Time management is an issue for everyone—the chronically late, the stop-watch exact, people who arrive 15 minutes early at restaurants tapping their feet waiting for you to show five minutes late (ask the MTA), and those who plan events for 8:00 pm, so people will really show up at 9:00 pm.
For example, I am a pretty good time manager, almost never late, constantly making lists, scheduling, thinking ahead, and yet this blog post was supposed to go up on Monday (for the daylight savings time tie-in), not Wednesday. What happened? Where did the time go? A hour was taken from me, not two days.
Issue #1: The freestyle golem all-clanging pipes band decided to go for an one hour concert, with 15 minute encore starting at four am Monday (the artists formerly known as “Radiator”). They were accompanied by “Mewing, Hungry, Attention-Seeking, and Slightly Freaked-Out Cat.” The venue also ran out of paper towels leaving attendee rushing about, groggy and disoriented, seeking substitutes for the growing pool of warm water on the floor (rock stars always making a mess!).
Issue #2: Monday inbox attack. Somewhere (although I can’t find it), it says the worst day for emails is Monday, the best are Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday not so good since people are wrapping up for the week. [Although my publicity director finds the media is surprisingly responsive after 5:30 pm and on weekends]. Monday was one such severe attack. Please, please, please, learn how to write emails well—subject line is key, know who to and not to cc/bcc, and don’t expect instantaneous responses (the inbox is not your pager). [Want some training? AMA is doing a great webinar on writing emails]
Issue #3: Colleague leaving for vacation in two days. This wasn’t really an issue, but suddenly getting cc’ed on emails and being told things you have to remember is another addition to the normal workload, both expected and unexpected.
Issue #4: I can’t remember anymore. I really can’t. I think there were about seven issues too.
So what tactics can someone, who walked into three doors (I swear I was aiming for the doorway) and two walls (the corners tricked me) before noon and whose large hypercaffeine-infused latte was downed in five minutes to no effect, use?
Prioritize. Do the work you can handle instead of staring at work you know you can’t. Take strategic breaks to refresh yourself to avoid kitten-falling-asleep behavior while sitting at your desk and your head finds itself 3 inches from the keyboard.
There are a number of tools we must master in the workplace. Many people term these “distractions” when they can be essential for doing our job (email, Twitter, LinkedIn, phones, speaking to other people instead of muttering to ourselves or transmitting our thoughts directly via intense brainwaves). You may have everything set out in a plan, but the slightest hiccup (or radiator) can throw a spanner in the works. You need to be flexible, use common tools, work with people, get things done, and do your job.
So for anyone and everyone, here are some time management resources that I will be looking at when I get the chance.
The Time Trap: The Classic Book on Time Management, Fourth Edition (coming in June!) by Alec Mackenzie and Pat Nickerson is one of the best-selling books on time management and for good reason—it really helps. The new edition covers email overload and blackberry addicton, so every modern business person should have this book in their library (and read it too).
Real-World Time Management, Second Edition by Roy Alexander and Michael S. Dobson is one of our WorkSmart titles so you get a tiny book packed with info, advice, and worksheets to help you organize and improve.
Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible by business guru Brian Tracy reveals his comprehensive system to increase productivity, income, and satisfaction (and he should know, Brian’s a busy man).
Good luck and good timing!