In business one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is learning to value our time. Yet most of us spend our days running from one crisis to another, struggling to manage a plethora of competing demands.
Admittedly, some of these demands are urgent and we have no choice but to deal with them there and then. Others are important, and some are things we have fallen into a habit of doing—like spending too much time on email—which, although neither urgent nor important, can take up a significant chunk of our time. Unfortunately, all too often, the things that mean most to us, like spending time with family and friends or looking after our health and wellbeing, fall further down our ‘to do’ list because we don’t prioritise them.
The key to good time management is learning to understand these demands and working out how to categorise them so as to improve effectiveness. A good starting point is to work out how you spend your time each day. Today, there are tools that can help with this task, from monitoring time spent on social media to analysing time spent on particular projects or clients.
In my business, the MyHours time tracking solution has really changed how I manage my working time, helping me to identify my most valuable work and eliminate time-wasting activities.
Another time management habit I have adopted is restricting email to fixed time slots in the morning and evening rather than allowing it to constantly interrupt me throughout the day. For me, email is usually ‘Important but not urgent’ so this works well in my business.
The idea of analysing tasks and prioritising how to allocate time appropriately is not new. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, management guru Stephen Covey explains how to go about this task. His time-management matrix is set out below:
- Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first.
- Tasks that are important but not urgent are the next priority—these may be work-related but they could also be personal tasks like looking after our health and wellbeing which help us be happier and more efficient at work.
- Tasks that are urgent but not important can almost always be put off until later while tasks that are ‘not urgent and not important’ may not need to be done at all.
The matrix is a useful tool to keep handy when planning your ‘to do’ list each day.
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