Articles and Resources - Time Management

How To Save Time During Meetings

Are you wasting your time attending meetings?  Are there better ways to spend your precious time?

On average, eleven million business meetings are held each day, 37% of an employee’s time is spent on meetings and a further 92% of attendees value meetings as providing an opportunity to contribute, which leads to job satisfaction.  According to this same study by the MCI Conferencing White Paper on meetings in America, nearly all meeting attendees (91%) admit to day dreaming during meetings, while over 39% have fallen asleep!

So what’s the problem? 

First of all, never agree to attend a meeting unless you absolutely, positively must be present (or if your boss says that you need to be there.)  Instead request a copy of the minutes and/or the Powerpoint deck.  These highlights will give you the gist of what was discussed and will save you time.

However, there are times, when you need to Chair or attend the meeting.  The following are some tips to maximize your time.

When you are the Chair of the meeting:

  • Identify the purpose of the meeting.
  • Pin point the target audience, attendees and decision makers.  Only include the people who need to be there. 
  • Give attendees advance notice, agenda items and brief background information on the topics.  Participants need time to prepare and do research.  It will provide better quality decisions, and reduce the change of another meeting after everyone has done further research and review.
  • Record attendance.
  • Follow the agenda!   Seems straight forward, but it is easy to get off track.
  • Invite a facilitator, if you think that it will be a difficult discussion.
  • Appoint a time keeper.  Allocate a time limit for each agenda item and stick to it.  Ensure that the meeting ends on time.
  • Appoint a note taker.  Ask them to record the record of decisions, the person who will action the decision and due date.
  • Keep your own notes on the items you need to follow up on.
  • Allow everyone equal time to contribute ideas.  Tactfully encourage the quiet members to share their ideas, too.
  • For discussions that involve 3 or less attendees, have a separate mini meeting, either before or after the main meeting.  It will save everyone time and make both meetings more productive.
  • Set up a “parking lot” to capture good ideas, that do not relate to the agenda.  Be sure to follow up on the items and get back to the participants who brought it up.
  • Delegate responsibility to people who asked for an item on the agenda.  Let them lead the discussion around the topic, but as the Chairperson, give them guidance to keep the dialogue on track.
  • Periodically summarize the discussion, ensuring that the Notetaker has captured all of the essential points.
  • Thank the participants for attending.
  • Summarize the next steps for the group.
  • Follow up the action steps within one week of the meeting and report back to the group, as needed.
  • Some meetings may tend to unite or divide the members.  Therefore, start and end with topics that will bring the group together.
  • Many meetings are not productive after two hours.  Therefore, set up the meeting so it will finish on time before lunch or at the end of the day.
  • Set up the next meeting, while everyone is present, along with their calendars.

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”  Thomas Sewell

When you are a participant of the meeting:

  • Review the agenda before the meeting.  Prepare to discuss the items that apply to you.  Bring documents to support your discussion points.
  • Review the attendee list and be aware of what their stake might be at the meeting. 
  • Be clear about your meeting role during the meeting.
  • During the meeting, contribute your ideas, as best as you can.
  • Be prepared to take on action steps, this is part of why you are there.  Be clear about what you are supposed to do, and the timing.  You will be held accountable by the group, so decide on how you will action your plan and report back to the group.

By following these suggestions for the meeting chair and participant, you will have a timely and productive meeting.  



10 Ways To Break Through Procrastination And Get More Done

What’s sitting on the back of your desk for more than 5 days?  Is it a task that needs to be done (like this article), but gets delayed each time a new duty comes up?  Many of us tend to procrastinate, whether it’s planned or not.  In a workshop of 20 people, an average of 3 or 4 are self-identified procrastinators, but most of us have at least one item on the back burner at any time.  Unfortunately, procrastination can lead to missed deadlines, increased stress and result in career derailments.

Let us have a look at what is causing procrastination and some proven solutions.

Managers have identified the following main sources of procrastination for themselves or their staff.  

•    Overwhelmed by the task 
•    Don’t know where to start
•    Intimidated by the immensity of the task 
•    Avoidance of the task because it might cause conflict 
•    Undesirable task
•    Considered to be dull and boring work
•    Just don’t want to do it!

