5 Tips to improve your time management

Use a calendar or agenda to make your tasks visible and improve your time management.

In my last blog, I discuss 5 symptoms of poor time management skills.  This time, I want to share 5 tips to improve your time management. This is a critical skill for entrepreneurs and managers.  

Tips to improve your time management

Set SMART Goals, Prioritize, and Focus

One important task for every manager or entrepreneur is to set business goals, or at least participate in the process of setting them.  Likewise, it is a good practice to set personal goals.  Both types need to be SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  Strategies fail because they are either not clear, objectives are unrealistic, or the communication is poor.  To avoid failure, it is key to follow a good strategy deployment and goal setting method.  Having clear goals helps prioritize and makes it easier to stay focused on what is important.  

Schedule your tasks

Break each goal into smaller pieces and schedule them through the year depending on priority.  Create and maintain a to-do list based on the tasks that stem from those pieces.  Make the objectives, plans, list, and tasks visible to ensure follow-up.  For instance, calendars, agendas, Leader Standard Work, and others can help with this purpose.  

While scheduling your daily tasks, allow enough time for completion. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. If necessary, track your time for a while for a better estimate of how much time you need. Be realistic about your available time to work on your daily assign tasks. We all know that things happen, so do not schedule activities for the entire day. Also, minimize stress by setting up meetings and events in your calendar 30 minutes earlier.

Checking your schedule should be the first and last thing you do every day.  Check on what you have on the agenda, complete tasks, incomplete, or those you did even start.  Establish a cadence or times throughout the day to check emails and adjust your schedule if necessary.  Above all, always think about the objectives and priorities.   In other words, before you change your itinerary or jump to do something else, ask yourself how that activity will support your goals or priorities.

Stick to your plan

One tip to improve your time management is to create a plan. However, you can have the best plan it can be, but it is no good if you don’t follow it. The top causes for walking out of a good plan are distractions and procrastination. Avoid distractions by turning off notifications. It is very tempting to read that organizational change email or chat with an old colleague, but either of those things will help you to complete your tasks.  Read the post, how do you deal with distractions in the workplace? for more tips.

To overcome procrastination, learn what types of activities you put off. Maybe you are postponing things that you don’t like to do. Another possibility is that they are too complicated or will have a big impact, and you don’t want to fail. Either way, find out what is bothering you and seek a solution. Sometimes, all you need is to ask for help or clarify the purpose or objectives of the task.

While executing your daily plan, focus on one thing at a time.  Multitasking does not help you to be more efficient.  People who multitask decrease their productivity by 20-40% and are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time.

Choose your tasks wisely

Every day you receive invitations for meetings or assignments thrown your way. Therefore, you are at risk of ending with too many things to do. It is better to say no and be honest about your ability to do something than jeopardizing the quality of your work.

If you feel that the meeting or task is important, you can delegate it to your team. Take the chance to coach and train them to gain more skills. Sometimes, outsourcing is the answer to be able to complete some tasks.

Create healthy habits

One way to overcome some of the symptoms of poor time management is by ensuring you have healthy habits. Sleeping and eating habits influence your energy and focus levels. As a result, if they are poor, they will negatively affect the quality and quantity of your work. For that reason, it is worth the try to change them.

Having an exercise routine is another healthy habit with lots of benefits for our work. Reduces stress, anxiety, improve your mood, give you more energy, and of course, helps your overall health. If you don’t have one, start with small steps, like going for a short walk in your break. You can also set a daily steps goal and measure it throughout the day for motivation.

Conclusion

If you want to improve your productivity, follow these tips to improve your time management. The 5 tips are, set SMART goals and prioritize, schedule your tasks, stick to your plan, choose wisely what to do, and create healthy habits. It takes time and consistency to create new habits, but you can do it. The benefits overcome the inconvenience. In summary, managing your time effectively will help you to accomplish more in less time, giving you the opportunity to enjoy yourself with family and friends.

Time Management, are you good at it?

Poor time management cause stress and affects your performance.

Are you an effective time manager?  Before you answer, remember that being busy is not the same as being effective.  Effectiveness is getting the right things done.  However, if you are busy doing things that are not a priority, you are not using your time wisely.  Time management is a coveted skill, especially in this time and age where technology provides the means to be connected all the time.  Therefore, it is easy to get distracted and get off from your day plan.  

How do you know if you have poor performance administrating your time?  Here are some symptoms to help you decide if you are good at it or not.

Five symptoms of poor time management

The quality of your work is not what you would like it to be

As you climb the corporate ladder or your business grows, you have more responsibilities.  Future growth depends on your performance, which is highly influenced by your time management skills.  When you fail at this skill, it will show in different ways.  Some examples are being late for meetings all the time, lack of preparation for meetings, too many emails in your inbox, mistakes or incomplete tasks, and missing deadlines.   

That is not what you want other people to see about you or your work.  Therefore, you need to identify what is causing this situation.  Some possible causes are poorly defined goals, not prioritizing your tasks and the absence of a schedule.  

