How many times have you said to yourself, “I could use another hour in this day?”
Time-management expert Donald Wetmore of The Productivity Institute in Stratford, Conn., says you can gain that extra hour every day. That adds up to about six extra weeks of productive working time a year, which can make a big difference in your professional career.
“Quantum leaps in productivity don’t require quantum leaps of time, effort and energy,” said Wetmore during a recent audio conference sponsored by PI Leader.
Here are nine time-saving strategies he offered:
Look for imbalances in your life. Wetmore says seven vital areas of life must be in balance: health, family relationships, finances, intellectual life, professional satisfaction, social life, and spirituality. If any one is off-kilter, it will affect all the rest.
“Look at a good night’s sleep,”Wetmore said. “Most people are flat-out tired. That’s the No. 1 issue in time management. If you’re tired, you can’t be the good family person you want to be.”
Get in the daily habit of prioritizing tasks. Wetmore recommends listing tasks as: A. Crucial. B. Important. C. Minimal value. D. No value. He suggests getting rid of “no value” tasks altogether.
Spend 15 minutes each night planning the next day. Wetmore says if you know what you need to do tomorrow, you’ll sleep better tonight. Because of Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill the time available), Wetmore recommends overplanning your day by 50 percent. “That pressures you, but it’s not overwhelming,” he said.
If you’re facing recurring crises that derail the day too frequently, he suggests you keep a “crisis log.” Every time you’re in one, log it and the amount of time it took. At the end of a month, figure out what caused each crisis and how you could have planned better to avoid the crisis.
Chain yourself. He recommends this as one way to fend off procrastination. Wetmore says he thinks of himself as chained to his desk until he starts (or completes) a task.
“It’s too easy to think, ‘I don’t work without coffee,’” Wetmore explained. “ So you get coffee, and you chat with the lab techs. You’re chewing up time. Someone interrupts you with a question. Then it gets too close to the end of the day and you say, ‘There’s no way to get that done today.’ So you knock off… it’s a mind game. Chain yourself.”
Allocate time, not on the basis of those who demand it, but on those who deserve it. “In time-management vocabulary, one of the most powerful words is No,” said Wetmore.
Come up with a plan for e-mails. Most PIs get hundreds of e-mails a day. Get off some cc lists if they’re not valuable to you. Consider a private e-mail address for really important stuff. A third option is to have someone else filter it — perhaps a college assistant. And finally, make this a rule: Check e-mail only three times a day.
Determine how much time interruptions are costing you.
Keep an interruptions log. Most professionals(PIs especially) get interrupted every eight minutes, Wetmore said. That’s about 50 times a day.
Use the log to determine patterns. You’re paid to handle the high-value interruptions, Wetmore said. But most PIs don’t get interrupted 50 times a day for high-value tasks. See if there are repetitive, low or no-value interruptions.
“Most people find only 20 percent of interruptions are really worthy of attention,” said Wetmore. “Eighty percent are low and no-value. Eliminate even a third of them.
Watch for “reverse” People may try to delegate decisions and jobs to you. When someone asks for your help, respond, “What do you think?"
“There’s a big difference between ‘I do it personally’ and ‘It gets done by somebody,’” said Wetmore. Handling tasks others bring to you that they can do themselves only fosters dependency. “The hardest part is letting go.”
Control meetings. They’re one of biggest individual time-wasters . “Ask yourself: Is this meeting necessary? Can we do it only once a week? Once a month? Even if the meeting is necessary, am I a needed attendee? Am I necessary here?”
Also, remember to finish all meetings with action items and assignments, so you and your team don’t rehash the same items. “Manage meetings before they manage you,” Wetmore said.