June 11, 2009
Time management made simple
Lately I've been lamenting to anyone who will listen that there isn't enough time in the day to do all my work, eat a civilized dinner, tackle a couple errands or household chores, and sleep 8 hours before doing it all again the next day.
A time management guru once suggested I track my every move in a free web tool like myHours.com to expose the biggest timesucks and goof-offs. Doing an audit of just what the heck it is I do all week sounded like a fine idea, until I realized I didn't have the spare minutes needed to set up the blasted tool.
Instead, I called local career coach Sherri Edwards, who regularly offers time management workshops. (Her next one is Tuesday, June 16.) Here's what she suggested for those who feel overwhelmed by all the professional and personal tasks on their plate:
1. Shred your to-do list. "Just having a general to-do list is not how you manage a project, so why would you manage your day that way?" Edwards said. Instead, block off time in your calendar for each task you need to tackle, scheduling the most difficult tasks for when you're most alert. "If you don't commit to something in advance, it doesn't happen," Edwards said. "You have to make the time."
2. Guestimate if you have to. If you don't know how long something will take, Edwards advised, guess. If you're daunted by how complex a task seems, break it down into bite-sized pieces and schedule them in your calendar individually.
3. Get reacquainted with real time. "Most people are clueless as far as how much time things really take, and they totally underestimate," Edwards said. To remedy this, keep track of the time you spend on each piece of each project and recalibrate upcoming calendar commitments as necessary.
4. Stop being reactive. "People have a tendency to work on what's easy as opposed to what's necessary," Edwards said. But your calendar should be your North Star, not the ringing phone, the chiming inbox, or the allure of your favorite social network.
5. Nix the multitasking. The idea that you can divide your attention between two simultaneous tasks -- and ace both -- is a myth. "I bust my clients because they're not doing the things they need to do and then I see a blog post of theirs pop up," Edwards said. "You can't be using your brain and your fingers on two things simultaneously. Ultimately, you have to do things one at a time."
To learn more about the workshops Edwards regularly offers -- on everything from setting goals to making a career change -- visit her Web site at ResourceMaximizer.com.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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