Efficient time management

Efficient time management. How many times a day can one hears that this is the key to success? If only I could discover the perfect recipe, my life would be totally different. I would be less stressed, more in control rather then controlled, and would suddenly have time for all the things I usually simply do not get to.

However, that is but a dream. I wake up in the morning, drink my coffee, sit in front of my computer and stare at the screen. 105 new emails have entered my inbox since yesterday. My direct manager has requested me to finish the presentation (today!) so he can review it before the meeting in two days. One of our most loyal clients has asked to book an important meeting, preferably today. The content editor with whom I am working on a joint project just asked me to review his comments and provide some feedback so that he can get on with it. I, obviously, don’t want to be the one to slow him down, but where do I start? These are only some examples of unplanned tasks added to my ongoing daily work.

So, if what I described sounds familiar, if your inbox is similarly overflowing and if you are likewise being assigned tasks by multiple parties yet are unsure how to rate their importance, here are some tips that might help you organize your schedule and tasks:

1: Take some time to set a daily schedule- at the beginning of each day, spend fifteen minutes organizing and managing your day in advance.

  • 7 minutes should be spent quickly scanning the chart of projects in your responsibility and selecting the two most urgent tasks to advance one or more of these projects.
  • Then, 8 minutes should be spent quickly scanning the email inbox and selecting two emails moderately urgent that must be answered.
  • The rest of the day should be dedicated to meetings, unplanned tasks, and ongoing routine.

What do we gain from this? This method allows us to prioritize our tasks and catalogue them by different tasks. We thus know what awaits us and don’t forget tasks, and therefore handle all types of tasks and not only a certain type.

What should we prepare in advance? A chart of projects currently on your hands (yes, now. Go prepare one!).

2: The important/urgent formula- examine each task on your chart according to the following criteria:  important/not important/urgent/not urgent.

  • The ‘important’ criteria advance us towards attaining our goals, affecting us for the long run and forces us to act proactively
  • The urgent criteria: limited by a short amount of time, regardless of our objectives, demanding short-term results.

For example:

 

Urgent

Not Urgent

Important

Important (to be planned)

Important and urgent 1 (to be immediately handled)

Example:

A task my manager assigned me, a task with a schedule

Example:

Setting goals for next year, planning

Not Important

Not important yet urgent (check- can you assign it to another party?)

Neither important nor urgent (backlog/a cumulative list of unimportant tasks, no date assigned)

Example:

Ongoing work, calls, meetings with clients

Example:

Garbage mail

 

What do we gain from this? We examine each task individually and assign it to its relevant category. This clarifies what task when we should be handling each task and its importance compared to the other ongoing tasks.

What should be prepared in advance? A table similar to the one above as well as a list of tasks to be examined using the table per task.

3: The Pareto principle (20/80)- this principle is quite simple: 20% of our tasks are manifest in 80% of our results.  This rule allows us to tell between the main components (Which are 20% of all components) and the additional adjunct 80%.

What does this mean? It means that if ten tasks await our handling, two of them might revealed to be equally important, or even more important, than all eight tasks put together. These tasks are obviously the most valuable and are usually the most complex and difficult ones. However, before you begin working on these tasks: is this task in the top 29% or in the bottom 80%? Make it a habit to work on those 80% tasks only after completing the top 20%.

How can you implement this principle? Use the golden rule: don’t be tempted to first work on the less important issues, pushing off the more important 10 or 20 top percent. They may work more hours, but their output is low.

 

Useful technological utilities: luckily, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel since others have already invented it for us! All you need to do is select from an ever-growing list of useful applications and software that should absolutely be utilized to organize your tasks/schedule clearly according to your personal preferences and settings.

Here are some examples for such apps:

Microsoft Planner

Description: add tabs for every project you are assigned and view the full list of projects on your board. You can generate multiple boards and add more friends. Furthermore, each tab can be added a color, tag, label, status, task description, etc. Transfer the task to the appropriate space before moving on to its next stage.

 

Advantages:  very user friendly, clear, and efficient. Provides a clear and comprehensive concept of all assigned projects.

  • Another app, quite like Planner’s functionality and structure I’ve used as well is Trello.

 

Outlook Task

Description: open a tab/note for every task you need to be available. You can add this task to your schedule or request to be notified on a specific date or time. Furthermore, you can color tasks and thus file them under a specific category.

Advantages: very simple and does not require much effort or installing specific software since it is part of Microsoft Outlook.

Disadvantages: since it is an extremely simple technology, it doesn’t suit more complex tasks or documenting more than a single task. It consists of manually filing in a couple of sentences and is more suitable for jotting down some notes during a meeting (instead of using a pen and paper). Also, the tasks aren’t synchronized and don’t provide an overall view of the other tasks.

 




Confluence

 

 

Description: a sharing tool that connects the workers to the organization. The system enables sharing and organizing knowledge, tasks and projects while focusing on the use of intra-organizational social networks. The system encourages creativity, and the sharing of idea, files, documents, arrays, mockups, diagrams, and projects.  It features a savvy editing feature with a complete interface with office and Jira software.

Advantages: a comfortable interface encouraging the use and creation of content.

 

Description: Jira was designed especially for work in an organizational environment. The platform enables you to set up multiple various boards, synchronizing between them and allowing you to follow resource utilization and each team’s progress.

Advantages/disadvantages: the software is mainly designed for development teams or sprinting teams. That said, I found it to be an Agile solution for basic project management needs. It is comfortable and user friendly.

 

In conclusion, and on a more personal note: I learned these insights from my own personal experience. I realized that I wanted to work on correctly and manage my time. I realized I want to be less stressed out and balance my family and work. I realized how important it is to have free time not only for leisure but for planning. I want to think about my projects and consider their planning method, be more active and involved in my organization’s decisions. I want to consider my professional progress and future plans.

To do all this, you have to invest some thought. You must plan and know the various variables in advance as well as the resources at hand, while also preparing an orderly plan (complete with backup) so to always be ready.

 
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