater importance. We cannot possibly do everything we want to do, or all the things there are to do. But if we prioritize what there is to do, and focus on completing the priorities to the exclusion of everything else, we will be more effective. People need a Franklin Planner or PDA (or some other time management system) to get organized. People are not organized because they use a time management system; they use a time management system because they are organized. Personal organization involves breaking old habits and forming new, effective ones. It is a state of mind as opposed to a state of the office. Some people are more organized using a 65-cent steno pad than others are using a 65-dollar organizer. The biggest time wasters include telephone interruptions, visitors, meetings and rush jobs. These are not time wasters, they are time obligations — they come with the job. The biggest time wasters are self-imposed, such as procrastination, making mental notes, interrupting ourselves, searching for things, perfectionism, and spending time on trivial tasks. We are our own worst enemies. Being effective involves managing ourselves, not placing the blame on others. It’s more efficient to stick to one task until it’s completed. It may be more efficient, but it’s not more effective, for seldom will you have time to finish it. It’s more effective to break large projects into small one or two-hour chunks and work at them for a brief period each day. Working on priorities involves frequent brief sprints, not occasional marathons. Time is money. Time is more than money, it’s life. You can always get more money, but you can never get more time. It’s an irreplaceable resource. When time’s gone, you’re gone.
I. Speaker’s Notes: Most of us spend our days reacting to other people’s demands instead of directing how our time will be spent. It’s a struggle to find quiet, uninterrupted time for planning and catching up on our own work. And so we end up taking work home or staying late after our employees have gone home. Too often we spend our time meeting short-term commitments—putting out fires—rather than working on long-term goals. Our days are filled with activity, but nothing really worthwhile seems to be accomplished. The time-wasting effects of inadequate preparation—not planning ahead—can be seen in a long meeting where nothing is accomplished, employees working overtime to meet tight deadlines, production on hold because one critical aspect of the job wasn’t ready, and so on. Excessive attention to detail also needlessly eats up valuable time. Of course, everyone wants things to be done right. Quality performance is essential. But striving for perfection that can never really be achieved—and isn’t really required to maintain quality standards—leaves little time for the really important things. People who try to do everything themselves are wasting their own time. They’re also wasting other people’s time by not letting them grow in their jobs through added responsibility.
I. Speaker’s Notes: Minimizing time wasters and gaining control over your time begins with effective planning. The minutes or hours you spend planning before you act can later turn into days or weeks of time saved. The first step in planning is to take a few minutes each morning to make a list of all the tasks you have to accomplish that day. Some people like to draw up this list the night before so that they can jump right into things in the morning. At the beginning of each week, create an expanded list that includes all the essential tasks and activities that must be completed for the week. This list would include deadlines for short-term projects, scheduled meetings and appointments, paperwork deadlines, and so forth. At the beginning of each month, draw up a master list for that month. Some of you may need to expand this monthly list to a quarterly or even an annual one, depending on your responsibilities and the time frames of your projects. This will give you a broader perspective of your schedule and allow you to plan your time well in advance to include due dates for long-term projects, recordkeeping deadlines, training schedules, and so forth. Be sure to update your lists each morning, adding new tasks and responsibilities and crossing off jobs that have been completed.
I. Speaker’s Notes: The most efficient way to construct daily, weekly, and monthly activity lists is to write them directly onto a large desk or wall calendar in your office. Then, transfer this information into a pocket organizer that you can carry with you at all times. Be sure to choose an organizer that has in addition to the appointment calendar a section for names, phone numbers, and E-mail addresses of all the people you may need to keep in touch with on a daily basis. When new commitments arise and you are out of the office, you can jot them down in your organizer, being sure to avoid scheduling conflicts. When you return to the office, be sure to transfer this new information to your master calendar. It may seem as though you are spending a lot of time keeping lists and calendars. But this is all time well spent. It will help you organize your responsibilities in a logical, achievable sequence and avoid scheduling conflicts.
I. Speaker’s Notes: In order to prioritize tasks effectively, you have to have clear goals in mind first. A lot of time is wasted when people put effort into activities that don’t directly relate to achieving desired goals. Defining goals requires first determining the desired end result. What exactly do you need to achieve? Short-term objectives are the means of achieving goals. They are the steps that must be taken to successfully arrive at a goal. They must be clearly stated and organized in a realistic sequence. As you work toward your goals, realize that you will need to adjust your objectives as conditions change. If conditions change significantly, you may also need to redefine your goals.
What point was the leader trying to prove? In the middle of a seminar on time management, recalls Stephen Covey in his book First Things First, the lecturer said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” Reaching under the table, he pulled out a wide mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table next to a platter covered with fist-sized rocks. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked the audience. After the students made their guesses, the seminar leader said, “Okay, let’s find out.” He put one rock in the jar, then another, then another—until no more rocks would fit. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everybody could see that not one more of the rocks would fit, so they said, “Yes.” “ Not so fast,” he cautioned. From under the table he lifted out a bucket of gravel, dumped it in the jar, and shook it. The gravel slid into all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Grinning, the seminar leader asked once more, “Is the jar full?” A little wiser by now, the students responded, “Probably not.” “ Good,” the teacher said. Then he reached under the table to bring up a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar. While the students watched, the sand filled in the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more he looked at the class and said, “Now, is the jar full?” “ No,” everyone shouted back. “ Good!” said the seminar leader, who then grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar. He got something like a quart of water into that jar before he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the jar is now full. Can anybody tell me the lesson you can learn from this? What’s my point?” What point was the leader trying to prove? An eager participant spoke up: “Well, there are gaps in your schedule. And if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.” “No,” the leader said. “That’s not the point. The point is this: if I hadn’t put those big rocks in first, I would never have gotten them in.” In both our business and personal lives, we have big rocks, gravel, sand and water. The natural tendency seems to favor the latter three elements, leaving little space for the big rocks. In an effort to respond to the urgent, the important is sometimes set aside. What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? A large project? Spending time with your family? Your health? Your finances? Your faith? Your personal development? Your dreams?
