Over the last few months I have been trying to work on improving my time management skills, not only at work but in my personal life as well. I am forever being told that I am late or don’t do anything on time, and that is just from the wife.
So I took to improving my time management skills, and thought that I would share with you a few techniques that I am using now in my working life.
Whether you have your time scheduled out for you by management or you prefer to manage your time yourself, ensure that you plan your work in advance.
I use a spreadsheet within Google Docs to create a monthly calendar that I populate with the hours that I need to complete, for the forthcoming month.
By planning your month in advance, you know exactly what is in store for you on a daily basis. It provides you with the flexibility to move your schedule around to suit the needs of your clients and any unexpected changes that may happen.
Communicating via email is a great way to get information to and from your clients and contacts quickly, but it can be a massive distraction.
I, like most others, get distracted by emails and tend to reply immediately to any queries that come through, taking your attention away from what you are currently doing.
If this happens several times throughout the day you are potentially taking an hour or more of productivity out of your day.
Recommedation: Check your emails at certain times during the day, and closing it during the other times.
9:00 – 10:00am Open
10:00am 12:30pm – Closed
1:30pm – 2:00pm – Open
2:00pm – 5:00pm – Closed
5:00pm – 5:30pm – Open
Prioritising emails can help save you a large amount of time. Most people, myself included, set up rules that move emails straight into allocated folders. I find this a very useful trick to keep my inbox organised, allowing me to find specific emails quickly.
As well as using rules, I would recommend using the categories (outlook) or labels (gmail) to separate emails that need to be actioned.
Create two categories called “To Action” and “Completed”. When you recieve an email that requires you to do an action, then assign it to the “To Action” category. This will provide a constant reminder that you have emails to action, and work that needs to be done. Once you have actioned the emails you can change the category to “Completed”, this will allow you to see all the emails that you actioned. This will help you to keep track of the emails that you need to action and the ones that you have completed, ensuring that your inbox is efficient.
To me, knowing what I am doing on a daily/weekly basis is an essential part of managing my time correctly.
Personally I think the best way of organising your work is by having a to-do list. I am such a big believer of this that I actually have three to-do list methods. I know it’s a bit over the top but hey, it seems to work for me. :)
1. Remember the Milk:
I use Remember the Milk, an online to-do list mainly for personal use, including picking up the milk or feeding the cat.
I do however, use it for work when I am on the move and need to add something to my to-do list. Using the iPhone application I record anything that I think of whilst I am not at the office or don’t have my notepad with me.
If I have made any notes whilst I am out, I transfer any tasks that have been created to the most relevant to-do list.
2. Project Management Tools – Monthly To-do Lists:
There are many project management tools available, but I am a big fan of Basecamp. It gives you a lot of functionality including the ability to keep track of all communication, files, calendar meetings and to-do lists.
In Basecamp I plan out the next three months worth of work for all my clients, split into monthly to-do lists. Doing this allows me to tick off the tasks on completion.
An example monthly to-do list might include the following:
- Monthly Report
- Monthly Client Meeting
- “keyword1″ link building
- “keyword2″ link building
- Keyword Research Review
Although the list tends to be a lot bigger, you get the general gist of what I mean about the monthly to-do lists.
Using project management tools such as Basecamp allows you to share the work that needs to be done with the rest of your team, whilst also providing visibility to the client on what work has and will be carried out.
3. Written To-do List – Weekly:
As mentioned above I create monthly to-do lists that plan out the next three to six months work. Because I am planning for the future these tend to be high level lists.
At the end of each week I take time to look at the monthly to-do lists and write a weekly task list on my notepad for the following week. This would generally include more detailed information.
Keyword Research Review
- Long tail keywords
- Analyse keywords generating conversion
- Analyse potential ROI
“keyword1″ link building
- Blogger Outreach
- Guest blogging x3
Keeping track of what you do for your clients on an hourly/daily/weekly basis is important, not just for you but for your agency.
There are many ways that you can keep track of the time you have spent on a particular project, either manually using spreadsheets or using a database driven tool.
My personal preference is using a tool called Harvest to track time. Harvest allows you to do much more than just time tracking. It includes invoicing, expenses, reports, etc, which are all very valuable. To me the time tracking aspect of the product is great – you create projects and tasks that you record time against as and when you work on a specific client.
As you begin to track your time against the projects you are working on you can see how much time has been spent, how much is left and where the time has been spent. From a project management perspective the account manager can see what the team has been working on and who has done what very quickly by running a quick query.
These are just five techniques that I believe can help improve your time management when working on your projects. Now I just need to solve my personal time management skills to make the wife happy :).
What techniques do you have for managing your time? Do you agree with my suggestions? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Image credit – Roby Ferrari on Flickr.