In part II of this series we talk about other points which you can take note of in order to further improve your time management.
Arrange Your Time Well
There are tasks which needs to wait and let it run its course, and there are tasks which do not need to do so. Let’s say at work you have 2 tasks – to do a report and seek approval from your superior before executing the plan, and to reply the emails from other people. We know that when you submit a report to your superior, you have to give him time to go through the report, make corrections if necessary and wait for his approval. On the other hand, you probably do not need to seek clearance for the emails you send out to other people, in the sense that once you finished typing you can just send out immediately.
Now we have 2 options. If you write emails first, then do the report to your superior, you will end up wasting time purely waiting for him to clear your report with nothing else on your hand to do. However, if you write the report to him first, while you are waiting, you can write the emails to whoever you need to reply to. You are making use of your waiting time to do other things. We can see that by arranging time correctly, you are able to do more things during a fixed period of time.
Let us look at another example. Whenever I got to a new place (be it an internal transfer to another unit, or joining a new company), there will always be things to be handed over to me from my predecessor. Often times, whoever it may be, my predecessors will always say they are very busy with their work and have no time to go through with me the things I should take over. Once, I waited for a few weeks before my predecessor finally found the time to sit down with me for an hour to hand over his portfolio to me. During that few weeks, I had nothing to do (no complains though). During that period I did occasionally ask him if he wanted to hand over the job to me, only to receive the exact same reply: I am too busy now for that. Please wait a bit more.
We all have that experience at work. We know sometimes things can be busy. But it cannot be so busy to the point you do not have an one-hour slot for such a long period of time. Logically speaking, if he just spent 1 hour sitting down with me to pass me his job, he could have easily cut down half his workload. But he did not.
When arranging time, do know which tasks require you to wait (such as waiting for superior’s approval), and which are the tasks if done well could save you a lot of time. While we definitely need to prioritise the urgent tasks first, arranging your time effectively will enable you to work more effectively and efficiently.
Do Similar Tasks In The Same Timeslot
Put similar tasks together. Perhaps you may set yourself to meet all the clients you have in the morning. Or maybe all your reports will be done in the afternoon. The momentum of doing a particular task can be taken advantage of and carried forward to another. Doing a totally new task will require you to brake completely and restart completely. Think of it like when you are driving. When you are making a turn, you slow down from gear 5 to gear 2, then move back up to gear 5 again once the turn is over. But at a traffic light you are coming to a complete stop. Even though both are driving, the first one can be considered ‘one stretch of road’ while the traffic light situation will be taken as ‘2 stretches of road’.
Have A To-Do List
A to-do list is helpful. Sometimes you have so many on your mind that you forgot which are the tasks you need to do. You know you have a lot to do but do not know where to start. Or perhaps at the end of the day you suddenly remembered you still have one more item left undone. You do not need to have any fanciful app to keep track of your to-do list. Just an old and simple piece of paper and pen will do the job. Write down what you need to do, and as you look at the list you are able to see which are the items that should be done first (eg urgent tasks and tasks that requires waiting) and which are the tasks you can group together. Visualising the tasks helps in getting organised and saving time.
Delegate Or Outsource Your Work Effectively
If you are in management role in the company, you would have a team under you. It does not matter if you are in the lower management, middle management or top management. If you are managing someone or a team, you actually have the authority to delegate work to people under you, all within reasonable limits of course. The issue many of us have with our bosses is that they make stupid decisions because they do not know the work well, have problems asking the right people to do a job and their ego makes it impossible for them to actually listen and admit to their mistakes. Of course there are always the nice and capable bosses around that we love to work for.
But if you are in the management position, do you make the same mistake? Definitely, being in a small management role myself, I know that the considerations I have is different from the perceptions my staff have, and that my goals are different from those of my bosses. But that aside, it is important to know the work well, know your staff well, able to delegate well and manage your men well. Many bosses dump all the work to that few hard workers and let the slackers get off easily, creating an unhealthy culture where the hard workers either get burnt out and join the slackers or simply leave. In the end the team has more and more incompetent people, which in turn bites back at the manager.
How to manage your men effectively is another topic altogether, but for today I will just say learn to delegate the correct work to the correct person. You ask the smooth talker to pacify the client, the one who just wishes to sit quietly at the corner to write a report, the guy who cannot sit still for long to run errands. Know the capabilities and personalities of those directly under you and delegate accordingly. If those under you have more people under them, then it is their job to make sure they run their team effectively, although you definitely could provide for some advice if they are not doing good.
At home, you may have heard of the maid concept. More popular in Asia and Middle East, but less so in the modern Western world, the maid stays in your house to take care of all the housework, including your meals. They are not expensive. Probably all expenses accounted for will be about $1000 a month for employing a maid. There are part-time maids for those who do not wish to have an outsider stay with them. But you get the concept. Outsourcing mundane and routine tasks such as housework for a small fee saves you a great deal of energy and time which can be used for better things.
What are the other areas in your life which makes you better off delegating or outsourcing? Some people call for a taxi / private hire driver instead of buying a car and driving themselves when they go out, though it is more applicable for city dwellers. Some people eat outside everyday or call for food delivery instead of cooking at home, though that may be unhealthy. Some hire a tuition teacher to handle their kids’ after-school education instead of teaching themselves, but do take note to still be involved with your children. The list goes on.
At work or in personal life, learning how to delegate or outsource effectively will take us one step further in time management. Afterall, does this not look like employment to you? Our bosses hire us so they can outsource and delegate certain jobs to us. Outsourcing and delegating to a person with multiple capabilities is the ideal one. Hire one person and get different work done. But of course, the reward has to be appropriate.
This conclude the 2 part series on time management. While there definitely are more tips out there, but mastering the points mentioned in this 2-part article will definitely get you somewhere further. Start from somewhere, and slowly expand your time management skills. Bit by bit, we will get to the goal of financial freedom we have been looking at.