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TIME MANAGEMENT

Aurora Perez

by Aurora Perez

5.11.2021

Article

I think life is so much easier when we can plan ahead. I, as a mum of 3 with a full time job, have to plan ahead a lot in order to be able to do other things, like exercise, take some courses, spend time with my partner or go out with my friends. Do you want to know how I manage to organize myself?

Knowing what I have to do and by when and its priority level is the first step. So I have made those my 3 main time management pillars:

Clear Tasks: Knowing what I must do, I can also know how long it’s going to take to complete. The definition of done is also very important in order to plan ahead. Maybe it’s when the email has been sent or perhaps after the client meeting? To avoid misunderstandings with clients or colleagues it’s important to clarify what “done” means.

Clear Deadlines: By when my task must be finished is the second most important piece of information besides the actual task. In this case, this should be aligned within the team, from the managers to the team (when they expect the job to be ready) and from the team to the managers (when the job is going to be delivered), so any potential roadblocks can be handled in the early stages.

When it comes to internal tasks, if we don’t need to deliver to anyone, there’s always a risk that we will continuously shift it and never get it done. So, it’s a good idea to set a deadline for yourself to make sure things get done.

Clear Priorities: When several tasks need to be done at the same time, it’s important to set clear priorities so we are able to decide what task comes first and what can wait or needs to be shifted.

If any of these pieces is missing I can’t see the full picture and it’s more difficult to make all the puzzle pieces fit. Once I have defined these 3 aspects of the tasks, I can start working on the puzzle. By taking specific actions, for example:

Big memory, small pencil or a cool tool: I keep a track of everything I have to do, what is done, the status, what is shifted… Maybe you can use a notebook (like a do), an Excel sheet, a word document, calendar entries, lists, or post-its everywhere. There are plenty of tools that can be used for this. Experiment and find out what is the best system for you, and go all in.

Plan in advance: Having an overview of what is coming (a.k.a. see the 3 pillars above), it’s always easier to organize the time.

Do in advance everything you can: Following the previous point of planning in advance, if there is something that can be done in advance and you have time, do it. It will save you time later on down the road as you never know what may come unexpectedly.

Plan for the unexpected: You never know what can come on top of your current workload or maybe more urgent topics that need to be handed in at short notice. Once all the previous steps are taken care of, and something else comes up, I always ask for all the available information, and then I can see what other topics can be shifted, moved or maybe I can have support from other team members.

Context switching isn’t free: Every time we switch tasks, we pay a price: there can be errors or delays and it consumes time and energy. Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. So, for example, I try not to look at my emails every few minutes and I set times to look at them or disable the notifications altogether if I need to focus on a particular task.

Take advantage of any waiting or downtime: I try to have as little dead time as possible. If I know I have to wait for an answer or input, I make the most of that time and work on any of the smaller tasks on the list.

Raise your hand: And last but not least, don’t be afraid to raise your hand, either to ask for support or to support other team members. Be proactive.

At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of attitude and being honest with ourselves.

⎯⎯ Aurora Perez

I implement these useful time management tips in both my work and in my private life. At home we check the calendar every Sunday, we have a weekly overview for appointments. We try to do everything we can in advance. We do meal prep and do groceries once a week to leave enough room for the unexpected and other fun things that we may want to do.

At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of attitude and being honest with ourselves. If you really want to do something, you stop making excuses and make it happen, because you are never going to have more time than now. The day has 24 hours and that’s the same for everyone. You have to work, sleep, clean your house, take care of your pets, maybe kids,… All you need to do is change your mindset and stop saying: “I don’t have time to (FILL THE GAP HERE)”. Try to be honest with yourself and find the actual reason instead. Maybe you just aren’t motivated, and that’s fine too.

But if you really want to get things done, put them on your list and set deadlines.

With work related topics, it’s the same. It’s about wanting to get things done. Of course we are all fully booked. But then when something unexpected comes up, always ask when it has to be done, because in that case, you could shift other topics, or reset deadlines.

I hope these time management tips can help you become more efficient both at work and at home and make your life that little bit more enjoyable. What are your tried and true time management tricks?

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