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Time Management Article

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Effective Time Management for Busy People

by Valerie Vauthey and Buzzy Gordon

Do you ever find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day, because there is “never enough time” to get everything done? Do you sometimes feel that you are juggling too many obligations over the course of a day?

At the same time, do you ever feel amazed at how some people seem to accomplish so much in the exact same amount of time allotted to us all?

Just as the fundamental key to becoming wealthy is proper money management (managing your earning, saving, investing and spending), the key to succeeding in accomplishing all the goals you have set for yourself is effective time management.

Recently, reporter John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 television newsmagazine exploded the myth that Americans have less free time now than previous generations did. Once he learned how to manage his time better, he found he was able to write a book (Give Me a Break).

Surprisingly enough, however, perhaps the most important reason for learning to manage time more effectively is to safeguard one’s health.

Studies have shown that the frustration engendered by the difficulties in coping with our many daily interruptions – telephone calls, e-mails, unexpected visitors, unplanned meetings, sudden emergencies, etc. – leads to increased levels of stress. The effects of this stress can be gastric and digestive distress, as well as intense fatigue and exhaustion.

Moreover, brain research has found that stress-related fatigue is linked more to anxiety about NOT having completed what we wanted to complete than to the acute form of stress generated by crises that occasionally come up. Hence, the supreme importance of time management.

Managing Communications

You can cut down the amount of time wasted on the telephone by avoiding being placed on hold. If someone is unavailable right away, find out the best time to call back, or leave your number. If you need to make regular calls, try to schedule them in advance according to mutually agreed times.

If a receptionist, secretary or assistant answers your incoming calls, train them to screen calls and refer them to others. Have your staff take messages for you when you do not want to be disturbed, and try to delegate returning some of the phone calls to others.

If you take the call, let the caller know your time constraints. Always keep a pen and pad by the phone. If you get a call asking for information you don't have immediately to hand, don't look for it: arrange to call back later.

You can reduce cellphone interruptions by not giving the number out to too many people, and not including it on your business card or e-mail signature, unless it really is too difficult to reach you by other means.

Avoid taking business calls on your carphone. Any time you think you are saving by driving and talking at the same time will evaporate if you become distracted enough to miss a turn or a highway exit. Even more is lost by having to reconstruct the call later, or perhaps repeating much of the same conversation, because you were unable to take notes during the original call.

Most people keep their e-mail programs open and running all day long and are alerted to incoming messages. In addition, a recent study found that 75% of these people would cease other activity to take care of incoming e-mail.

This is highly disruptive and prevents you from being truly efficient. Researchers asked the study group to refrain from handling each incoming e-mail as it arrived; instead, they were allowed to read and answer new e-mails only five times a day. The efficiency level of this group increased by 35%.

Turn off your incoming e-mail alert, therefore, and open your e-mail only at regular intervals. Do not let e-mails dictate what your working days should look like.

Managing Meetings and Visitors

It is widely acknowledged that about one-third of the time spent in meetings is wasted due to poor meeting management and lack of planning. Reliable estimates indicate that that the average executive spends about 17 hours a week in meetings, about 6 hours in planning time and untold hours in follow-up.

One senior executive recalls being summoned to meetings every single day of the business week: one meeting per week was labeled product marketing, another was called strategy, then product testing, then customer review. In addition, one of the five weekly meetings had no fixed agenda. And this does not count ad hoc meetings on issues that might crop up from time to time.

When this executive was not able to convince the CEO to scale back the number of meetings, she decided to work from home 50% of the time; her productivity (measured by closing of contracts) doubled!

It is not necessary to eliminate all meetings, but up to half of internal company meetings might profitably be dispensed with. Take a few minutes to write down how many meetings you attended last week, how many you have planned for the coming week, and how long you think they are going to last. Add up the hours, and slash the number of meetings by two, and/or the number of hours spent in them by 30%.

The same rule for incoming phone calls applies to personal appointments and visitors. If you have a secretary or PA, set a clear policy about who should have access to you and with whom else they might be able to speak instead.

If you have an unexpected visitor, establish at the start why they have come to see you.
Stand when they enter the room, so that they also remain standing. If it is indeed necessary for you to deal personally with them, suggest a later meeting, at your convenience. Set a time limit to your discussion and avoid engaging in small talk.
If you really can't get them out of your office, make a polite excuse and leave the office yourself.

These tips are by no means exhaustive, but they represent a good start to managing your most precious resource: time.

Valerie Vauthey is the founder of the #1 Coaching Company www.MyPrivateCoach.com and the co-founder with Buzzy Gordon of www.WealthQuoteOfTheDay.com.


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