Top Ten Tips for time management
by Malcolm Simmonds on 09/02/2013
Good time management is something which is very hard to achieve even by the best Internet marketers. Many good marketers have said to me: “gosh, that’s one thing I could do with – better time management”.
So if you have trouble with it, don’t fret! You are in good company.
In this post I go quickly over 10 tips – around 2 minutes per tip – to try to improve your time management fast.
I do hope you get loads out of it
Practice Makes Perfect
Learning good time management is like learning any other skill. You have to keep doing it, reviewing how you are doing, tweaking your method, and then trying the new method you just devised.
If you accept that you are going to have to review how you are doing, tweak your methods, and try again then you will save a lot of disappointment and you can’t go wrong.
You won’t manage it first time but after multiple iterations you will be getting better and better. Follow my suggestions and I will make you into a super time manager!
PLEASE DO ME A FAVOUR – and share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your other favoured social networks. I’d really appreciate that.
When building my $500K herbal business, I used every time management system going, and I was still unsatisfied with how I managed my time. This went on for years – many years. Each successive system I tried seemed to be more and more complicated, and sometimes it felt as if I was spending more time managing my time than actually doing things.
Then, finally, I discovered how to combine the elements of two efficiency systems I already knew really well, and just combining those two in the right way I realised I could manage my time not only effectively, but in a way that was very quick to learn and apply and extremely satisfying.
So I’m going to tell you some of the elements of the system I used now, and particularly, the Ten Top Tips from that system. This will give you an overview which I hope will get you started.
Tip Number 1
So my tip number one is: Have all your tasks, or To-do’s in other words, written down. Don’t keep any in your head. It’s just distracting to try and remember things: and at the back of your mind you’re always doubting yourself: “Have I remembered everything?”, and sooner or later, you will forget something.
So, write it down. Keep it in your To-do lists, and just have a careful note of everything you’ve got to do. Just have a reminder in place, so this takes the stress out of your day, and it helps to make sure you don’t miss things.
Tip Number 2
Secondly, you’ve got your To-do lists, I assume, so you’ve got lists of things to do. Now have one list – and I label mine “Now” – and on that list, put your top five to six tasks that you’re hoping to do today.
So this will vary from person to person. Some of the tasks might be quite small; some of them might be bigger, but around about five or six of your tasks. Maybe first thing in the morning, review any tasks you’ve got on your “Now” list remaining there from yesterday, and then look through your other task list and add some more as appropriate.
So you can then focus on those top five or six tasks. And you know when you’ve finished one task, you can go back to your “Now” list, which has only got a short number of tasks on it – rather than look through the whole To-do list caboodle – much quicker, much more conveniently for you.
Tip Number 3
Number three: Clear your essential maintenance tasks first thing each morning, or each work period, then focus solid time on one project. This is as a general rule. It might change from time to time, but as a general rule, it’s better if you can work on just one project.
So each day, first of all, for each work period you get your routine jobs out of the way, which will be for example: email, reviewing and adjusting your To-do lists – such as putting things in the “Now” list, as I mentioned earlier – responding to any queries you’ve got to respond to, essential maintenance tasks, maybe, on your computer.
And anything else you just have to do, get that out of the way as quickly as you can, and then spend a good chunk of your focused time on one major project and I recommend you finish one project off if you can before starting on another one, because multi-tasking is inefficient for most people.
Now, again, sometimes you can’t avoid that, but if you can, focus on one product that makes you much more productive.
Tip Number 4
Now to help you stay focused on that project that you’re working on with your chunks of time, use a timer. Now a timer really does help to keep you focused. It helps you avoid distractions.
If someone interrupts you, the timer in the corner of your eye just makes you think, “You know, I’ve really got to focus on this. I must deal with this interruption as quickly as possible, and then return to my work,” and it’s just nice to get to the end of your day and to know, for example, you might have done two hours or three hours on a project and your timer confirms that.
So there are various electronic timers you can get. There’s, here on the PC, there’s Cool Timer, which I have used in the past. There’s Snaptime Pro, which I sometimes use now. And my favorite one at the moment is actually this FreeTime, which is an iPad app that I’ve just taken a screen shot of here, where you can set up multiple timers and when you’re spending time on the different tasks, you can start that particular timer off.
And it is definitely helpful, and it makes me more productive. I think it might work for you as well, to actually time yourself on your different tasks. It certainly keeps you focused, and it does stop you – it helps to stop you, anyway – frittering your time away on non-productive tasks.
Tip Number 5
So my fifth tip is to keep a clear desk and in-tray. If you’ve got stuff lying around, it will be distracting, so clear stuff up as you go along. If you’ve got piles of stuff all over the office, at the moment, or your workspace, then take your time, but over the course of a few weeks, work your way through the whole lot and:
- File it away
- Chuck it away
- Do it, if it’s less than two minutes, else create a To-do task
- File it in a simple filing system
- Or, if you have other team members, delegate it.
