Monday Mornings with Madison



Adopting time management strategies is similar to planning and adopting a budget. Just as the goal of a budget is to put you in control of your money, the goal of time management is to regain control of your time.  Last week we examined ten tips to self-manage your way into a better (read:  more productive) use of your time.  Here are ten more tips.

(continued from last week)

11.  Don’t be a perfectionist.
Trying to be a perfect person sets you up for defeat. Nobody can be perfect. Difficult tasks usually result in avoidance and procrastination. Set challenging but achievable goals. There will always be people both weaker and stronger than you.

12.  Learn to say “No”.
This is actually very difficult for some people.  If there is something you simply cannot do and you want to say “no” but you hate turning people down, realize that it is better to say no than to disappoint someone else.  Politely saying “no” should become a habit. Saying “no” frees up time for the things that are most important.

13. Combine several activities.
Another tip is to combine several activities into one time spot. While commuting on a train or bus, read or take notes.  When commuting in a car, listen to podcasts or books on tape on topics related to your line of work.  This allows up to an hour or two a day of time for other things. While showering, make a mental list of things to do. When you watch a sit-com, laugh as you pay your bills. Be creative in finding ways to combine tasks.

14.  Don’t leave email sitting in your in box.
The ability to quickly process and synthesize information and turn it into actions is one of the most emergent skills of the professional world today. Organize email in file folders. If the message needs more thought, move it to your to-do list. If it’s for reference, print it out. If it’s a meeting, move it to your calendar.  Good time managers are those who are really good at touching things only once.  Take action on an email as soon as you read it.

15.  Keep web site addresses organized.
Use book marking services to keep track of web sites. Instead of having random notes about places you want to check out, places you want to keep as a reference, etc., you can save them all in one place, and you can search and share your list easily.

16.  Know when you work best.
Try to schedule things so that you work during the time of day when you are the most productive. Each person has a best time. You can discover yours by monitoring your productivity over a period of time. Then manage your schedule to keep your best time free for your most important work.

17.  Think economy of motion.
If you’re on a computer all day, keystrokes matter because efficiency matters. On any given day, an information worker will do a dozen Google searches.  How many keystrokes does it take? Can it be reduced to three? That may only save 10 seconds, but over time, that builds up.  In most jobs, there are tasks that are repetitive.  If you can find ways to save even a few seconds each time you perform that task, it provides a huge savings.  Case in point.  In the 1950s, Toyota adopted “economy of motion” and “economy of thought” techniques recommended by W. Edwards Deming.  Today, Toyota is the world’s leading automotive manufacturer.

18.  Make it easy to get started.
People don’t usually have problems finishing projects.  They have problems starting them.  Make a shallow on-ramp by breaking down projects into small chunks so as to not be overwhelmed by them.

19.  Re-organize your to-do list daily.
If you don’t know what you should be doing, how can you manage your time to do it? Some people like writing this list out by hand because it shows commitment to each item. Others prefer software that can slice and dice their to-do list into manageable, relevant chunks.  Whichever your approach, review and reset your to-do list daily to ensure you are focused.

20. Dare to be slow.
A good time manager actually responds to some things more slowly than a bad time manager would. For example, someone who is doing the highest priority task is probably not answering incoming email while they’re doing it.  There are usually more important tasks than processing email.  Recognize that processing your work (evaluating what’s come in and how to handle it) and planning your work are also mission-critical tasks.

May the time spent reading these tips serve you well in making the most of your time daily.


“Anything that is wasted effort represents wasted time. The best management of our time thus becomes linked inseparably with the best utilization of our efforts.” Ted W. Engstrom

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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