You are angry, frustrated, or impatient all the time

If you feel stressed, anxious, or fatigue frequently, maybe it is because you are angry, frustrated, or impatient most of the time.  Those negative feelings consume your energy and affect how you performed throughout the day.  Meanwhile, your lack of energy and difficulties in concentrating will force you to work overtime or not take breaks. As a result, the next day, you will be more tired, angry, and impatient.

Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself or give yourself too little time to complete a task. When that happens, you will not complete it as projected and will be frustrated.  This symptom can be caused by poor or lack of planning.  Likewise, can be a problem of execution or not following the plan.

Procrastination is common practice for you

There is a saying in my country that says, do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today.  Although some people thrive waiting until the last minute to complete important work, it is not recommended.  There are many studies that link procrastination with high levels of stress.  If procrastination is a habit for you, stop putting things off.  Learn why you wait until the last minute.  For example, some reasons are that you don’t like that task, or you are doing a less important job first.

Rush through things to accomplish more

If you decide what to do based on the deadlines of the work in front of you, chances are you are rushing through things to finish on time.  As a result, you end up multitasking, which is not a time management solution.  Management by crisis or rushing leads to mistakes and details overlooking, which affects the quality of your work.   

You do everything by yourself

Many entrepreneurs or managers feel that they need to do everything to make sure that things are well done.  I understand that it is nerve-racking, but it does not have to be that way.  First, when something comes up, there is no need to do it immediately.  You would make a note, revisit your tasks for the day, and assign a priority.  The only exception is if the situation is a real emergency.   Second, start to delegate some tasks to your team.  Use the opportunity to coach and develop the skills of your team. Finally, do not say yes to every assignment thrown your way.  Stop taking too much work and be realistic about how much you can accomplish.  Don’t be afraid to say no.

Do you use your time effectively?  

Remember that being effective is about completing the right things, not about doing many things.  In conclusion, you have to set clear goals, have a strategy to accomplish them, and create a daily schedule that would take you closer to the objective.  Also, find ways to keep your focus during the day.  Avoid distractions and unhealthy habits, like smoking.  

With good time management, you will improve the quality of your job, and your mood will be better. Similarly, your relationships will be better because you should have more time to enjoy yourself with your loved ones.

How do you plan your days? What journal or agenda is the best to increase productivity?

Personal organization is as critical for success as the workplace organization is.  Being organized helps improve time management, which increases productivity.  There are so many electronic and hard-copy planners and agendas on the market to help you to organize your tasks and meetings, that it is easy to be confused.  I goggle planners, and I got 520 million results!  There are generic planners, customized, different sizes, colors, and formats.  They can be daily, weekly, or monthly.  Some are specific for projects, marketing, blogging, personal items, academics, and others.  Journals, agendas, or planners need to work for you if you work fine with any of those on the market fine, but if not, this article is for you.

Through the years, I used almost every planner or journal on the market while looking for my perfect match. I needed a system to plan, execute, and follow-up on my personal and business goals and projects.  I hated those planners with tight formats.  They pretend that every day, week, and month are the same!  You have plenty of space to write every task, meeting, and activity to the hour, but little to no space to write your thoughts or ideas.  You either end with a bunch of empty lines (which is waste) or give up on your attempt to organize your life.  The third option is to persevere, observe, learn, and design the system that works for you.  That is what I did.

Years ago, I learned about the Bullet Journal Method, created by Ryder Carroll.  His book, The Bullet Journal Method:  Track the Past, order the present, design the future, is an international best-seller.   The official web page describes the method as the mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. For me, the best part was that finally, I had a tool that I can customize my way, that gave me total control of what I want to include, or not, how many pages I want or need for this week, or even be creative and write quotes, make drawings, or put a fun sticker here and there.  I could use the very formal, very bore classic black ink or as many colors as I want.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, I have been experimenting with different formats for years.  My goal is to have a planner-journal to keep me organized, productive, and mentally sane.  I managed to combine my entire self in one book, my personal life with bills payment included along with my business goals tasks and projects.  I have a very colorful, organized, and informative book that is as diverse as I am.  It works because I created a process to work with it, a standard that, if I follow, is effective to guide me through my days and help to plan, execute, follow-up, study, and redesign my tasks, projects, and goals from dream to accomplishment.

I start with my goals divided by quarters or by months.  That is my baseline for projects and other activities because it ensures alignment between goals and tasks.  Every month I listed my tasks, events, confirmed projects or contracts, personal appointments, and others.  Some of these goals come from my business plan and others from projects.  I allocated each entry within a specific week of the month.  At the beginning of every week, I will revise the corresponding list to add or delete items.  I decide which weekday I will work on each of those items.  Be realistic about the number of tasks you assign for a day, count with interruptions, unexpected meetings or phone calls, and things that don’t go as planned.  I found that my weekly tasks list is no more than six items, one for each day plus one, just in case I can get ahead.

