Practical Time Management Tips
Tony Murtaugh

One of the biggest problems facing most people, let alone those working from home, is that of time management. I don't mean we waste our time by being lazy and doing nothing - if we are honest we all do that sometimes - but how many of us, at the end of what seemed like a busy day, have sat down and wondered just what we have achieved?

How often have you heard someone say "I've been so busy today, but I don't seem to have achieved anything?"

This is the main difference between life's achievers and those who, although always busy, never get anywhere. The people who "achieve" are the ones who make the most use of their time--the one commodity that we all have in equal amounts--it's just that successful people spend their time wisely while most people waste their time. It does not matter how intelligent, educated, rich or well connected you are, if you don't use your time efficiently, you are sure to fail.

I don't mean that you should spend all your time slaving away over your computer - far from it! - What I do mean is that you should use your time effectively - both work and leisure time.

But I can hear you saying "I spend twelve hours a day working, I just have that much to do I never seem to be able to finish or to have time to relax." I would say that if you manage your time effectively, you would achieve more in eight hours than you are presently doing in twelve.

First, to know how to save time, you need to know (not guess) how you are spending your time at present. If you are serious about making yourself more effective, please carry out the following task thoroughly - I bet that the results will surprise you and shock you into action.

What I want you to do is to keep a Time Log of all your activity for the next two weeks. Take a piece of paper, or a diary page, divide each working day into quarter of an hour slots, and at the end of each fifteen minutes, make a brief note of how you have spent that time.

I would suggest that you formulate a simple key so that you do not waste more time writing! This would obviously be something that suits your particular work, but it could be something like: - A - time spent reading e-mails; B - time spent reading ezines; C- replying to emails; D - making coffee; E - making phone calls; F - receiving phone calls; G - being interrupted by colleagues/family who just want a chat; H - travelling; I - attending meetings - and so on, I am sure you get the picture.

At the end of each day, simply add up the time spent on each activity and record it. At the end of the two weeks I am sure you will be amazed at the time you spent on actively moving your business forward and how much time was wasted, even though it "appeared" as if it was work!

As the days progress you will probably begin to notice things you are doing that are unproductive and begin to alter your habits. Do you really need to read all those ezines?

At the end of the fortnight, you should sit down and review your time log. Does the amount of time spent on something correlate to the importance of that item towards achieving your primary goal - growing a profitable business?

Could you alter how you do some tasks to help you complete them faster?

Do you need to subscribe to all those ezines? I certainly found when I was beginning in this business I subscribed to every ezine I could - but after a time I was becoming inundated with them. So what I did was make a list of them all, and as each one arrived I marked its importance to me as either 1 - very useful; 2 - some useful information; and 3 - of no interest whatsoever. After I had received three copies of an ezine, I looked at the scores I had given it and if the marks were all 3's I unsubscribed immediately; if they were a mixture of 2's and 3's I waited to receive a further couple of copies; but if neither of those scored a 1, I again unsubscribed. I am now spending about a quarter of the time  I was previously, but still receiving as much benefit.  Do you have a large number of emails, ezines or favourite pages that you never access and don't know what they are? Be ruthless--plan to spend a part of each day reading them and either deleting them or putting them into a clearly marked folder so that you can find them easily in the future.

Once you are up to date, read each piece of information as you receive it and then either act upon it, file it or delete it--don't let your computer, your desk or your mind become clogged up with useless trivia. If you are unsure of whether to keep something, ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen if you never had access to it again? If you can't think of anything--get rid of it!

Ok, so now you have managed to get rid of the elements that you were wasting your time on, but how do you move forward to the next stage of actually ensuring that your time is spent productively?

Just as you should have planned the future, you need to plan each day. At the end of each day, take five minutes to list the things you need to do the following day. Then prioritise each item. Ask yourself - will doing this help me achieve my goal? Is this something I can get someone else to do (delegate)?  How urgent is it?

The following morning, work through each item in order of priority. Where possible, do the hardest/most unpleasant task first. Once that is out of the way the rest of your day will seem to go quicker and smoother than if you were worrying all day about having to do it!

During the day learn to say no to people. Your time is important. Don't let other people impose on you and use you to use their time better!

Tony Murtagh has spent all his career involved in sales, sales management, marketing and PR. He was a UK National Sales Manger (Major Accounts) for a mobile communications company, had his own publishing company producing a monthly Business to Business magazine and has acted as a PR consultant for a number of small businesses.


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