I. Speaker’s Notes: Organizing your tasks and responsibilities into a prioritized sequence on a daily basis is essential to help you avoid scattering your energies and ending up the day with vital tasks that have been left undone. Each day, rank your tasks and commitments you’ve listed on your calendar in order of importance. You can do this simply by placing numbered tasks—one being the most important, and so on. But perhaps the most effective method is to assign a priority letter to each task. “ A” stands for must-do tasks with the highest priority. “ B” tasks are important and worthwhile, but if for some reason they cannot be accomplished that day, there will not be a crisis. Finally, “C” tasks can wait until you have the time to do them. Be strict with yourself about assigning priorities. Don’t fall into the trap of making everything a top-priority item. Remember, too, that “B” and “C” tasks may eventually become “A” tasks tomorrow or next week. When prioritizing, build in time for the unexpected—things that may arise and outrank items on your list. Adjust your prioritized list accordingly. Be sure to allow sufficient time in the day for planning, thinking, making decisions, solving problems—things that only you can do. Don’t fill your list with so many high-priority items that you have no time for these important aspects of your job. Remain flexible. As the day progresses, you may want to reassign priorities. A change in plans, orders from your boss, or reconsideration may lead you to move some items up and some items down the scale. Accept the fact that you probably won’t finish all the tasks you’ve assigned yourself each day. Consider it a successful day if you are able to accomplish most of the “A” items on your list. Remember to roll over uncompleted items to tomorrow’s list and reprioritize.
I. Speaker’s Notes: The best time for planning, problem-solving, writing reports, making essential phone calls, and so on, is your prime time. This may be the time when you have the most energy—for example, first thing in the morning when you’re rested and before the day starts to get busy. Your prime time may also be the time of day when there are fewest interruptions—for example, a half hour or so at the end of the business day, when employees have gone home and the phones have stopped ringing. Or it might be at any other time of the day when you can schedule some private time and find a quiet place to work without interruptions or the demands of your other responsibilities—lunch time, for example. Whenever your personal prime time is, it is important to identify this time of day and block it off to accomplish your most pressing tasks for the day.
I. Speaker’s Notes: Putting things off is a trap we all fall into to some degree at some time or another. But this just ends up putting more pressure on your already busy schedule. The first step in dealing with the tendency to procrastinate is to break the job up into smaller parts. This makes the task appear less overwhelming. You don’t have to do the whole job at once; you only need to handle it a piece at a time. Beginning with the easiest parts of the job helps get you started. Each little bit you accomplish is a step in the right direction. Accomplishment leads to a feeling of fulfillment, and this gives you the energy and encouragement to persevere. Once the easy parts are done, it’s time to face the hard or unpleasant tasks squarely. Just do it! as the saying goes. Accept the fact that now is as good a time as any to get this part of the job done. Timing yourself is a little trick that can help. Tell yourself that you’ll work on the task for at least 10 or 15 minutes, and then you can quit. You may well find that you’ll want to go on once you’ve started, but even if you don’t, you’ll feel satisfied about getting a good start. Finally, reward yourself for a job well done as each piece of the task is completed. Switch to something you enjoy doing. It may sound silly, but reward plays a subtle but powerful role in motivating you to persevere and get the job done.
Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/spitzgogo/286917522/ I. Speaker’s Notes: Whenever possible, let voice mail pick up your calls or ask an employee to screen calls for you. If you use voice mail, check it every so often. You can return urgent calls right away. The others can wait until you have a break in your schedule. When you do answer the phone and you are in the middle of something, lead the other person politely but firmly to the point of the call. When you feel the matter is concluded and the person keeps talking, say that you’re sorry but you’re busy and have to go. When you’re making calls, pick the time that the person you’re calling is most likely to be in so that you won’t have to waste time calling later. Jot down the key points you want to discuss beforehand so that you can get right to the point. If the person you need to speak to isn’t available, leave a message indicating the best time to reach you. This way you can pick a time when the call won’t be an interruption in your schedule. E-mail is an efficient way to communicate with people because you don’t have to be there to receive the message, incoming messages don’t disturb you when you are there, and you get to respond when you have time.
I. Speaker’s Notes: Except for the most dire emergencies, most unexpected problems can wait a little while. Resist the temptation to drop everything and run to put out a fire. Try to finish what you’re doing first, give yourself some time to think about an appropriate response, and then take action to handle the problem. Spend only as much time as necessary on emergencies. Once the situation is under control, try to delegate the details to experienced employees. Use your time for following up and developing plans to anticipate and avoid such problems in the future. Finally, return to your established schedule as soon as possible. Go back to your daily to-do list and pick up right where you left off. Try not to let unexpected events throw a monkey wrench into your whole day. Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92275476@N00/186423676/
Feeling Stressed Out? Inhale Slowly Picture yourself near a stream. Exhale Slowly Birds are softly chirping in the crisp cool mountain air. Inhale Slowly Nothing can bother you here. No one knows your secret place. Exhale Slowly You are in total seclusion from &quot;the world outside.&quot; Inhale Slowly The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity. Exhale Slowly The water is cool and crystal clear. Inhale Slowly You can easily make out the thing you're holding under the water. Exhale Slowly Oh, look! It's the thing who caused you all this stress in the first place. Inhale Slowly My! What a pleasant surprise! You let it up...but just for a quick breath...then Plop!! Back under the water they go... Exhale Slowly While you're waiting for it to go away for ever, allow yourself as many deep breaths as you want. There now.......feeling better???