How to be more effective with your time

How to be more effective with your time

There is one precious commodity in the world that we all share: time. Overwhelmed by information, choices and expected roles, we often feel lost and frustrated by the fact that there seems to be not enough time.

Do you say to yourself:
 If only I had more time...
 I never have time for myself!
 There are so many things I want to do, but at the end I don’t do anything.
 I will finally write a book or start new hobby when my kids have grown up and I have retired.
 I will do that task tomorrow, next week, month, year, etc.

Rings a bell? Read on!

Manage yourself, not time

Being entrepreneur myself, I have discovered that it is more difficult to manage one’s time when one work by/for oneself, rather than when working for someone else or a company.

I have also discovered that it is not time we have to manage; time is just ticking away - quite fast, in fact.

What you can manage though is YOURSELF. The better you know yourself - your needs, dreams, strengths, etc. - the more aware you become of what you want to achieve.

Model for effective time-management

Here is a five-step model I developed to help people better manage themselves and therefore their time and life.

1. Set your personal & professional goals

At least twice per year (January and September are usually good points), I sit and write down all those things I want to achieve or realise on a personal and professional level.

I love the way time-management guru Stephen Covey explains it: let’s suppose you have a jar and you want to fill it with big stones, small stones and sand. If you start by putting the small ones and the sand in first, then the big stones just don’t fit.

On the other hand, when you start with the big stones, then add the small ones and put the sand in at the end, suddenly there is enough room.

Clearly this is a metaphor for important things in life (e.g. health, family, etc.), so I literally draw a jar, add all the things that are important to me and I make sure I put it on a place that it is always visible, so I can look at it every day.

Now, take a piece of paper and draw your jar and what you really want.

2. Set your priorities & Set them right

Once you know what your goals are, you need to write down all the necessary (sub)tasks you must prioritise - it’s not possible to start working on all of them at the same time!

There are different ways of prioritising. For business purposes, I find the Pareto principle an eye-opener. According to the rule, 80 per cent of our results are created by 20 per cent of our effort. Which means that 80 per cent of our efforts only give us 20 per cent of our results.

You can look at this in terms of clients: 20 per cent of our clients bring us 80 per cent of our work and vice versa. So are you focusing on the right things?

How does the 80-20 rule apply to your situation? Take a moment to assess it and prioritise accordingly.

3. Plan (ahead)

Make sure to plan your prioritised goals and actions accordingly.

Every day before opening up your email box, make sure you have your daily action list ready. Put your goals and tasks in your agenda and save time-slots for activities other than the usual ones.

It’s wrong to omit this step: make sure to leave at least 15-20 per cent of your time every day for unpredictable things, otherwise there will always be tasks that will be incomplete at the end of the day.

4. Act accordingly

This is probably the most difficult part of the model, at least for me. During the day there are so many things that can distract you.

 The Law of Parkinson
According to The Law of Parkinson, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

Put simply, if you have to write an article in eight hours, you will spend eight hours on it; if you have to write it in one hour, you will spend one.

Tip: Be realistic about the time you need to complete the task, but always evaluate the time and give yourself a deadline.

 Time wasters
I divide time wasters into two categories:

- The external ones: social media, internet, mobile phone, email...

Tip: When working on a particular task, switch of the Internet and put your phone on silent.

- The internal ones: procrastination and perfectionism.

Tip: Be aware and evaluate how much not finishing the things you are working is going to cost you.

Don’t forget to award yourself every time you complete a difficult task!

 Delegate or outsource
Whatever you can delegate and / or outsource, do it. Calculate how much your (working) hour is worth and work out whether it is smarter to give it to a specialist, who by default will be much more effective than you.

5. Evaluate

Whatever technique you decide to use, spend time to evaluate if it’s working for you.

Also take time to evaluate the goals that you have set for yourself. If you met them, celebrate! If not, ask yourself why it went wrong and think of ways to improve it next time.

Once you turn the model into a habit, you will see how much more you can achieve. On top of that, you will do so in a much more conscious and relaxed way.

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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