After identifying the reason(s) why we procrastinate, the following are some recommendations to get the task done.

1.    Make the task a priority.  It has to be important to be done.
2.    Write it on the top of your “To-Do” List.  
3.    Visualize the end result.  What will it look like when it is completed?  John had a desk that was covered in papers since the day he started.  We asked him to visualize the top of his desk neatly organized with only papers involving his current projects.  This also included his computer desk top and Post-It Notes on the computer monitor.
4.    Set a deadline.  Make sure that the deadline is reasonable and achievable.  There is no point in setting a deadline that you will procrastinate around.  
5.    Schedule the task in your day.  Allow sufficient time for planning and interruptions as you work on it.
6.    Strategize your approach.  How are you going to get rid of all those extra files that have been on your desk forever?
7.    Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.
8.    Identify the first step.  Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out how to start.
9.    Begin and work on it until it is completed.
10.     Reward yourself!

In conclusion, examine the tasks which are sitting on your desk. If the task has been there for more than 5 days, ask yourself, “Is it important?”  If so, make it a priority item and follow through the process to completion.  You will be glad you did!



7 Tips to Become More Productive From Scheduling

You know that you have a busy day coming up.  Your time needs to be scheduled, in order to get everything done and still have some time for the unplanned urgent requests and interruptions.

These are 7 scheduling tips on how to get become more productive and get more done:

  1. Use a tool to help you keep organized such as a diary, calendar, paper-based organizer, or integrated software suites like MS Outlook. The specific tool will depend on your on your situation, preferences and budget. 
  2. Enter data with ease.  Identify the time that you have available for your work.  This will depend on the design of your job and personal goals in life.
  3. Block time for the priority tasks that you absolutely must complete. These tasks will often be your performance objectives.  If you are a manager, allow time for training, coaching and supervising your staff.  Allow ample time to communicate with your Manager and peers.  
  4. Review your To Do List, and schedule the high-priority urgent activities, as well as the essential tasks that cannot be delegated or avoided.  Consider important deadlines and if someone is waiting for your task completion, then book the time.  
  5. Block in contingency time. Normally, the more unpredictable your job, the more contingency time you need. The reality of most of our working environments is constant interruption.  We don’t know when the interruptions will happen, but if we leave space in the schedule, we will have the time to deal with problems when they arise and it will not through us off schedule.
  6. Set aside discretionary time for additional last minute high priority items. 
  7. Allow time for planning, creativity and social time, after the important items are scheduled.

By scheduling your day with purpose, it helps you to make better quality decisions and increase your productivity over the time.  It gives you a sense of control and reduces stress.  Scheduling will only take about 10 to 15 minutes each day, but is well worth the time and effort at the end of the day, as we successfully check off all of the priority items and say “done”.


Teach Your Staff How to Fish Through Delegation

Peter is pressed for time and needs to get three tasks done by the end of the day, but there is only time for two. How can he meet the deadlines without working double time? Delegation is the answer.

When I spoke to several Managers, many said that they don't want to delegate because they can do a task faster themselves, rather than teach someone else how to do.  However, a question to ask, "Is it critical that you do the task?" Some Managers enjoy doing that task and don’t want to give it away. Does that sound familiar? On the other hand, once we invest our time to train the employees, they are set for success. 

Keep in mind that we want to delegate the task – not dump something that we don’t want to do. The aim is to help them learn and develop their competencies. 

The following are 10 tips on how to teach employees to fish through delegation.