Put everything – pile everything up – in your in-tray and then work your way through them one at a time, the idea being, you only touch any item once and decide what to do with it. And if you haven’t got a clear desk now, then when you do have a clear desk, I predict you will feel very satisfied with that situation.
So get that organised, and then during your weekly review that I recommend you stick everything in the inbox again, any random things lying around, and tidy it up before it gets too bad.
Tip Number 6
Tip number six is along the same lines: keeping your email inbox to zero.
Now I know that can be quite difficult to do, but it’s definitely possible, and again, very satisfying if you do that. So the thing with your emails is to clear your inbox. Don’t leave emails in your inbox so you just end up reading them or glancing at them even, two, three, four, five, six times.
You shouldn’t leave emails in your inbox – a waste of your time. It really is. So read them once and deal with them, so you can either delete them – I use my deleted folder as my archive. I’ve got my deleted folder going back for 10 years or more with Outlook so I could search for anything that’s in that folder at any time.
But another way to do it is to have an archive folder and just put stuff in your archive folder that you think you might possibly want in the future. So that’s fine, and then you’ve got a filing cabinet of all those emails you may need to search at some time.
Create a To-do list from the email item if it requires action, then that’s something to create a task for and you can copy and paste, rather than email information within that task.
Or you can just send it to Evernote if you have Outlook – and that’s useful thing to be able to do with one click – Evernote being the foundation of my own time management system, and I shall be showing you that just shortly.
And then, of course, you can delete the email, and the good thing, especially if you know that you save your deleted emails, is that you can always find it later.
Or, if you’ve got something that needs doing and it’s only going to take two minutes or less, then just do it straightaway. It’s just not worth creating a To-do item then. So, I’ll just show you my Outlook. Okay, so here’s my inbox, and you can see at the moment, there are six items in it.
So I’ll just quickly go through these. That’s just a summary of Twitter, not really very interesting; Freelance.com, not interesting; Buffer, not interesting; WarriorForum, not interesting; Message From My Accounts Department and one from Yahoo! Answers – not interesting.
So the accounts, I’ve already dealt with that, so I’ll delete it. These things I’ve done I would want them to go to my secondary inbox because they’re simply not important items, and if I didn’t see them for a week it probably wouldn’t matter in most cases.
And so here is my secondary inbox. I call it “Non-urgent,” and what I do is anything that’s important, I set up a rule in Outlook to send email into my Non-urgent inbox. I’ve recorded this on video before that I do this, so I won’t go into that now, but I’ll just show it quickly.
Right click on this Twitter one. “Rules,” “Always Remove Messages from Twitter to Non-urgent.” That’s that.
“Rules,” “Always Remove Messages from Freelance” – it’s non-urgent – “Buffer,” the same.
These are things I’ve signed up to recently, or activated recently in some way; hence, I haven’t set up these rules already. I think I’ll put the Warrior one in there – no, I’ll leave the Warrior one where it is as I sometimes have emails from Warrior that are urgent.
So there you go. That’s my inbox empty, just how I like it, and now I’ll look at my secondary inbox, which is where 80% of where my mails go because of rules I’ve set up, and these are usually not anything; you know, I usually just go delete, delete, delete with these. Let’s just have a look. Delete, delete, delete, Twitter: delete, a backup: delete – yeah, I want to delete a backup.
So there are my two inboxes empty, and, as I say, putting things into a secondary inbox, I cover in another video, so I’m not going to go into that here. The basic idea is anything that’s not urgent, which is about 80% of your emails more than likely – take it out of your inbox with a rule and put it into a secondary inbox, so you know all your important mail is in your main inbox.
You can do that on Outlook, you can do it on Gmail; you can do it on other email clients.
Tip Number 7
Right back to Top Tip number seven: Manage your business and your personal tasks using the same To-do system.
After all, business and personal tasks affect each other, they impinge on each other. If you’ve got your personal life organised, it will have a good effect on your business and visa versa. So why not use the same system?
Don’t have a completely different system to manage what you’ve got to do in your personal life and your business life. That’s what I recommend. Now there are ways of being able to see your To-do items when you’re at home or at work and keep that distinct, but keep them in the same system.
Tip Number 8
Number eight: Have a weekly review. During you’re weekly review, go through your emails, and if they’ve built up, which they might do, then hack them back down to zero again – it just keeps things so much cleaner and efficient.
And then, look through, in the weekly review, every single on of the To-do tasks you’ve got and make sure you’ve got five to six on your special “Now” To-do list, which we looked at over here on number two, so if I just show you an example Evernote file over here.
