Author: Sue Robins
Lately it seems that I have had many conversations about time management and the interest in Time Management for training programs has been high. As a reminder to students of recent Time Management training programs and as a service to other readers, following is asynopsis of some of the important points of these programs.
First and foremost, the issue of time blocking: a popular approach to time management addressed by many of the gurus in the time management field. With time blocking, it is recommended that you block out specific time periods for project work, meetings and specific tasks. The reason for this is that interruptions are major time wasters. If you look around in the literature you’ll find estimates of anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes lost for every interruption as your focus must reorient twice for every interruption.
For this reason, time blocking advocates recommend that you set aside specific blocks of time for specific tasks. During the time block, you work ONLY on that task, not allowing yourself the distraction of email pop-ups, telephone calls or drop-in meetings. It’s also important to stick to the time allotted; start and stop on the clock. Admittedly, this is no small task and is very difficult to do, especially if you are currently operating in a primarily responsive mode or worse, crisis mode. Of course, you want to be responsive to client needs and requests and address problems quickly. This doesn’t preclude the use of time blocking, however. My suggestion for the time blocking resistant: just block a portion of your day. Allow a portion of it – perhaps even half – to be unplanned time for the day to day activities of telephone calls, emails, impromptu meetings and the like.
Here’s my recommendation for how to get started with minimal frustration.
■First, create a list of the important activities in your work week. Most importantly, include those you’re not getting to but know you should. Next, block out specific times over the next two days to work on one or two of these projects and commit to working on just a specific task without interruptions. Reduce your own hesitation by scheduling these blocks at a time that isn’t a known “busy” period for your business. Refer to this list each time you schedule yourself so you put these important items in the calendar.
■Second: turn off the alerts on your email service. Allow yourself two, three if you must, time periods per day for emails and phone follow up. During that time, read and process emails and phone calls and nothing else. Read emails and respond, archive or delete. Don’t waste time reading and leaving them for later to respond. If you don’t have time to respond, don’t look at your emails!
■Third: commit to following your time plan; make it your personal policy that if it’s on the calendar, that’s what will happen with the exception of true emergencies.
The time blocking approach to time management can be a very difficult transition, particularly if you are dealing with customers face to face for much of your day. If your job description includes ONLY customer service activities, it may be that your entire day is blocked for customer service, but are there particular times of day when certain clients are easier to reach? Might there be value in blocking time for certain customer categories, geographies, order types or shipping time frames? Recognize, however, that time blocked for customer oriented activities such as follow up, answering questions, creating proposals and making proactive telephone calls are all “blockable” activities, which might just reduce crisis related activities!
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