Beating the Time Bandits

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator”
Robert Orben

We live in a busy and demanding world and the pace of life seems to be getting faster all the time, and the demands on us are greater than ever before. Effective time management is one of the keys to success and a good work/life balance.

When coaching in a business environment one of the common areas to focus on is to look at how that person manages their time and what are the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals. There are many time bandits out there that can come along and rob you of important time that could be spent doing stuff that actually matters.

Beware of the Time Bandits (although it is also a film well worth giving up a few hours for!)

So what are some of the common time bandits that can affect you?

  • Interruptions by colleagues
  • Phone calls
  • E-mails
  • Text messages
  • Emergencies
  • Impromptu meetings

These are only a small sample and I am sure you can think of many more. So how can you deal with them and minimise the impact they can have?

Here are 10 tips to manage your time effectively:

1) Decide what you want to achieve and by when. – you would be surprised at just how many people start off their working day/week/month with no real clear idea of what exactly they are hoping to achieve. Try asking yourself these questions at the end of today;

“Have I had a good day?”

“What exactly have I achieved today?”

“Was it what I wanted to achieve?”

If you don’t know the answers you need to review what does success look like for you. How do you know what a good job is in your role?

One of my old bosses was fond of the phrase, “if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you have arrived?”

2) Write out a time plan for the coming week, i.e. 7 days broken down into hourly slots – let’s say from 8am-8pm. The first item you should put in is planning time – e.g. for an hour every friday afternoon I am going to plan what I am going to do next week.

3) There will be set tasks that you need to do each day, each week. Prioritise them, decide which are the most important for you to do in order to achieve your goals. Don’t forget to include personal goals as well that deal with events outside work.

4) When looking at your list of tasks, ask yourself what would happen if I didn’t do them? If they are not going to affect your ability to achieve your goals why are you doing them? Why not stop doing them?

5) Allocate times in your weekly time plan to action the tasks you have decided you will carry on doing. Give yourself the appropriate amount of time for each task. Start with the most important and don’t forget to include personal stuff – football on saturday, hair appointments, going to the gym, time with the kids, night out with partner, meal with friends and so on.

6) Allocate contingency time in your time plan – a lot of people who use time plans fill every minute of every day with tasks and then when the time bandits come along their plans are thrown into chaos. If you analyse the way you spend your time now you will see that every day something crops up that you weren’t expecting. It therefore makes sense to set aside time to deal with these time bandits. For example you might set aside half an hour at 10am every day to deal with unexpected calls. This is floating time, so it doesn’t mean you have to use it at 10am (!), but means having this 1/2 hour that isn’t allocated means you can juggle your tasks to allow you to deal with unplanned events.

7) If  your day consists of travelling out to meet clients, it can be a good idea to start making appointments from the middle of the day and working outwards. If you don’t get a full diary for your day it can mean that you have an hour or so in the office/home at the start and/or end of the day when you can deal with admin tasks and allow you to miss the rush hour when you travel to and from clients.

8) Everyone’s body clock is different, some people are mentally at their best in the morning, some in the afternoon and some in the evening. When are you at your most alert, most energetic, most enthusiastic? If you can identify this time you should think about tackling your most challenging/important tasks at these times as you are more likely to be more efficient in achieving your goals. These are also the times you most want to avoid the time bandits.

9) Review your progress at the end of each day and adjust your time and plans accordingly. Fifteen minutes at the end of the day spent reviewing can save you major headaches the next day/week/month.

10) Celebrate success. Give yourself rewards for achieving specific targets. It depends on your routine but I know a sales person who loads his time early in the week, so that if he achieves his targets by Thursday afternoon will take time off to play golf on Friday afternoons. It doesn’t always work for him, but he has something there to reward himself with for a job well done.

These are just a few ideas to help with time management, I’m sure you have some of your own. Why not share them by posting a comment below?

I’ll finish on the words of Sir John Lubbock:

“In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.”


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