Now, each one of these notes here is a task, and each task has a preview down here with some more information, which could be anything I want. These are the actual tasks, and they’re all in the To-do notebook, you can see from here, and they’re all… each one is tagged with various tags.
Some of them are tagged with “Now,” some of them are tagged with “Later,” so this is a simplified version of the To-do list management method I use. Just to show you an example:
So if go in Evernote to the “To-do list” – it’s called a Notebook in Evernote – then that’ll show you everything I’ve got stored in the To-do Notebook, all the to-do items I’ve got, and there are just about 150 in here.
Now, if I also click on this tag “Now” or “!1-Now” because I want my tags to appear in a certain order and that just fools them into doing so. So “Now” appears above “For Later” because alphabetically “Later” would appear first, but I want that. So here are all my “Now” items; I’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight items.
Some of them can be knocked off quite quickly: book dentist, buy hand cream, book car service, and then others are a bit lengthier, so WireFrameLighting.com for redesign, so that’s a website that I need to Wireframe – as a first step to redesigning it, so that will be quite a chunky project.
So this is my “Now” list, and these are the things I’m going to go through, right now, because now is the beginning of the day, let’s say, and these are what’s on my “Now” list.
Now once I’ve knocked some of these off – so I’ve bought the hand cream, I’ve booked the dentist, I’ve booked the car service, I’ve arranged the coaching call, I’ve ordered some desks, and I’ve only got two or three items left on this list because I’ve already deleted these.
Then I can go to my “Later” list, find some more items, which I’ve only got half a dozen sample ones here, but on my actual “Later” list I’ve got a lot more than that, probably more like 50. And then, I’ll move some of these to the “Now” list, so I can say, “Right, I’m going to study that training.”
I’m going to choose a final bidder, so I’ll add those two tasks to the “Now” list, so I can drag them over to “Now.” They now will have the “Now” tag, but they’ll also have the “Later” tag, which I will remove so that they have now left “Later,” and they’ve gone into “Now.”
So that’s how I keep things organised so that I can see a small number of items under my “Now” tag, so I can see when I run out of things to do, I can quickly go to my “Now” tag and choose the next item to do. That’s probably more than I’d normally have. I normally have five or six in the “Now” tag.
So I hope that’s fairly clear. I will be going into this in more detail in an additional video. So what else was I going to show you in there? The weekly review is just where you would go through all your To-do lists and just make sure they’re on the right list.
So here, I’ve got one “Now” and four “Later”; the full list is actually six all together – six To-do lists. I’d say if you move your things around between task lists, depending on how urgent they’ve become, basically, but I’ll go into that on the second video.
So, it’s number eight: Weekly review – really necessary to keep yourself tidy – and don’t forget to go through that in-tray during your weekly review and clear it out.
Tip Number 9
Number nine: Only keep time-specific tasks in your calendar. So don’t put to-do items in your calendar. I personally have maybe two, three, four items in my calendar in a day. That’s all.
Having To-do list items in a calendar really is a waste of time because you end up just having to move them around. And you don’t know you’re going to get around to something on a certain day, so it’s better to keep you to two items on the To-do lists and not clutter it up. So only put things in your calendar that have to be done at a certain time or on a certain day.
Tip Number 10
And finally number ten: Keep a “Waiting for” list and put on it things you are waiting for others to do. So if you ask somebody to do something, if somebody says they’re going to get back to you, if you delegate a task, put it on a “Waiting for” list and review it in your weekly review.
Now in my own system, I actually have that here as a tag, so let’s add a tag.
Create tag – exclamation mark is actually number six in my system – hyphen, I’ll just use “Waiting” instead of “Waiting for”.
Now, if somebody says they’re going to do something – so let’s go to “Now” where I’ve got too many items – and say that person’s phoning me back. John is phoning back about this by – I’ll just put “phoning back about this,” and then I’ll drag that over to “Waiting,” and I’ll go to “Waiting.” There it is: it’s now got “Now” and “Waiting” tags.
I’ll delete the “Now,” and then during my weekly review, I will look at the “Now” items, make sure I want all those in there. I don’t move them. I’ll look at “Later” the same, and then I’ll look at “Waiting” to see what people promised me, and see who need chasing up. That’s a really useful thing to have, a “Waiting for” list.
So that’s the end of this summery of Top Ten Time Management Tips. If you get your time management right, you can become much more effective and efficient in not only your work, but also your private life.
And doing your work will become much more satisfying, because you’ll have your finger on the pulse of your work: you’ll know where you are with everything. If you need to look stuff up, you’ll know where to look. You won’t overlook tasks, and you will simply achieve more in the working time you have available.
So I hope you got some useful ideas from these top ten tips.