Time Management

by Di McLanachan

Where does my time go?

You haven’t stopped all day; from the moment you arrived at your desk this morning, you’ve been fire fighting – dealing with phone calls, interruptions, meetings and a host of other supposedly urgent tasks. It’s 6 o’clock now; you’re still in the office (most of your colleagues have left for the day) and that important report you’d promised yourself you would write today remains untouched. What went wrong?

If this happens on a regular basis, keep a time log for a week; this will help to identify exactly where your time does go. To complete a time log, you can either use the attached form (Word document) or devise one of your own, making notes, at 30-minute intervals, of what you have just been doing. After a week, you may find patterns emerging: perhaps a particular type of interruption is happening every day, or maybe there is a task that you are doing on a regular basis that could be delegated to someone else.

A completed time log gives you hard evidence as to exactly what is consuming your time. This will help you to make decisions about what needs to change in order that you can apply yourself to the truly important tasks at the time you choose. In other words, you can move to a position of being in control.

Another way to assess what is consuming your time is to ask a colleague who works with or near you. They may see things in the way you use your time that are simply not visible to you. For example, what seemed to you like a two-minute conversation with a passer by may have actually taken 10 or even 15 minutes.

If your sense of time passing is a bit woolly, then you may need a little beeper or a watch with an alarm to sound every 30 minutes to keep you aware of the passing of time, and to remind you to fill in your log. This approach might sound quite regimented and controlled, but if you are having trouble with time just disappearing, with little work progress to show for it, perhaps this control is what is missing.

Something you will notice as you keep your time log is that you will become more conscious of how you are using your time. This in turn is likely to lead to an improvement in your time management without any real conscious change or effort on your part.