Just a few months into the year and you’re already playing catch-up? It’s not too late to make 2014 the year you start successfully managing your schedule. Here are five tips from timeexpert Patricia Hutchings:
1. Start keeping a time log. Track two days a week for at least two weeks. Keep it simple: Write work hours down the left side of a sheet. Across the top write categories representing activities, such as “email,” “meeting,” “walk-in visitors,” etc. Record your actions with a check mark or a time notation. It helps you avoid saying, “I’m interrupted all the time,” instead of spotting specific problems.
2. Prioritize tasks with ABCs, 123s. List five things you have to accomplish this week. Compare No. 1 and No. 2, asking, “If I could get only one done this week, which would it be?” Put a tick mark by the chosen one. Then compare No. 1 against the No. 3 item. Next compare No. 1 against No. 4 and No. 5.
Now, begin the process again, starting with the No. 2 item. Com-pare it with No. 1, and put a tick mark by the chosen item. Go down the list, comparing No. 2 against the other items. Do the same with No. 3, then No. 4 and No. 5.
The item with the most marks is your A, the next highest number of marks is your B, and so on.
3. Block out 15 minutes for planning first thing in the morning and at day’s end. Don’t get so busy that suddenly it’s the afternoon and you haven’t gotten to your top priorities. Start tackling top priorities within 20 minutes of sitting down at your desk.
4. Check and respond to email three times a day. If that’s not possible, do it at the top of each hour.
5. Allot realistic time for scheduled meetings. You need at least five to 10 minutes on either side of meetings, but many people schedule meetings back-to-back.