  1. Delegate to the lowest level possible. The folks who are nearest to the task will be best suited for the work. They will have the most knowledge and day-to-day details of the job. If we delegate too high up, the task could be redelegated, which is not desirable.
  2. Include them in the delegation process. Make an announcement to the staff. "We need someone to do the monthly activity report. Who can help out?"  Empower them to be part of the decision making process. People who put their name forward will be more committed to the task.
  3. Ensure that the person has the proper information, access to resources and capable of doing the task.
  4. Make the expectations clear. As I mention in my workshops, the number reason why people fail is because of unclear expectations. Explain what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and the expected completion time. Let them determine how best to do the task. After all, our way may not always be the best way. Delegation helps to develop trust. Ask them to explain to you their understanding of the task or confirm by e-mail. By confirming the expected results, there is a clear understanding of what needs to happen. Set up time frames for checking in and monitoring. Provide support, if they need it. But please – no hovering!
  5. Match the task with the responsibility. You can delegate the responsibility, but the ultimate accountability will default to you. The buck stops with you!
  6. Step back and let them do the work. Be prepared to answer questions and to make some adjustments, as necessary. Please – no micromanaging!
  7. Avoid upward delegation. If there is an issue, brainstorm solutions with them and don't be tempted to take the task back. By solving their own problems, they will develop confidence and problem solving skills.
  8. Discuss how success will be rewarded such as future opportunities, financial reward and recognition. Give them credit for the good work.
  9. If something goes wrong, the delegator will take ultimate responsibility. There is no scapegoat. What can both of you learn from the experience and how can it be corrected in the future?
  10. Review the outcome and results. What did they accomplish? How did it meet the expectations? 

Through delegation, Managers will teach their staff how to fish and feed themselves, rather than coming to you for food. Managers will save time, get tasks done and develop staff all at the same time.

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Mainonides



5+ Ways to Prioritize and Get More Done

Are you too busy?  Stretching to meet deadlines?  Short on time?  The most effective way to find more time and increase performance is to prioritize tasks. We need to make conscious choices as to where we spend our time.  It comes down to focus on the most critical tasks to completion.  It is not the number tasks that we have started, but what has been completed that counts.  

Here are 5+ ways to make it happen:

  1. List what needs to be done.  Write it down so it is in front of you.  A physical reminder of the tasks is a constant reminder that they need to be completed.
  2. Prioritize the tasks beginning with the most urgent and important ones. Urgent tasks are usually brought to you by someone else, which may throw off your priorities. Consider if the urgent task fits with your long term goals. Rely on your instincts.  Urgent tasks are often a crisis situation that cannot be diverted.  Afterwards, go to important tasks such as planning and relationship building.  These important tasks can give us more rewards over the longer term.
  3. Begin with a task that will give you the most value or financial payback.  If there is a client with potentially more major contracts, give them immediate attention whereas a client who you rarely see will get a lower priority. Provide each client with your best work but at different priority levels.
  4. Unplanned tasks usually involve quick decisions and we often don't have time to fully analyze the situation.  Work on the task if it takes less than five minutes.  More time demanding tasks will go on the priority list.
  5. Some task priority considerations are:
  • Can it be delegated or eliminated? Remember that when we delegate a task, it is meant to help another person grow, rather than dumping the tasks that we don't want to do.
  • Can it be eliminated? I used to prepare a monthly report but no one ever asked questions about it.  One month, I decided not to submit it. Three months later, someone inquired about the report. As it turned out, they wanted to have a report on file in case there was a question from their superiors.  
  • Can it be combined with another job? For example, can I clean out the stock room and take inventory at the same time?
  • What is the deadline? Immediate deadlines require immediate attention, while longer term deadlines can give you some breathing space.
  • How much time will the task take? If the task takes 30 minutes, we could fit it into most schedules, while a full day task needs a block of time.
  • Is someone else depending on this task to get their work done?  If our staff need some figures to complete the budget, our uncooperative methods will impact an entire process.
  • Is there pressure from the next level up? If it is, we are on their radar and cooperation is a good idea!
  • What are the consequences if the task is not done today?  If there are none - then we can delay it, but if it will get us into trouble, it is time to do it.
  • What are the long term consequences? If there are serious consequences, then it needs to go to the top of the list.
  • Will anyone notice if it is not done this day? If I can get by today, then I have bought myself some time.

By carefully analyzing each task and placing it in the right place on the priority list, we can get the right things done, at the right time, and for the right reasons.

For dozens of more ways to save time and get more done, attend Helen's Time Management Essentials workshop.



