The truth about time management… and getting it right!
How we choose to spend our minutes, our hours and our days not only shapes our working week, but over time defines our stress levels and personal wellbeing, career progression opportunities, and whether (or not) we meet our aspirations in life. It certainly deserves far more time and attention than most people give it credit for, but where do you start if you want to improve?
Time-saving tools such as mio, the Sales progression software for estate agents, can make a big difference, but there are also smaller changes you can make to help you feel more in control of your working week too.
Here Nick Ball, Head of Sales and Client Services at mio, shares his top tips and ideas on finding a time management strategy that works for you…
What is time management?
It helps to first understand exactly what is meant by the practice of time management.
Time management is the process of exercising conscious control over the time you spend on specific activities, to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and overall productivity.
It’s a way to plan your days and weeks to understand what is urgent and important, and therefore prioritise tasks to ensure that all tasks are completed within their required timeline.
Why is it so important?
If you don’t understand how best to take control of your time, it becomes near impossible to effectively organise your day, prioritise what’s truly important, and meet your deadlines.
Time management can be especially challenging for estate agents and other professionals who typically spend a lot of their time “plate spinning” and “firefighting” against an often overwhelming list of demands – but no matter what your day job looks like, pausing to reassess how you are spending your days can be time well spent.
It’s not just about writing a to-do list either. It’s about investing some thought in what you need to achieve and how best to do it. Everything from having a better understanding of yourself, when you work best, how you can best structure your day around your needs and priorities, and learning where you can be flexible (and less so) to accommodate all of your tasks, as well as delegate where needs be, can count towards effective time management.
What do people typically get wrong when it comes to time management?
Effective time management is a well-honed skill and an area where many people fall short in their personal and professional lives.
Here are some of the common mistakes and “time thieves”:
# 1: Failing to see when poor time management is really to blame
It’s easy to feel like there’s too much to do, to feel as though your days are running away from you, and to play “the time-poor victim”, but sometimes it’s simply a case of poor time management – not lack of time. It’s just not always clear to see.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, perhaps it’s time to stop and ask yourself if you are truly working as effectively as possible, or if there are some changes you could make to help you take more control of your week.
#2: Trying to do the “wrong” tasks at the “wrong” time of day
Everyone has peaks and troughs in their energy levels, focus and productivity across the day, and it can be massively counter-productive to try and attempt to do tasks that misalign with these.
Having an honest conversation with yourself about what a typical day looks like and when you really feel your best (e.g. just after your morning team meeting or after 3pm) can help you schedule key tasks at a time when you can give them your all, and actually progress them more efficiently too. If you know you feel sluggish after lunch, why not just schedule some admin that needs doing instead?
#3: Struggling to say no, when you already have a heavy workload
Could you be more honest about your current work load the next time someone asks you to pick up something new? Saying yes to everything and automatically marking it as urgent can create unnecessary stress and make you feel like you are losing control of your day, every day.
The next time an email comes in and you genuinely feel like you have no time that day or week to squeeze it in, why not try having an honest conversation with your colleague to negotiate something that is mutually convenient? Of course, there will always be last minute requests that are genuinely urgent, but on the whole this approach can help you regain control of your week and take the pressure off.
#4: Not trusting in your team and failing to delegate
Successful delegation has a lot of benefits; not only does it allow you to free up time otherwise spent on projects and tasks you don’t really have time for, but it also helps to inspire and upskill your team, as well as instil your confidence and trust in them and make them feel more valued.
If you feel you are doing everything yourself and not utilising the support of your wider team, perhaps it’s time to have rethink and look at some of the tasks that you could pass on?
It’s important to remember however, that delegation isn’t a quick way to wash your hands of something, it will still require some time – from upfront training, to scheduling time to check in on progress – but will help you make better use of your time in the long run.
#5: Going to every meeting you are invited to
Some companies are worse for this than others, but if you find yourself being invited to AND attending lots of meetings across the week, it’s worth reviewing what you are going to and why. Meetings are a massive drain on your time, and even if you can find just one where you feel your presence isn’t critical, you could be saving an hour a week.
How can you make better use of your time?
Once you have identified your “time thieves” and taken steps to address these, it can help to then look at different strategies to help you prioritise your tasks more efficiently and make the most of the time you have.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Draw out an urgent/ important matrix
This is a grid that can help you prioritise your to-do list and focus your mind on the ”urgent/ important” tasks first.
Here is an example of what this could look like:
As you can see, this matrix offers a positive framework for the “important/ not urgent” tasks to gradually make their way into the “important/ urgent” box as their deadline nears, and for the “not urgent” and “not important” tasks to be dealt with at a more convenient time.
Review your committed time vs. discretionary time
It’s easy to fall into the habit of wasting large chunks of free time on mediocre tasks, when this time could be better spent progressing a bigger project and, vice versa, trying to work on a bigger project at a time when you are being constantly interrupted with meetings, calls and emails.
Take a look at your committed time (e.g. team meetings) vs. your discretionary time (e.g. longer, uninterrupted periods) and schedule your key tasks for when you have a clear window to concentrate.
Review your business processes
Whilst taking a long, hard look at how you can make better use of your day, it’s also worthwhile to look at your wider business processes too and see if you can identify anything that could be improved to help save everyone time.
Looking out for paper-based processes, admin tasks that involve rekeying, or meetings that involve repeating the same information to different parties are good starting points for positive change, but it can also help to talk to your team and ask for their thoughts on what and where things could be more efficient.
Do you struggle with time management? What are your key time thieves? Could mio help make a difference to your working day? Get in touch to find out more.