Tuesday, 12 May 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS - May is Marvellous (Time) Management Month AKA 3 Reasons why this feature is late...

Hello and welcome to this rather delayed #TuesdayTRIOS ...sorry, I won't hide the fact that I am a week late with the feature this month, but honestly, I was juggling so many balls last week I kind of lost track of time, especially after the long weekend. On the other hand this actually gave me the inspiration to dedicate May's #TuesdayTRIOS to the apparently simple art of Time Management!

We all like to think that we are smart and know how to work 'smart'. But are we really that effective? The fact that we have all been on many time management courses does not actually mean that we fully master the art of being productive. Well, at least I talk for myself! So when I realised that the 'correct' Tuesday had quietly but irreparably slipped away and I would have had to wait a week until I could publish the feature I started to think about why and what had caused me to 'forget' and 'delay' this piece. I have captured three main reasons under the heading of time management which I would like to share with you as you may find them useful.

#1  To flow or not to flow?

I enjoy what I do so much, even if I sound cheesy, it is true! Because I enjoy what I do, I probably take on too much. I get excited about new ideas. I want to pursue opportunities. I want to write and talk and mentor and train all in the same week (or day, sometimes!). I want to chat to people, network and feedback.I also want to deliver excellent services to my clients. Some days I am lucky and I seem to find available hours as if by magic. Some days I cannot and I end up with one or two of the proverbial juggling balls on the floor. This is in itself very interesting, because it means that some days I am so totally in flow, so totally absorbed, concentrated and envrapped in my work that I am capable of completing titan-like activities. How therefore do I ensure that more days are like this, where my focus and drive are 100% there, 100% of the time?
Certainly one of the secrets is in eliminating distractions around me (of which last week I had plenty). For example emails, phones, access to social media channels. If I must remember one thing is to schedule these activities at specific times of the days, so that I can complete them effectively and without feeling guilty about it! And if I must, I need to put my phone and my tablet somewhere high up on a book-shelf or perhaps even in my work bag in a different room so that I cannot reach out to them quickly when I need to be focussed on something else. There are also many tasks that need doing. As well as deciding where they fit in the so-called urgent/important matrix (which of the following 4 criteria does the task actually fulfill : URGENT /not important ; IMPORTANT - not urgent; URGENT - IMPORTANT, NOT urgent - NOT important?) it is often very helpful to think of your own level of productivity throughout the day, to find out when you should best complete them. For example, if you are a morning person, you are more likely to be focussed and in flow in the first few hours of the day and that is when you should complete important + urgent activities. I try to leave email and social media to the early afternoon hours as this is when I am more likely to experience some energy loss and I need something to feel good about.  Also, we know that some activities always require more time than we plan for (for example with me, writing blogs!) so we need to ensure we have an adequate amount of contingency time build in just in case!

#2 Profit v. Pleasure

Let's face it, we all tend to do first what we like and enjoy, secondly what we feel we must do, even though what we must do might actually have a higher return on onvestment (indeed,cash!). I believe that there must be space for both things in a day, even better if you can marry the two! Prioritising activities is important in this context, which can be done by assigning activities according to the matrix described above.But simpler to do lists with tasks numbered according to priority also work well. The trick here in my experence is not to be too hard on yourself. If you know that the number one task tomorrow is something you would rather postpone, make sure you reward yourself for being so disciplined by undertaking something you love immediately after...this may include grabbing a nice cappuccino or going for a refreshing 15 minutes walk in the park, or both!

Another tool I find helpful is to ensure that  I have clear objectives and milestones set up for the week, the month and the year. They all need to allign with each other as part of my business plan and it gives me tremendous satisfaction and motivation when at the end of the week I can see that my activities are getting me closer to achieve what I set out to do for the month or the year. If you do not have these objectives clearly laid out go do it now as they are critical to your success at work and in life!

#3 Silence that ego!

If you are reading this, chances are you are a small entrepreneur, a manager in an organisation, a professional person. Like me, you enjoy what you do and have a tendency to do it all yourself for the usual reasons..'I can do it better, faster, more effectively'. Well. Guess what, NO you cannot... That is why this feature is late! Even if the temptation is to do it all yourself, even if you think you will be faster or better at it, do not fall into this trap and call upon others to help...empower others to come up with ideas or complete tasks, delegate activities from which they can learn, share bigger projects or simply call for the help of experts/mentors/advisors. If the finances do not allow it, be creative as there are many ways to circumvent a budget type constraint... students, graduates, placements, traineeship, virtual assistants, retired professionals and the likes all come with bags of enthusiasm and a smaller bill attached!

Always remind yourself of what you do best and stick with it. However good at multi-tasking one might be, it is simply best to do what you do best! If necessary complete a personal SWOT analysis to remind yourself of your strenghts and weaknesses and ensure you focus on the former when it comes to completing work. You can use this analysis to plan for future activities too, to see what you should do yourself and what you can plan to delegate/outsource to others right from the beginning.

Last but not least - if you keep on postponing a task, why is that? What is about that task you find so hard to embrace? The reason for procrastination may well reside in something more complex than 'time-management' and it may well be far more 'deep-rooted'. First however you need to recognise it and that in itself can be a daunting prospect. ...to be discussed when I next have the time!    



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