Managing Your Time While Waiting For Others

Many of us are reliant on others to provide information to complete our tasks. But how often does our work sit idle, while we are waiting?
In some cases, our deadline may get missed, because we do not have the necessary details to get the work done.
The following are 9 tips to help you save time and get more accomplished:

  1. Make your expectations clear. Communicate what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, why it is needed and how it fits in with the bigger picture. Clearly articulate the expected format.
  2. Explain the impact and importance of their role.
  3. Communicate the timelines of the process.
  4. Keep communication lines open and be available to answer questions.
  5. Build in buffer time. If your report needs to be completed by Friday at noon and you need 2 hours to summarize the details from others, give others a Thursday noon deadline.  If any interruptions come up, you will have some extra time to complete your tasks and still get the report completed on time.
  6. Ensure that references and resources are available.
  7. Have a contingency plan, if the work is not completed in time. For example, keep others informed about the progress and be ready to ask for a deadline extension in extreme cases.
  8. Make certain that there is a current, accurate and well documented process, so information providers don’t get lost trying to figure out complicated processes.
  9. If there is an oversight in the process, find out the cause and implement solutions to ensure that it does not reoccur.

Managing your time while waiting for others involves clear communication with a well documented process and resources readily available. Be sure to give credit to providers of information and celebrate task completion successes.
Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



Productivity Boost Model

Mary was frustrated. Each morning she came in with a work plan, but within the first 20 minutes she was pulled in different directions with urgent requests and a constant barrage of disruptions.  Mary knew that she had to do something.
Then Mary adapted the Productivity Boost Model as a daily habit. She became more organized, focused on the most important tasks and shut the computer off at night, knowing that her day was productive.
Do you want to save time? This model will help you become more productive, reduce time wasters and get the most important things done.
The 5-Step Productivity Boost Model:
1. Triage (like a hospital ER) what needs to be done

  • List the items on your “to do list”
  • Determine what really matters
  • Establish your work requirements
  • Decide on what is most important

2. Schedule it

  • Determine how long the task will take
  • Order and prioritize the most important tasks

3. Focus on getting it done (think of Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence)

  • Maintain laser sharp focus
  • Collect the information by doing research, attending meetings, and checking e-mails
  • Avoid distractions
  • Stay away from multi tasking

4. Analyze what happened, after the work has been done

  • What worked well?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • Were there any people or process problems?
  • How could time be saved, if you had to do it again?

5. Take Care of Yourself

  • How is your energy level?
  • Are you getting enough rest, exercise and eating properly?

By following the 5 steps, you can get more done and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



7 Tips to Manage Interruptions

You sit down and start to work on a task. Just as you nicely get into it, the phone rings, followed by a "ding" announcing the arrival of an e-mail and a co-worker pops into your cubicle to catch up on the weekend activities. How do you minimize the interruptions, not offend anyone and still get the work done?
The following 7 tips will help you maintain production and get things done. 

  1. Come in extra early or stay late to avoid the busiest time of the day (and while most interruptions occur.)
  2. Wear a headset and listen to soothing music or white noise.  It will drown out interruptions and help minimize your stress.
  3. Position your workspace away from favorite socialization areas such as the lunch room, coffee pot or photocopier machine.
  4. Set up a physical barrier such as a bookcase, plant or screen to block people from seeing you as they walk past your work station.  As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
  5. Temporarily set your phone to automatic messaging. 
  6. Keep your daily "to do" list in front of you.  Whenever an interruption comes up, look at the list and remind yourself of your top priorities.
  7. After keeping your nose to the grindstone and getting things done, remember to REWARD YOURSELF.

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop:  How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time.  Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



Time Management Essentials

How often have we said, "Where did this day go?" E-Mails, meetings, and telephone calls place demands on our time. We only have so many hours each day to get our work done.  Time management skills have a direct effect on our efficiency, quality of work and stress levels. 
Handling E-mails can be a big time consumer. Every time we hear a "ding" indicating that a new e-mail has arrived, many of us are programmed to leave what we were doing and open up the new e-mail. Unfortunately, with each distraction, we temporarily stop what we have been working on and switch to a new task. While some e-mails are urgent, most are routine. For a person who receives 80 e-mails a day, it could mean up to 10 distractions every hour. 
Action Required – Please note that these tips will require personal self discipline and behavorial modification – but totally worth the change if you are serious about saving time.

