What if you could turn a 50, 60, or 70 hour work week into 40 hours? Thomas Dowd, author of Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance, says it’s possible when you work smarter, not harder.
He’s mastered the subject of time management. It’s how Tom can be a is a speaker, best-selling author, professional development coach and trainer, radio host and a VP at a large financial institution – and still be active in his children’s lives.
“Time management often gets mistaken for watching the clock. It’s not. Over the course of my 24 year career in finance leading and managing others, I have learned that it’s really about two things – communication and relationship building,” he said.
Here are a few suggestions Tom shared with me from his book to help you get the most out of your day:
Balance your time. If I have a full time job, a side interest, and three teenage daughters doing different things, I want to do it all—and I can. There has to be communication with your boss and the people you work with. I can work out a special schedule around the event (e.g., work earlier, later, shorten lunch), and ensure that I get the job done. I communicate with my wife because she needs to know when I have a speaking or training session. It’s OK to blend your work and life schedule together as long as you communicate.
Be realistic with your time frame. Don’t be an “eager beaver”. As much as we want to say yes to the boss and every request, we put ourselves at risk for multi-tasking and being late with deadlines. If you’re realistic, you can under-promise and over deliver. There was a study by Basex done that showed that office workers are often interrupted more than two hours a day. Have you built that in? Have you accounted for those emails, co-worker conversations and phone calls? They are all interruptions. When you account for the unexpected, you become realistic with your time to complete the request. I also suggest doubling the amount of time you’ll need to finish tasks. You’ll be the hero if you finish the job sooner, and can pull work in from future days, weeks, and months for better quality.
Focus on one task at a time – Build time into your calendar to accomplish tasks such as emails and projects. Then commit to making sure that you do what you say you’re going to do during that time. Every day, I have a 5:00 p.m. appointment and it says “tomorrow”. I can look at what happened today and see how it impacts tomorrow. Earlier in my career when I was a manager, I knew that I needed to build better relationships so I built it into my calendar to “walk the floor” twice a day. Doing this allowed me to change my focus, giving me the break I needed and improved my relationships with staff. The other benefit is reducing the amount of thinking I had to do about time. I let my calendar reminders point me in the right direction. Since I reviewed my day the previous night, I knew it was coming, but was able to concentrate on what I was working on in the present until the reminder popped up.
Get down in the DIRRT – When using online calendars, such as Microsoft Outlook, you have only a few choices when it comes to your inbox. You can unsubscribe from junk mail; you can read it and delete it; you can read it and save it; read it and respond; or you can actually put it into your calendar to work on it as an appointment. A lot of people read the email and leave it. I do something with it. My rule is you can only touch it once. I call it DIRRT – Dedicate time for your email. Ignore new messages. Remember to touch it once and take action. Resist the urge to grab your smart phone. Turn off the feature that says you have email. This will enable you to stay focused.
Do less to accomplish more. I was in the middle of transitioning roles and I asked the manager for a task list. He asked if I wanted the short one or the long one. I asked him, ‘What was the short list?’ He said it is the least amount you can do in a day and walk out satisfied that I’ve completed all critical tasks. So I would concentrate on the short list. Once all of the critical items were done, I could then start pulling in items again. I would say, OK I did these four things, now what? Every day we know what is coming down for the day. I’m pulling those items in and now I’m getting them done early. The pressure is going away.
These time management strategies have become a lifestyle for Tom. It’s how he gets most out of his day. It’s how you can too.