10 Tips on How to Improve Time Management Skills

01 October 2016 Peak Recruitment

Time management concept with notes on notebook

Creating an excellent CV, revising beforehand, understanding the prospective employers company and rehearsing how you will answer possible questions, are all essential elements of winning that all important interview. But there is one factor that underpins all the rest. Time-management.

Good time keeping is not just clock watching, knowing the time of the next appointment, brushing up on the bus timetable, or making meetings without breaking into too much of a sweat. If you are not practicing great time management skills in your everyday work then the likelihood is, whether you get to the interview on time or not, your time management skills will come over loud and clear during question and answer time. This is because successful efficient employees set out to master that one factor that so easily feels out of our control – time. And those skills are reflected in how you behave.

Some of the ideas outlined below will at first seem – almost paradoxically – time-consuming and perhaps a little tiresome in themselves. But by taking on a systematic way of working, the long-term positives of being on top of your work, showing to your peers and managers you are in control, and the free time which undoubtedly will subsequently arise, are pretty cool benefits.

1. Create A Time and Motion Study

Before you can start to put things right you need to know where your weaknesses lie or where your systems need streamlining. Choose a period of time which encapsulates all the various tasks you would normally complete in your job role. Use the suggestions outlined below to pinpoint where and why your time is becoming chaotic and how you can progress your performance in the future.

2. Make Friends with Your Diary

The diary is your best friend. Whenever you get an appointment through (whether it is email, word of mouth or hard copy) make sure it goes in the diary. It is also a good idea to keep your daily task list on each diary day. This way when you are considering appointments you can see exactly how busy you are. Don’t forget to carry your diary to all appointments.

3. Task Lists

You need to know what tasks you have for the day, week and month ahead. So have relevant diaries and calendars for long term and short term scheduling. When you have completed a task – strike it through (it’s a good feeling!). If you do not finish a task don’t beat yourself up, but look at your deadline and where you can fit in that task later. For each task on the list consider approximate time spent on each and try where possible to keep to timing. Remember, now you are prioritising (see below) you have the flexibility if there is a need to adapt your list and move a less important task to another day.

4. Prioritize

Beginning of the week and we all tend to have those Monday morning blues. There is a tendency to deal with the easy stuff – the stuff we like doing, first. Unfortunately, this leads to the formation of a giant black cloud at the end of the day containing all those tasks we just don’t want to do and consequently don’t get done. Consider which tasks need to be done first in terms of deadlines, importance and which are the most difficult to do first. With every one of these tasks completed, your spirit lifts, you become more confident and your work gets a boost.

5. Learn to Delegate

Even when snowed under with work, some people still have the tendency to take on every task that comes their way. There is often a sub-conscious feeling of “no-one can do it like I can” or worse still “I cannot trust anyone else to do it”. These are all signs that you have fears of letting tasks out of your control, you lack self-confidence in delegating or you fear it will detract from your own importance.

Taking the latter first – delegation is a symbol of good management and good team work so delegating attracts distinction. In order to let go of control you need to accept this is an issue for you and also accept colleagues will make mistakes. By integration of task delegation with employee development it becomes a positive activity for all concerned and will undoubtedly help with self-confidence over time as you help employees with new skills.

6. Give Yourself A Break

Giving yourself a break is just as important as the work itself. If you do not recuperate you will not have the energy to do the work itself. But don’t just catch the odd minute. Schedule it into your diary. It’s important – keep to it wherever you can.

7. Schedule Thinking Time

One of the factors in our everyday work is thinking time. Sometimes when we have to make a highly important decision we can just freeze and the rest of the day kind of gets put on hold. Be aware of which kind of situations or problems cause issues for you and schedule in time for that activity alone. The point is recognising you are doing something – so schedule appropriate time.

8. Think Logistics

When preparing for meetings, conferences, meetings, courses and interviews we tend to concentrate on the actual activity itself. But, if left to the last minute, questions such as “How do I get there?”, “Where will I park?”, “Do I need to be there early?” can leave you in desperate straits. Carefully work the logistical details as a matter of course before the event.

9. Consider Factors You Cannot Control

Don’t forget to take into account those factors which are beyond your control. In other words, factor in Murphy’s law. For instance, factor in time for traffic, getting lost or spending time hunting down that precious parking space. Factor in time spent passing on training time in task delegation and factor in the time needed when they get it wrong first time etc.

10. Get in The Right Mind-Set

Managing time is both a state of mind and a tool kit that you can effectively call on to continuously streamline your operations. Learn when and how you work best. If something doesn’t work, go back and analyse what happened – learn from your mistakes rather than becoming more and more despondent over past disappointments. Discipline yourself so you keep to an organised work environment. Make time management a precious skill fundamental to your job role – and your future career.

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