Time Management: The Key Attributes

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Written by Ash Richardson

20 years digital tech and strategy experience, including co-founding #team, Accenture, MP of Oyster Partners (now DigitasLBi) and ex-VC investing in technology startups. Unique skills on product strategy, design and offshoring.

Time Management: The Building Blocks and Key Attributes

If you’re like most people, you usually start work with the intention of being as productive as possible. Yet, as the day rolls on, you find yourself working on multiple urgent requests and watching your task list grow. What you initially set out to accomplish seems to get pushed to the side. To achieve time management, you have to understand its attributes.

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Five Key Attributes Of Time Management

Priorities

It is best practice for our top-performing research participants to get their monthly and weekly priorities sorted out. You may want to have around five maximum priorities for the week for work, and three to five personal priorities for the week. Take note that if you’ve got more than five, you’re probably making a to-do list. When defining priorities, what you’re doing is you’re trying to define outcomes  to get to for the week.

To-Dos

With your priorities in mind, what are the things you need to do today towards those outcomes? Those are your to-dos. There are several sub-attributes to this:

  1. Quick vs longer to-dos – the distinction we make is that if a task takes 15 minutes or less, then it’s a “quick to-do”, otherwise it’s a long to-do.
  2. Planned time – this is particularly important for the longer to-dos. If things take 30 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour, it quickly adds up during the day. What you want to do before the start of the day is to estimate how long each takes. The key to balancing work-life balance is to understand upfront your capacity and planned time is a big part of that. 
  3. Actual Time – this measures how long you actually spend on tasks. Understanding this picture over time will help you get better at planning your time especially when your work involves repetitive tasks
  4. Must Do – Mark Twain once said that if you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. Some people, just have to clear the must-do’s right at the beginning of the day and then they can feel less stressed thereafter and get on to other things. 
  5. Importance – ABC time management method involves categorizing your tasks into labels ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and ‘C’ — the letter A includes the most important, while ‘C’ has the least important tasks. Your C tasks are generally of little importance and should be completed when time is available (or delegated).
  6. Order – providing you know your frogs (must-dos) and the ABC tasks, the order of which comes first on your to-dos will mark the priority

Calendars

Your calendars should display what you got on from a work point of view and a personal point of view. Therefore where are the free spots where you can get things done? That’s basically what we’re constantly juggling each day – with all the interruptions and last-minute appointments and meetings.

You may leverage automated booking engines with a set lead time of 12 hours so it’s not messing around the day that you’ve already planned and then it also gives you time to reassess if you want to actually take that meeting. On calendars, we need our to-dos to float around the calendars and allow automated booking apps to do their magic.

Unplanned Time

At least two-thirds of our research participants said that they underestimate interruptions during the day. When they look back at it, it’s kind of consistent every day – for example, for some roles, it’s normally busy on Mondays and Thursdays. It could be mapped out for role and circumstances – for some, it may be a total of 30 minutes or 60 minutes of time for “interruptions”.

Time Capacity

You have to proactively understand how much time you have got to work. If four or five hours is the maximum that you can be efficient and productive, then that’s your capacity. Whereas in other roles or other people, they might be able to pump out a good 8-10 hours a day. Before you start working, know your capacity time and therefore know what time you’re going to finish working with the tasks that you have in hand.

Once you master these key attributes and building blocks, you’ll then be able to then apply any methodology to swap and change. You’ll just get better and better! To learn more, you may register for our FREE app!

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