You can create your system and design your agenda too.  Start with a plain, cheap school notebook, and draw whatever you want your agenda to be.  If you don’t like it, tomorrow create something else.  It took me years to get to a point where I feel good with what I have, but as a CI student and practitioner, I know that I will change it sooner or later.  The best planner or agenda, it the one that works for you! Do not give up, keep trying until you find the right one.

Desk organization, how good are you?

How to organize your desk at work
How to organize your desk at work and keep it organized

Is the desk organization one of your strengths? Do you have a process to organize your desk at work? A messy desk is a common cause of poor time management. Piles of papers, magazines, and folders on your desk make you waste time searching for what you need.

Fun facts about desk organization

  • The average US executive wastes 6 weeks per year searching for missing information in messy desks and files.
  • A person who works on a cluttered desk spends, on average 2.5 hours looking for things.
  • The average desk worker spends 3 hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next.

Don’t be like them! A cluttered space makes you feel overwhelmed. Creativity and productivity are not good in that state of mind. Tidy up your desk and keep it that way. A good way to improve the desk organization is by using 5S.

How to improve your desk organization

Start by sorting what you have on the desk. Do you need to keep all those papers? Recycle or shred what you don’t need. If you need the information but not the physical paper, scan the document. Make sure you create virtual folders for them with logic names that represent the content. If you already used them and need to keep the hard copies, file them in the appropriate file cabinet. Control the papers around you at the source. The best practice is to think before you print. It is good for the environment but also for your time management and office supplies budget. 

As you move papers out of your way, you will uncover other items like mail and lost invoices. Get rid of what you don’t need and put those items that need further action in a dedicated bin. Make the habit to deal with incoming mail daily. Sometimes people pay bills late because they can’t find the bill or don’t remember if they receive it or paid already.

Dispose of everything that is trash. Why you have pens without ink or snack envelopes on your desk? Dispose of what you don’t need as soon as you don’t need it.

Desk organization is not just for the top of the desk

Check the drawers too! You will find more papers, snacks, and extra office supplies. It is convenient to dedicate one drawer for your things, like snacks. Create a share location for office supplies to reduce unnecessary inventory. Keep on your desk just what you need. How many pencils or black pens you need at a time?

Most people like to have things on their desks that make them feel at home. A picture frame with our kids, a pencil holder with the logo of our favorite team, you name it. That is ok but control the quantity, one or two items should be enough.

Create rules to sustain your desk organization

To sustain your progress take 5 minutes at the beginning and end of the day to manage your desk items. Start each morning planning your day. Retrieve and organize the documents you need for immediate work. At the end of the day sort your papers and mail and take immediate action. Recycle, scan, or file those documents, do not accumulate thinking that you will need them later. Many companies establish a clean desk policy to control sensitive information from lying around.

Benefits of keeping your desk clean and organize

There are multiple benefits to keep your desk organization. It saves time and money. Uncluttered desks reduce overwhelming feelings and stress and increase productivity. A clean desk keeps sensitive items confidential and makes a good impression. Take back all that time and develop your system to ensure not falling back to the old ways.

What are the benefits of getting organized?

What are the benefits of getting organized at work
Get organized at work, and relax!

The ultimate goal of every professional is to achieve a work-life balance. I am not an exception. When my career started to grow, I found myself with not enough time to do the things I like. After a while, I realized that organizing myself and my daily work was the only solution. But getting organized have more benefits.

Top 5 benefits of getting organized at work

The top five reasons to get organized are the following.

Improved productivity

Being organized will help you to focus on the important, not the clutter. Therefore it will be easier to focus on what you have ahead of you. As a result, you have more chances to achieve your daily goals. Organizing will also save you the time of looking for things. Also, you will cut distractions because you will not have to ask around where the report is.

Better time management

It is necessary to organize your tasks also. Two familiar tools are calendars and task lists. The efficient use of them will enable you to prioritize those tasks. Besides, set daily and weekly objectives based on the year goals, you want to accomplish. Prioritizing will make you more flexible because you will react better to any changes or unexpected situations.

Reduced stress

No clutter equals less stress. Consequently, your work environment will be pleasant. This type of environment improves morale and motivation. Achieving your goals give you a great sense of accomplishment.

Promotes improvements

A clean and organized work area pinpoints trouble areas, making it easier to identify future improvements.

Better work-life balance

If you do more in less time, you can use the extra time to create balance in your life. Less stress and a reduced sense of being overwhelmed will leave you with more energy at the end of the day. Now you can go to the gym, or take a walk!

Tools for getting organized

Besides calendars and agendas, in continuous improvement, we use the following tools. Use the links to learn about each.

  • 5S – 5S is the five steps program for housekeeping and workplace organization.
  • Visual management – Color coding, signage, and others are simple organizing solutions.
  • Kanban – Although it is known as a material inventory control tool, it can be used for information or document control. This post shows you some kanban examples.

Are you ready to getting organized?

Being organized have a lot of advantages. I listed a few reasons, but there are a lot more. Find your reason, and get organized today!