How to get your time back

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Guidelines for “Time Bandit Busting”

To help you eliminate your Time Bandits try the “Bandit Busters” listed below.

The heart of good time management is setting goals and priorities that enable us to get results, not just stay busy. It’s a lot to learn and a lot to think about. There are a lot of new habits to form. But if time is life, then isn’t time management a way to, literally, get more life? Where else could you find a better payoff for your efforts?

If you’re typical, you’ll find that that many, if not most of the Bandit Busters are applicable to you. Actively work to replace your unproductive old habits with productive new ones. It’s virtually impossible to internalise and implement all of these ideas at once, so you should select only a couple of guidelines at first. Choose the most impactful ones and post them someplace where you see them every day. As you master each Bandit Buster, select another one and repeat the process. The trick is to internalise them as new habits and make them second nature.

The bottom line comes down to your willingness and commitment to establish the habits that will give you more control over both the expected and the unexpected things that happen every day.

Organisation & Planning Take “One Bite at a Time”

Identify work items that could possibly be done today. Break down long activities and projects into interim tasks. Remember the old adage, “The easiest way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

Prioritise and Stay Focused

Evaluate your list and prioritise items on the Daily Priorities Template.

Ask yourself:

If nothing else gets done today, what are the one or two items that absolutely must be done? (The most successful leaders only focus on one or two priorities for a given day.)

Hold Five-Minute Priority Meetings

Hold a five-minute priority-setting meeting early in the day with yourself and your key people.

Don’t Overbook

Don’t overbook your time. Allow for interruptions. Basic rule: Leave two hours of time unscheduled every day. It will fill itself!

Delegate

Delegate whatever items you can to your people.

Routines

Set up a fixed Daily Routine wherever possible. Schedule definite times for routine matters such as meetings, going through mail, communicating with your educators.

Share Time-Saving Ideas

Use ten minutes of your staff meetings each month to exchange time-saving ideas.

Avoid “Quicksand” Issues

Don’t get mired in issues that can’t be quickly resolved. Form ad hoc committees and hold meetings when topics come up that need more investigation. Do not take up people’s time talking about an item nobody can adequately address.

Set Deadlines

Set reasonable deadlines for all jobs and stick to them. It’s true: Work expands to fill the available time.

Divide and Conquer Big Jobs

To complete long-term projects, divide the activity into manageable tasks and distribute the tasks among others. Have them participate in setting deadlines to ensure greater commitment to completing the work in a timely manner.

Stop Fragmentation

When you start a piece of work, finish it if possible. If you split it up too much, you lose your work rhythm and waste time warming up each time you start again.

Take Natural Breaks

Take your breaks at times when your workflow is broken. For instance, when the people you have to talk with are not available, when the material you need is not ready etc.

Set “Do Not Disturb” Periods

Plan a definite time each day when you can have a meeting with yourself.Put a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on your door with a note showing when you are available. Ask someone else to take care of any visitors or telephone calls. (If you don’t have an office, use a high movable partition.)

Use “Gatekeepers”

When possible, have your telephone calls screened by a person or even voicemail. Use Gatekeepers for unexpected visitors too.

Consolidate Telephone Time

Set aside certain periods each day to accept, initiate and return calls. The best time to accept incoming calls is just before lunch or at the end of the work day. The best time to contact hard to- reach people is early in the morning, just before/after lunch, or late in the day.

Plan Phone Calls

Plan your telephone calls. Make a brief note of what you want to say and what you want to find out. It saves time for everybody and makes for better communication. Remember: “chit-chat” costs.

You can also use the technique of saying at the beginning of the call, “I have 10 minutes to spend with you now. If we don’t finish, we can schedule another time.”

Institute a “Closed-Door, Open-Calendar” Policy

Use an appointment system as much as possible. Put a time limit on visits. When someone calls for an appointment, ask how long it will take. Meet visitors outside your office and talk with them standing up if you wish the consultation to be brief. Another way to reduce interruptions is to establish “office hours,” which is the same as “open door,” but only for limited, scheduled times of yourchoosing.

Don’t Postpone “Bitter Pills”

Take care of important matters that are unpleasant immediately. If you keep postponing them, they will hauntyou and waste precious time reminding you they’re still around.

Maximise “Idle” Time

Get the most out of your already-committed time. For example, use travel time to listen to important material contained on tapes, or carry reading material with you at all times. Use waiting time to read.

Eat Lunch, but Eat “Light”

Take time for lunch whenever possible. When a day’s work is taxing, get out of the office for lunch. But eat a light lunch. This prevents the usual “sleepy” time in the afternoon.

Don’t Work at Home

Don’t take work home unless you’re certain you will get to it. It is much better to work longer at the office until you are finished. Setting time limits will help keep you on track. Then you can enjoy your leisure time more.

Don’t Be a Perfectionist

Let go of your need to be a perfectionist. For some things, “good enough” really is enough.

Use Prime Time for Prime Tasks

Capitalise on your “prime time.” When are you at your best? Do important things that require lots of brain energy at that time. When your brain is frazzled, attend to minor things that don’t take a lot of thought.

Capture Great Ideas

Collect all your ideas in one place (eg on your Daily Diary as you carry it around with you). Record your inspirations as you go through your day. That way you won’t lose any great ideas.

Think. Then Act

Avoid the “Fire, Ready, Aim” phenomenon. Think first, then act. Nothing is so urgent that there is no time to consider the decision-making process. But when the goal is clear and the means obvious, do something NOW. Effective people have one thing in common: The ability to shorten the distance between thought and action.

Don’t Over Commit

Beware of over commitment, remembering that you’re the only one who can protect your time. Learn the art of the polite “NO.” To what can you rightfully say “NO”?

Teach Time Management

Take the time to teach your people to use these time management techniques. Never underestimate the impact your good time management can have on those around you, so lead by example. Remember, the more effective those around you, the easier it makes your job.

Audit Time Management

Check your calendar and Daily Diary weekly for an overview of how effectively you are spending your time. Reinstitute the Daily Time Log whenever you find you or yourpeople falling into old habits of poor time management.


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