I have been working in the Engineering Field for about 30 years now and one thing has not changed. We need to be able to do more work in less hours. I have read books on time management and went to seminars to help me develop time management skills. I also know that everyone is different but I wanted to share a few items that has worked for me and helped me with my time management. I hope that you will find some items that will help you with your time management.
Be aware and on the outlook for the small things that distract you from your work each day. You may want to check your emails 2 or 3 times a day but do not leave them up in front of you at all times. If you stop what you are doing to read each email as it appears on your screen this will take up half of your workday. Impromptu meetings can also be a leading cause of disruptions in your work day. Request that meetings have a schedule with an agenda so that it minimizes everyone’s time involved. I know that meetings are necessary to get work done in a team environment but planned and scheduled meeting are far more productive. I enjoy attending and being part of productive meetings but I do not recall a productive meeting that I attended without an agenda.
Have a written plan for each day. This helps me stay focused on the work that has you’ve decided to be a priority for the work day. This helps me stay on track each day and helps me to see my daily goals. I typically use my tablet for this purpose.
Keep a daily progress report. How many times have I worked 9, 10 or more hours in one day and left work feeling like I was not productive? The answer is way too many times. Keeping a daily progress report helps me focus on each day’s successes even when I worked on items that were not planned. Yes, no matter how much planning you do there will be days that outside factors force you to change your priority list for the day and you work on other items. Keeping a daily progress report helps me remember to focus on the work items that I completed for the day and not the items that I did not get accomplished.
Answer Phone calls. If you are not deep in the middle of a task you should go ahead and answer that phone call. I know we all get too many phone calls that we may consider non-productive but it may take less time to take the call than to return the phone call later. Remember that we all want someone to answer our phone calls so we should do the same. If you have voice messages, set aside a couple of times a day to return phone calls. I try to return calls at 10 AM and at 3 PM each day.
A Good night’s sleep. Each day starts so much better if you get a good night’s sleep. I have found that I work better with 7 hours sleep each night. I can make it on less sleep but it catches up with me by the end of the week. I know that coffee is my friend in the morning since I am not a morning person but coffee will not make me productive all day long. Sleep prepares my mind and body for each work day. Do not underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Multi-tasking. I have tried to multi-task and I have found myself making too many costly mistakes. I work on many projects and I wear many hats each day so this is a daily thorn in my side. I have my work schedule, my home family schedule, my church schedule, my volunteer schedule, my reading schedule and so on … You get the picture. We are all busy and if we are not careful we try to focus on too many things at one time and we are not effective at any of them. Concentrate on one item at a time and complete it. I try to keep one schedule for work and home with alert reminders to help me remember all the items that I want to do and schedule. I often hear people say that I wish I could remember this or that thing tomorrow. I typically say if we could only have someone invent something that was small and easy to carry that we could schedule reminders to alert us tomorrow? It is too bad that you do not have such a device like this that could help you. Use your Smart Phone to help you and remind you of anything and everything that is important to you.
One of our greatest resources that we have is time. No matter rich, poor, young, older God gave us all the same 24 hours each day. Make a plan and use your time wisely. I hope that some of the things that I have learned and shared on time management will help you focus and become more productive each day. I continue to work on improving my time management skills each day. Speaking of time management; the phone is ringing and it is time for me to get back to work.
Tom Carico – PMP
Lord & Company, Inc.