Few of us will readily admit that large parts of our working days are wasted. The only way for you to make better use of your time is to analyze how to use it now, and then to consider ways in which you can reallocate it in a more effective way.
ASSESSING YOUR DAY
There are always competing demands on your time. It is very to spend too much time on routine things, such as reading mail, at the expense of high-priority, productive tasks. How do you divide up your day at the moment? Do you prioritize your work so that you tackle important and urgent projects first? Or do you concentrate on completing enjoyable tasks first? Are you distracted by phone calls, or do you have a system for dealing with them? Do you waste a lot of time?
COSTING YOUR TIME
It is a sobering exercise to calculate exactly how much your time costs and then realize how much of it is not being spent effectively. Use the calculation on the right to work out how much your time at work costs per hour and per minute, then use these figures to analyze the relative cost of a few activities typical of your day, such as arranging a meeting yourself rather than asking your assistant to undertake that task. Always consider whether you should delegate tasks to others: it is generally more cost-effective to give routine asks more junior staff rather than do it yourself since your cost to the company will be higher.
KEEPING A TIME LOG
Maintaining a time log on how much time you spend on particular activities is fundamental to managing your time more effectively. You may be surprised at how much time you spend chatting, and how little time you spend working and planning. Your time log provides you with a starting point from which you can assess areas to improve. How long you should keep a time log for is dependent on the nature of your work. If you work on a monthly cycle, keep the log for a couple of months. If your work is weekly, a two- or three- week log should suffice.
REVIEWING A TIME LOG
To analyze your time log, allocate all of the 30-minute time chunks that you have recorded into categories according to the nature of each task, and calculate the amount of time spent on each type of task, such as meetings, reading and replying to mail, helping colleagues, or making phone calls. Now calculate the percentage of your time spent on each task. This will give you a better picture of your working day and will enable access to how you can allocate your time more effectively.
BREAKING DOWN TASKS
Look at the categories into which you have allocated your tasks, and divide them to groups: routine tasks (for example, writing a regular report), ongoing projects (for example, organizing a meeting), and tasks that would further develop your job (for example, making new contacts). Work out the percentage of time spent on each group.
LOOKING FOR PATTERNS
Now that you have established how your time is being allocated, ask yourself if the breakdown meets the expectation of your working day. Are there times when you are very busy and others when you are slack? If so, try to find ways to reorganize your working day so that you are able to work more consistently and efficiently, and achieve more.
If you are spending too much time on one group of tasks to the detriment of others, work out how you can reorganize your daily schedule so that your time is distributed more efficiently. For example, if you are spending time on tasks that could be easily done by a junior, delegate them. This way you can concentrate your energies on the areas in which you are not spending enough time.
- Think through your day while making your way to work.
- Always delegate tasks which are not time-effective for you to do.
- Split your working day into chunks of 30 minutes each.
- Review your time log to access your work efficiency.
- Allow for some thinking time in your schedule.
- Estimate how long a task will take you, and see how accurate you were.
- Update your time log as often as possible – memory is often unreliable.