Saturday, 1 April 2017

Working Effectively

I am retired so you would think time management would be easy but my time is filled with things I love to do. I am a writer (add in researcher for my current book), blogger (four of them) and book reviewer. I have a husband (no woman will ever say that is not work), a married son and granddaughter (who I love to spend time with of course), a stepson (he’s an adult but still counts when it comes to time).

I need to add in time for non-writing creative activities like making things for my granddaughter. I love to read and in addition the books I review for Indie authors I have a personal reading wish list; many are sitting on my bookshelves collecting dust and that brings me to one of my pet hates - housework. I also have a small part time job; ten to fifteen hours a week. Phew! I am worn out just listing all that.

I didn’t tell you all that to impress you but more to show that even in retirement our lives can be crammed full of things we love and want to do and that need managing. So, this is the list I try (TRY) and work to.

The list is the top 12 things people who work effectively live by.

Have daily dedicated planning time.
By taking five to ten minutes each morning or afternoon to plan the day’s tasks and set priorities you will save time and not have your day taken up with unimportant or low priority jobs. That doesn’t mean these jobs shouldn’t be on your list. I find when I am particularly tired I will turn to the easier tasks because that is all my brain can cope with. If I try and do some of the more demanding ones I am not working effectively; better to leave them to the next day if possible.

I use the To-Do-List that come with Outlook. It is convenient for me because as well as listing my tasks I can also tag emails when they come in and prioritise action accordingly. My calendar of appointments and work time blocks are also right there. (see colour coding below)

Take care of quick tasks on the spot.
Don’t get too carried away with your list writing. Often odd little jobs that you think of take less time than adding them to your list. Get them done, out of the way and off your mind.

Prioritise your to-do list.
If, like me, your list is way too long to complete in a day you need to decide what is the most important. Rate your tasks 1,2 or 3 with the most important ones being a 1. Try not to get carried away with your 1’s. If you get through the most critical then move on to the 2’s. I sometimes reprioritise my tasks after the 1’s are completed.

Identify and utilise your productivity window.
Have you ever noticed that you work better in the morning or afternoon? Some people are often at their most creative in the evenings. None of us can work at our best all day long. We have peaks and troughs in both our energy and our creativity. We have a two or three hour window once or twice a day that we are at our best. We need to recognise the times. For some things, like creative activities, we may also need to identify the times we are least likely to get interruptions. This is the time you need to put aside for the most important tasks that need your energy or creativity.

Know when (and when not to) multi task.
If you can multitask that’s great use of your time but it is not right for every job on your list.  For example, if you are a writer turn off all distractions including social media websites and emails. That little bing when a new post or email comes in can be enough for you to lose your concentration at a critical time. If you need to listen to a recording or audio book there is nothing to stop you doing that while doing housework.

Use a planning/scheduling tool that works for your lifestyle.
As I mentioned, I use the To-Do-List that comes with outlook but I often find for jotting down notes old fashioned pen and paper suits me better. I can quickly write down a thought and then drop it in the appropriate file for attention later or to add to my to-do-list when I am next reviewing it.

If your day needs to fit in with other people; friends, family, colleagues etc then you may need to look at one of the large wall calendars or a more complicated app.

Take a break.
No one can keep going all day every day. Regardless of the demands placed on your time by others or yourself you need to recharge yourself with regular meals and refreshment. If you find yourself skipping meals then include them in your daily schedule. I also schedule in some exercise. Healthy eating and regular exercise will make you more effective and efficient.

Be realistic
Don’t underestimate how long your chores or tasks are going to take. It is better to have time left over than feel the pressure and disappointment of not under achieving.

Have someone to make you accountable.
If you don’t have to answer to anyone it is easy to make excuses to yourself as to why you didn’t achieve anything for the day. Find someone you can share your goals with and have them follow up on how you are going.

Be a perfectionist – but only when it counts
If you believe everything you do has to be flawless and without error nothing will be accomplished. Identity those tasks that must be accurate, error free and flawless; then settle for doing your best with the rest.

Very often this is easier said than done. Firstly, many people think they are the only ones who can complete a task satisfactorily. Don’t fall into this trap or you will carry the work load of all your work team or family.

Delegate the right way.
You need to keep in mind the skills and knowledge of the person you are delegating to and their own work load or commitments. Above all else don’t forget please and thank you. If appropriate give positive feedback.

Appreciate what is achieved.
Show your appreciation for what is done; don’t stress about what is not done. See the accomplishment of the day and congratulate your team and yourself.

Additional tip - colour coding
I colour code. Whether it is writing, researching my next book, blogging, personal time, work or jobs around the house my files, calendar and task list are colour coded.

Because so many of my activities are difficult to identify the amount of time needed for individual tasks, I allocate time blocks on my calendar for each category. I do the same with emails as they come in. Unless they are urgent and need attending to straight away, I categorise them and attend to them all within that particular block of activity.

As I mentioned I am not a great fan of housework so here is a little bit of advice I am going to try (one day).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent practicable advice. Of course it has to be fitted to the individual (e.g. some of us do not have anyone to delegate to) but the principles still remain. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this.