You arrive at the office, turn on your computer and sit down at your desk. No sooner have you begun to work when – all of a sudden – you hear a familiar hubbub in the corridors: it’s already lunchtime. But how? It feels like only a few minutes had passed, but in fact half the day has vanished! So what now? The clock ticks, your to-do list gets longer and longer and your anxiety increases tenfold. How many of you recognise this scenario?
We can all get overloaded at work, but if this kind of situation is happening all the time, it may be hiding a time management problem – an issue with your ability to plan your work commitments to carry out each task to the best of your abilities, with no added stress.
Setting aside the idea that multitasking is the best way to make sure you end your day with a cry of “mission accomplished”, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the tried and tested time management techniques that can help you manage even the largest workloads.
1. The Pomodoro Technique
Devised by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, this technique is based on alternating periods of concentrated work with brief, frequent breaks. A timer is used to denote when the breaks should be taken. Set your timer to 25 minutes. Spend the time working with no distractions and, when the timer sounds, give yourself five minutes of complete rest away from your desk. Congratulations, you’ve just done your first Pomodoro! Every four Pomodoro cycles you are entitled to a longer break of between 15 and 30 minutes to fully recharge your batteries.
The acronym stands for Clear-Organized-Productive-Efficient. Much more than merely a list of buzzwords, COPE is a method that focuses on rationalising work and eliminating time-consuming, low-value-added activities to achieve maximum productivity. Another trick recommended by Peggy Duncan – the brain behind this technique – is to create repeatable models that you can use to complete common, everyday activities without wasting too much time.
3. The Pareto Principle
According to Pareto, 80% of a list of 100 activities can be completed in 20% of the time it takes to finish the full 100. But how does that translate? In day-to-day life we are bombarded by a flood of small, quick activities we need to complete. The solution? Rank the tasks on a scale from A to C, according to their importance and urgency.
A = Important, urgent tasks;
B = Important tasks that are not urgent;
C = Tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
The quickest tasks will also be highlighted within this ranking system. Start from these and work through your to-do list, leaving the more complex activities until the end. You can then focus on these calmly and with full concentration, strong in the conviction that everything else is already taken care of.
4. 18 Minutes
Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes method is centred around the importance of setting aside precious minutes at the beginning, at the end and in the middle of the day in order to analyse what you have done, what you still have to do and rate your productivity. So how many minutes should you dedicate to this analysis, without wasting time? Exactly 18 every day. Five in the morning, before you start work: invaluable time for organised the much-feared to-do list. Five in the evening, to look back over the day’s activities and judge your output with a clear head. And one minute for every working hour, to take a view of how the day is going and evaluate your efficiency.
What about you Growing Leaders? Do you have any time management secret technique you want to share with us?