Tips and tricks for effective time management
You’ve got mail…and a lot of it!
Overflowing inbox? Can’t figure out what to do next? Sick of being behind on deadlines or being pestered by people? Read on…….
1) Your calendar is amazing, use it
When I say use it, I mean for everything! Obviously, I use it to keep track of my own appointments, but I also use it to keep track of other people’s appointments relevant to me too. E.g. Rachel meeting Chris to discuss my massive pay rise. Because it is in my calendar, I can ring her straight after and say, “How did the meeting go? And can I expect £50k in my next paycheque?”
Add everything to your calendar from when you should travel to meetings, to calling that guy back from the weekend because you have left it the requisite 3 days to respond to him. At a glance, you can see how many workable hours you have in your day.
Don’t want your colleagues seeing that you’re cleaning your cooker tomorrow night? Right click your appointment and make it private. No one will be able to see what you have booked yourself out to do that night and therefore can’t take the mick.
The last thing you should do at the end of each day is reflect on everything that you’ve accomplished. Emails sent, appointments made, cases closed. Review your calendar, acknowledge what you’ve done during the day and give yourself a little pat on the back!
2) Process your inbox
I’ll start this section with a … “Please don’t think for a second that this is all invented by yours truly”. I went on a course about 12 years ago and I still live by it!!
Aren’t you jealous when you look at someone’s inbox and it’s empty! “They must be really on top of their work” one would automatically assume! It’s all about appearances people! There is a level of psychology to it though, a clean inbox makes you feel good and keeps you focused on what you need to do. I would like to introduce you to the three D’s!
Do it, Delete it or Defer it
Do It – anything that takes two minutes or less, do it straight away. Just go through your inbox and think to yourself, if I can sort this in two minutes or less then I’m just going to do it! Respond to the email, book a quick call, whatever is …..just do it JFDI!
Delete It – anyone got an email from months ago in their inbox and you have kept it ‘just in case’ you may need to refer to it? Why does it have to be in your inbox? Delete it, file it. Who cares, just get rid of it! Thanks to the wonder that is modern technology you can always get to it again. (Big shout out to our internal systems team here 😉)!
Defer It – will the email require more than two minutes of your time? Then move it to “Tasks” create a task, give it a deadline. The tasks function is amazing but requires more than this section of a small blog! Come and see me because trust me, I could talk about this all day!
3) Colour Code your Categories
“Categories” is a really useful tool available in Outlook which allows you to group together similar activities. If anyone were to stalk me properly, you would see my very colourful calendar. There is a logic behind it, I promise!
Yellow – the brightest colour therefore I use it to categorise my own appointments to make it obvious when I am viewing my own schedule.
Blue – Blue is my “FYI” category. I use it to label all the peoples appointments that are relevant to me (but that I am not actually attending). So, take my example of Rachel’s meeting with Chris about my massive pay rise, I would label it blue!
Purple – I use purple to show when I am travelling. On seeing that I have two hours of travel where I am unable to work, I can plan to either do some work in evening or get into the office early the next day. I can also see that if I am travelling and I have an upcoming conference call/Webex/Skype, I know to stop at a service station so that I can sit in a Little Chef, ready for my call.
Amber/‘Green. I use these labels to track when consultants are either “tentatively booked” or “confirmed” with customers. When the consultant is “offered” I label them as amber i.e. available but not confirmed. When a consultant is 100% booked and it is confirmed with the customer, I label it green to show myself that I do not have to follow up with anyone. You can use it in your private life too! Waiting for a date to confirm? Label your evening slot as amber (although don’t let them remain unconfirmed for too long, make them think that you are in demand 😉 I digress….)
4) Multitasking is stupid
We all do it. Scrawling through Facebook when on a conference call, calling people and driving at the same time, replying to emails when someone is talking to you.
Here’s a bit of maths for you, let’s say you have one task, well that would be 100% of your time. Two tasks? One would assume that this would equate to 50% on each task – wrong! The constant flick-flacking (anyone old enough to remember flick-flack watches? Email me if you do!) reduces your focus to 40% per task.
Let’s say that you have 12 projects that have approximately 60 to 70 tasks in them. You can’t possibly multitask all that. Focus on one task only!
There is nothing worse than being on a conference call and your mind wandering and then realising the phone is silent. Someone has asked you a question and you’ve missed it! Damn! You’re going to have to ask for someone to repeat it with the necessary context. It makes you look unprofessional and it wastes not only your time, but everyone else’s on the call. It is not nice when it happens to you either! Imagine being in a meeting with your boss for your PDP and they aren’t focused on you and distracted by email text or Facebook.
Focus on one task at a time and you will always give 100%. One dog, one bone!
5) “Rules” control the fun!
Control your inbox, don’t let it control you. You don’t need to see those “Deal Won” emails every day, create a rule! You don’t need to see another “someone has blocked Echosign” for the fourth time this week or “here is the new password” emails – create a rule!
This is all about only seeing in your inbox what you need to see right there and then, all the other stuff – file it and review it on your own schedule! I have a “Yammer” file, an “Echosign” file and multiple others for emails that I don’t need to see the very second they arrive.
6) Pestering is not Productive!
No one likes being pestered. We have all worked with people, or still work with people, who constantly pester… “Can I ask this?”, “Can I ask that?”, “Can you come back to me on this?”. Who wants 17 phone calls a day that last about 30 seconds? The easiest way to illustrate this is by using your manager as an example. Obviously, Rachel would love it if I called her 17 times a day, but she wouldn’t get much work done! If I need something from her I “defer” it to my tasks and give it the category of “Rachel”. This enables me to provide her with a list of everything that I may need (cough cough, £50k) or a decision she needs to provide me with, in one meeting, or one conversation or one phone call.
7) Tasks – to do list – write everything down!
New mantra for you…
Ctrl, Shift, “K”, will make your day!
When in Outlook, this handy little shortcut will open a new task for you. There is a psychology behind actually writing things down in long hand (and even more research behind the fact that writing in blue rather than black makes you remember) but we live in the modern world! Hitting Ctrl, Shift, “K” and writing down one line about something that you have to do will clear your head of it! You don’t need to remember it (Einstein didn’t even know his own phone number) because technology has remembered it for you!
And when I say everything, I mean everything! Here’s some examples of my to do list;
· Take Richard to the Vet
· Write a blog so that I can show off to my colleagues how organised I am and fuel my champagne addiction
· Google what in the world “Cloud” means – I deliver this, I really should know what it is by now……
It doesn’t matter what is on your list, it’s your list and your head space. Clear your mind so you don’t forget about things and then three weeks later have to explain why you haven’t done something!
Hopefully these tips have been helpful. I do genuinely love all this time saving stuff and inbox control so if you ever want to discuss it, you could send me an email and I will book you as yellow in my diary 😉
Namaste, and remember, you control your inbox, it doesn’t control you
If you think you can sort it like Sophie, take a look at our current vacancies here.