I am in a stressful job but seem hopeless at time management. How can I sort this out?
Charles Darwin said: "A man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." If you could find ways to save just 30 minutes a day at work, you would have an extra four days a year!
One of the causes of stress at work is poor time management, so it is certainly worth sorting this out. Some of this may well be down to a very demanding job, but even so, there are ways you can take some control.
Begin by analysing how you use your time now. It might be worth keeping a diary of your next week. Alternatively, analyse how you spent your last week. Think of all the things you did that wasted time. Some of the most common are:
- calling or attending meetings
- giving in to interruptions
- constantly looking at emails
- spending too much time on the phone
- not delegating tasks
The key is to prioritise. One of the worst people I knew for time management was constantly stressed by doing 'urgent' tasks, i.e. the ones with short-term consequences. He neglected important tasks, i.e. longer term, goal-related ones. He simply failed to prioritise important jobs and got stressed when important tasks then became urgent.
Think carefully about how you handle interruptions and emails. Do you ever prioritise time in your day when you are not available?
Meetings are a rather too common feature of life in the third sector.
Why do we always have meetings that last an hour or more? Why not plan meetings for 45 minutes? Discuss with colleagues whether you all simply spend too much time in meetings.
How are you managing your diary? You may be in a job where the priority is the client or user. This may well mean, by negotiation, that you set aside time for thinking or just report-writing and reading papers.
Have you analysed how you handle phone calls? It is surprising how much time we can spend on the phone and the mobile phone is something of a mixed blessing.
Finally, discuss your concern with your manager - not as a whinge but asking for practical advice on handling time better. Ask a close friend or trusted colleague. And obviously, you must ask your mentor. You do have one don't you? If not, you'd better sort this one out quickly and agree a time management plan with them. Good luck.
Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to: Stephen.email@example.com.