For four days down in the islands last weekend, I did something completely crazy. I didn’t wear a watch, follow a schedule, or even check email, Facebook, or Twitter. And it was fantastic. My most critical decision each day was whether to hit the pool or the beach.
Of course, I realize this isn’t actually possible in everyday life, but for a few days, I cleared my mind and truly relaxed. It also got me thinking about how hard managing your time is when your organizational skills are lacking.
So this week, I wanted to share with you the top five time sucks and how to avoid them.
1. Working without a To Do list. You spend more time figuring out what to do or completing nonessential tasks than doing real work. Keep a long-term “master” To Do list, a weekly To Do list, and each evening, quickly jot down the tasks you want to complete the next day. You’ll arrive at the office each morning focused and knowing what you need to get done.
2. Not scheduling your tasks. Once you have your daily To Do list, schedule those tasks into your calendar. If you haven’t planned time to get something done, it’s not going to happen.
3. Poor logistical planning. This is especially critical for people that are out of the office for meetings. You know what I mean… somehow you have a 10am in midtown, a lunch all the way downtown, and another meeting in midtown in the afternoon. Not a good use of your time. Schedule your meetings based on location. Then, the evening before your meetings, use this route planner to figure out the quickest way to get there. The MTA isn’t always the most reliable, but their route planner somehow never fails me.
4. Constantly monitoring email and social media. Responding to email as it comes in, especially when it’s not urgent, takes your focus away from other tasks. Schedule time on your calendar – 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, and before you leave the office – to quickly review email and respond to urgent messages. Trust me, if it’s that urgent, your boss will call you. For all other messages, respond before you leave the office at the end of the day. And while you’re at it, schedule time for Facebook, Twitter, and reading your favorite blogs. Preferably during your lunch break or at the end of your day.
5. Your office mate, Chatty Cathy. Although she’s always ready to rehash last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, it’s not a good use of your time. Practice the polite exit. Something like: “Cathy, can we catch up around lunch? The Boss Man is hounding me about these TPS reports.” The boss is the bad guy, not you.