Resolve to make 2008 the year you successfully manage your schedule. Here are five tips from timeexpert Patricia Hutchings:
1. Start by keeping a time log. Track two days a week for at least two weeks. Keep it simple: Write workday hours down the left side of a sheet. Across the top write categories that represent your daily activities, such as “e-mail,” “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. Compare 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 five to 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. You want to be at your top priorities within 20 minutes of sitting down at your desk.
4. Check and respond to e-mail three times a day. If that’s not possible, do it at the top of each hour. Tip: Put a line below your signature telling when you check and respond to e-mail. If they need you before then, they can call.
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.