  • Turn off the new e-mail notification. This will save you disruptions and allow you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Check messages only 3 or 4 times every day. First thing in the morning, before lunch, 2 pm and before you leave the office. Once again, it will allow you to focus on one task at a time. Studies have shown that multi-tasking does not work.
  • Clean out your inbox each day. File messages by subject or action required.
  • Process each e-mail only once when you open it ie:  Action it immediately, forward it to someone else, file it for future reference, or delete it
  • When sending a message, state the action required in the subject line ie:  To be actioned by (date), For Information Purposes Only, Share with Others. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



The 2 - Minute Briefing

You have spent many hours researching an issue or problem and now it is time to deliver a briefing. You have 15 minutes of information that need to be delivered in 2 minutes.  Properly planning and organizing your approach will give you the results you need.

Determine the purpose of the briefing. Ask yourself, why am I giving this briefing? Is it to make a request, to make a recommendation, to pursuade, or to inform? What do you want the Manager to know, understand, or approve after the meeting? Then determine the type of information you need to supply in order to make this happen.

Consider the Manager's background, experience and context of the information. If they have been updated previously, then you will need less background information and focus more on new details, recommendations and findings. Have an idea of their strategic position, as this will give you an idea of the type of questions they may ask. Consider if they are a big picture or details person. What is your preferred style and how do you adapt your style to meet their needs?

A good verbal briefing is organized into 2 parts: 1) The Request, and 2) The Rationale.

1. The Request
In the first 30 seconds state up front your key point or what you are asking for in the briefing.  Give the importance or relevance of the request.  For example, the purpose of this meeting is to ask for approval to move forward with the expansion plans.

2. The Rationale
The 90 second rationale should include information that is needed for a good quality decision.  Ensure that your background information does not include more than 3 or 4 main points.  Indicate the key points, rationale and justification.  Use signal words such as first, second, next, and the final consideration.  Restate your key point at the ending.

By carefully planning and organizing the briefing, you will be able to state your ideas clearly and concisely, and ultimately achieving the results you desire.

We would love to have your feedback!  Tell us what you have done and the positive results that were achieved!!



9 Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Season

Develop Your Management Skills and Prepare For The Holiday Season

Mary was looking forward to the holiday break. But as the days slipped by, it seemed like she was losing ground. The e-mails kept on coming, the meetings never stopped and staff kept on dropping into her cubicle.

With each day, she was getting more stressed and wondered if she actually could take a week off from the office. In addition to work, she had a long list of social activities and holiday shopping. No wonder why she was feeling more tired in the mornings and had bags under her eyes!

In order to prepare for a peaceful and relaxing Holiday Vacation, these are 9 tips to help manage the demands of your personal and professional life.

  1. Make 2 lists of tasks that MUST be completed between today and the start of your holiday break. Make one for the home/social activities and a second one for business.
  2. Prioritize the tasks in order of importance.  Do the items on the low level of importance really need to be done?
  3. Review the list. Can any of the items be delegated (upwards or downwards), delayed or shared? If so, start the "sharing" process.
  4. Estimate the amount of time your most important tasks will take - now book a meeting with yourself. Block the time and schedule it into your day. (Sorry, no double booking!)
  5. Get all the resources and information you need, before you start your biggest projects, so you don't have to look for it when you are actually ready.
  6. Work on the first item on each list - both at work and at home. Toil on it until it is fully completed. Don't be tempted by distractions! It is amazing how many distractions come our way which eat up valuable time.
  7. Pat yourself on the back for doing the most important priority. There is a great deal of satisfaction involved, when you can check it off as ... DONE! Place the next item in your immediate mindset and give it your undivided attention.
  8. Start new projects when you return from vacation. Give your unconscious mind some time to think about creative solutions to the projects during your time away from your post.
  9. Make note of any outstanding issues before you leave. It will put your mind at ease and help you get organized upon your return.

So there you have it folks, 9 ways to take a break and prepare for the Happy Holidays.


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