Time management for busy people: prioritising, planning and productivity

Sep 14, 2020 11:16:12 AM

Business owners are almost always busy, and now many of us need to do more with fewer resources. Time management approaches can help you beat the overwhelm and do those things that will make the biggest impact. So, we’ve sorted through popular time management approaches to uncover the key concepts. A business mentor can help you to implement these ideas for prioritising, planning and productivity to help you get the best from your time.

Prioritise the things you need to get done with a triage approach

Time management techniques give you guides to triage your tasks. You can imagine you're in a busy emergency ward, and your job is to find the best order and care for each new patient – or task – you face.

A common approach is to categorise your tasks on a matrix:

  • important and urgent
  • important but not urgent
  • urgent but not important
  • not urgent and not important.

Another handy approach is to use the 80/20 rule – the Pareto principle, which is often called the 'law of a few'. In time management, this is the idea that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. For example, you could secure 80% of your week’s sales by looking after your top 20% of customers. As a business owner, you may reap the best value from your time by starting with work that enables others to carry out their own tasks. For fresh insights on identifying the most impactful places to direct your effort, a business mentor’s experience can bring practical wisdom.

Plan to plan your time

Planning plays a central role in time management. Most time management techniques recommend setting out your tasks on a weekly and daily basis, and often monthly and yearly too, using your prioritisation as a starting point. You can handle each different ‘category’ in a certain way. For example:

  • important and urgent  do as soon as possible
  • important but not urgent  diarise for a near-future date
  • urgent but not important  delegate to someone who can give it immediate attention
  • not urgent and not important delete!

Good planning allows you enough flexibility to deal with the unexpected. Business owners need to make their own sustainability a priority. So, overscheduling is a danger and downtime is essential. This is vital in times of extreme economic pressure and uncertainty.

Productivity brings it all together

The myriad of 'productivity hacks' is almost as broad as the range of time management approaches. The best productivity hacks are enduring and straightforward. They include doing the right thing when you're in the best mindset for it, staying focused and using tools to lift your efficiency. If you’re keen to give your time a total makeover, you could start with a ‘time audit’. This means recording how you usually spend your time to check for opportunities to improve.

Timing matters in time management

Everyone has times when they’re better suited to certain tasks. For instance, many people find it easy to do complex thinking early in the morning when distractions are minimal. Tasks that involve interacting with people, such as leading a major staff meeting, might be best when your physical energy peaks midmorning. More repetitive tasks may suit the middle of the afternoon.

You can get the best from your energy levels by attacking things in chunks. The Pomodoro technique does this with timing. It’s like interval training for your tasks. It recommends 25 minutes of effort followed by a 5-minute break to rest and recharge.

One task at a time

Despite the pressure to multi-task, science has shown that focusing on one thing at a time gives superior results. The mental demands of switching between tasks slow down our pace. For owners and managers, this means it’s okay to set some time when you won’t be interrupted. You don’t always have to keep your door open.

Technology as a tool, not a trap

Technology offers smart tools for time management. The trick is to find what works best for you. When choosing a tool, consider how it would connect between your various systems, and how easy it will be for others to collaborate with you.

Find a fit and be ready to ask for help

There’s no shortage of time-management approaches, but the main thing is to find one that suits you personally—keeping it simple counts too! Spending too much time on a complicated and high maintenance system is literally a waste of time.

Of course, sometimes, even the best time management isn’t enough to overcome the pressure a businessperson faces. That’s when a business mentor can help. They can provide an objective view that may help you separate being busy from being overloaded. They can also help you find ways to get on top of things. If you’d like to know more, contact us through our website.