When you’re thinking about the resources at your disposal, what comes to mind? Money? Skills? Equipment? How about time?
I sometimes find it easy to forget, but time is as much as resource as anything else. There’s a finite amount of it and, if it’s not used effectively, it can bring a project to its knees.
Having said that, working out how best to manage my time can be a challenge; it’s very easy to take on every task someone is willing to send your way and work out how you’ll fit it into your schedule later on. After all, it’s never nice to have to turn a potential customer away.
Here’s the thing, though; effective time management is important! It isn’t possible to take everything on and just hope the time to do it will magically appear.
I read a white paper recently with great interest. It’s by a chap called Darren Smith, the founder of Making Business Matter, and it lays out a 7-step plan to master your time management. Ironically, finding the time to master time management can be a challenge in itself but Darren’s plan only requires 30 minutes of work per week. That level of commitment is well within reach of everyone.
So what’s the plan? Well, I’m not going to reproduce the whole thing because you can get the white paper yourself from Darren’s website. Here are the basics, though. You spend the 7 weeks working on various hurdles:
- Capturing – working out how the demands on your time actually enter your “system”, whatever that system is. It might be email, phone, ideas that pop into your head, and so on. Week 1 involves trimming those capture points down so that you have as few as possible and are able to cope with them.
- Listing – considering how you record the demands on your time. Do you have ten different lists of tasks dotted around various systems? This week is about making sure you have an appropriate number of lists in appropriate formats.
- Emptying – don’t let things build up! Empty your capture points regularly!
- Deleting – you don’t need to do everything. The Deleting week aims to help you delete tasks and time demands that don’t actually need to be done by you. There are some great tips here, like deleting emails you are only CCd in on as opposed to being the main recipient.
- Storing – trying to store everything in your head is a recipe for disaster. If you do that, you’ll end up forgetting something important. Instead, you need to work out a good storage system so that you can put information there and “free up” your brain. This week covers doing just that.
- Scheduling – this is a difficult one for me because I tend to treat other people’s requests as much more important than whatever I was planning to do already. I end up thinking I should get back to them and bump my pre-planned tasks to later in the day. This week’s material, again, helps to think that through and come up with a more formal method of scheduling.
- Acting – there are times when you would be more efficient by dealing with a task right now than going through the process of putting it to one side, making a note of it, re-scheduling it for later, then getting it out again… you get the picture. The Acting material helps you come up with a process for just getting stuff done, or deciding what genuinely does need to be done later.
These seven hurdles, together, form a really solid time management technique. I’ve started working through it and am finding it really beneficial. If you’re struggling with your time management, or even if you’re just interested, head on over to http://7weekchallenge.gr8.com/ and take the 7 Week Time Management Challenge.