Written by Ken Baker, Training and Business Development Director

Do you make things happen when you want them to, or do things happen to you when you don’t necessarily want them to? Here are my thoughts on time management and the benefits of applying energy and thought into this area.

“If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there” was a quote on a poster in an office I used to work in.  There was also a cartoon of a very busy, exasperated man pushing his bicycle along the road in a hurry. The caption says he is too busy to get on his bike, which in fact would get him to his destination quicker!! So sometimes it is prudent to look at the resources you have at your disposal and plan how to best utilise them. A bike in this example. The resource I want to focus on here is TIME.

Time is a limited resource that expires every day. Once time is gone, it is gone.

Good time management allows you to get more done, leading to more time to learn and develop; leading to lower stress levels and enhanced focus. All leading to greater career success and greater enjoyment of life.

So, its important stuff to get right.

Back in the ’90s as a very busy Sales Manager, my company put me on a Time Management Course. Of course, my initial reaction was that I didn’t have time to do a time management course! However, it really benefitted me and opened my mind.

I had always been a list maker, and I still am. I like an up to date written down neat list. I enjoy achieving tasks on my list. Also, if an action is on a list, I can stop it mulling around in my head. Generally, as well, if it’s written down on my list, it gets done!! I am a good list manager. However, my list can also be my comfort blanket. It can help me procrastinate. If I don’t achieve one of the actions, I can put it on tomorrows list. Also, the list is private to me, so I make the decisions on priorities and whether something may get scrubbed off it. It is my preferred procrastination tool as well as my action tool.

The course I attended encouraged me to use a diary system as well as my list (Or best to replace my list). Rather than list things, describing what needs to be done, the new way forward was to diarise start dates and actions. If not actioned, then the diary date must be rescheduled. Don’t commit to a start date in the first instance if there was no real intention of doing it. Be strict.

Written down actions turning goals into real plans.

The concept of protecting time was also one I found very useful. I had an open-door policy as a manager as I always wanted to demonstrate that I was engaged and available. However, this involved spinning a lot of plates. I didn’t prioritise correctly as everything was urgent. This also meant that I had very little time to focus on my own work. So, strategy, planning, training, reporting and managing up the line suffered. I would do my own work during the evening. My view on this was that I was extremely dedicated to working such long hours. However, the coach on my course pointed out that I was driving myself into overtime, by my own lack of time management during normal working hours

The concept of Prime Time was reviewed. Time reserved by myself to do my own work. Protected and diarised. My team needed to realise that they would get better support off me if I was more organised. I wasn’t being deliberately unavailable.

This applied to me also having a respect for my team member’s Prime Time. So, I was encouraged not to impose changes to their diaries at short notice to achieve my goals and interrupt theirs. A hard discipline as I was always used to getting my own way with their time!!!

So, as a team, we looked at our objectives. We started to work on weekly plans with start times diarised each day. It was amazing how much can get done when the time is planned in such a way. I loved the concept that this also allowed us to put the time in the diary to chill!! The old concept of working 8 hours, sleeping 8 hours so what happens in the other 8 hours!!!

Planning time generates time. Writing a Plan brings it to life. Diarising the first step of a tough plan helps break it down into manageable chunks and starts to get things done, builds confidence and motivation. I hate being on a diet, but when I lose a couple of pounds, I get motivated by a bit of success and look to diarise more of the same.

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

I am not saying that I achieve all that I have enthused about here. However, I do try and have written plans. I like visual goal mapping; I like my lists, but I also try and diarise start dates and commit to working them. I do try and break big tasks into chunks. I can’t boil the ocean!! But I can boil a kettle. Strange analogy but hopefully you get the point. “Keep putting one foot in front of the other and one day you will climb your mountain”

George Harrison sang “If you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there”. I really liked this. Another quote that got me thinking was “If you are busy climbing a ladder, make sure it’s against the right wall”

I will finish with a bit of Abraham Lincoln. He said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.

Are you bust trying to chop trees down every day with a blunt axe? You are really committed and working hard, but you would get a much better result if you took the time to sharpen the axe. Planning for success!! Good Luck