My Time Management Tricks

I am a busy consultant. I run my own business. I have two little children. We live in a big family house with a small garden backyard where there's always lot to do.

Yes, I am always busy. My TO DO list is always long, sometimes maybe a bit longer than I would have liked.

Sometimes, the unexpected happens. One or both of my kids get sick. I get sick. My laptop goes wrong. Flight delay. Traffix jam. - Anything you can imagine. Or even more...

I've been trying several ways of time management over the last years (decades). I still cannot say that the way I do today is perfect, but it works for me, and it's definitely a HUGE improvement. Here are my tricks:

  • I use Outlook in Offline mode most of the day. It's always open because I do have a lot of info in emails as well as all my meetings, conference calls and scheduled tasks in my Calendar, therefore I cannot shut it down. But I keep it in Offline mode in order to avoid the continuous interruptions caused by new emails.
    I check my emails in the morning, during lunch time, late afternoon and mostly in the evenings. I still have to practice not to feel the urge to check it more often, but in better days I can be very good at it ;-) This way improves my performance a lot.
  • Don't keep Facebook, Twitter, etc. open. Social media is a time killer. One can spend hours with checking FB updates. I don't want to fall into this trap. I am still online on social networks more than I want. But I'm on it!
  • Sometimes I even mute my phone and set my Skype/Lync status to Invisible. Again, in order to avoid interruptions when I need some "deep thinking" time.
  • Whenever I get a new task or a new email that needs some action, I do that immediately if the action takes no more than 2 min. Why? - If I am in online mode in Outlook and read my emails, I am not in my "working mode" anyway. Reading takes time. Flagging emails takes time. Usually flagging for follow-up and tagging takes more than 2 min - therefore, responding these emails immediately is the better and shorter solution. I do have less unread (and untagged) emails immediately - what a good feeling!
  • If something takes longer than 2 min, I don't take the action immediately (unless it's something urgent or life-saving). I tag and flag it, forward to my task management dashboard (I use Asana).
  • If I keep trying to work on something but don't do any progress for 15 min (because I am too tired, not focused enough, etc.) I stand up and do something else. I try to enforce myself to do some physical excercises these times, like 10 min elliptical or 15 min walking. It helps to organize my thoughts, calm down my nerves, and I can get back to work much easier. Yes, I "waste" some minutes this way, but I get much more, much productive time!
  • I spend the first minutes of every day with organizing my current task. Do "action plan" for the day: what I plan to do, what I plan to do later, etc.
    I also spend some time with evaluating my day in the evening, before shutting down my laptop. What's done, what I am delayed with, what I *have to* work on the next day, etc. It helps a lot in the morning next day.
  • This one might sound a funny one, but I try to make my kids having fun while helping me. Definitely, they don't like cleaning up their rooms. But if it's a game, they're more than happy to do that. Same with gardening. Or dishwashing. Or anything else.
    Plus, I do everything with them. Gardening with mom is much more fun than gardening because it a "have to". - This way, they have much more fun, and secretly, help much more to me ;-)

What I still have to improve?

  • I definitely have to spend less time online. While I have to improve my company's social media activities, I have to spend much less personal time there.
  • I have to learn how to delegate. While my company is growing (good news!), I'm still learning how to do this. Having great colleagues to work with is awesome, and I'm confident we can do amazing things together - but yes, I still have a lot to improve.
  • I am definitely getting better and better in handling unexpected events. That means less stress than a year ago. It's a long and hard learning curve that I am really proud of. Less stress means more fun!
  • I do have to put more physical activities on my schedule. Like walking, exercising on the elliptical trainer in my home office, rope jumping, Pilates, or anything else.

What are your tricks? Is there anything you do differently? How does your time management work?

1 Comment

  • Dora Kalmar said

    - Pomodoro technique works sometimes. Specially for emails. Working in an agency environment I can't afford to go into offline mode. So every 2 hours I put in a pomodoro session to deal with emails.

    - every morning start/do my daily todo list (form me it's coffee and a smoke) + do an outline of tomorrow last thing in the office.

    - Just start doing things instead of procrastinating :)

    - I used to have a small tent card on my desk saying "NOT HERE" if I needed uninterrupted time and couldn't leave the office -- in a while ppl started to respect it as I didn't abuse it

    - managing a team: have a catchup on who's doing what every morning. Some call it a stand-up :) I keep a separate diary/notebook of it. We have a phone's timer set to 2 mins/person or a small ball that we throw.

    - I have a huge xls file with all my workstreams and next steps/deadlines in it. As I usually have more than 15 workstreams running in parallel this saves a lot of time if I keep it updated.

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