In a time trap, your time trickles away without you intending it to. Overly long meetings, too many unexpected things, too much small talk in between, and too many tasks you keep starting, but not finishing - all of these can play havoc with your time management.
Time trap 1: Distraction
Whether it's an unannounced visitor, phone calls, or colleagues who want to regale you with personal stories right then and there, allowing yourself to be distracted makes it difficult to complete your tasks on time. Therefore, resolutely refuse to be interrupted. You don't have to do it in an unfriendly way - for example, just say can we talk about this later? I'll give you a call back because I'm really busy right now.' Everyone will understand that. If a distraction cannot be avoided, go right back to working on your task afterwards.
Time trap 2: Procrastination
Letters, e-mails, forms: Decide what to do with them right away and do not let the huge mountain of paperwork grow unchecked. Don't put off large and time-consuming tasks, but instead get started working on them quickly. The basic rule is: First things first. And plan your work, preferably in writing, and stick to it.
Time trap 3: Poor organisation
People who are poorly organised spend a lot of time looking for misplaced items or documents, don't keep things in order, and have to smooth out the chaos before work even starts. Thus they have already unnecessarily lost a lot of time. Poorly organised people are also those who do not set priorities or are overloaded with tasks because they are unable to say 'no'.
A time analysis is the cure
Where does the time go? For your personal time analysis, for one or two weeks keep a regular diary of what you are doing - preferably every hour - and how much time you need for it. Write everything down, because anything that takes time is relevant, even showering, dressing and eating breakfast.
After a week or two, take a closer look at your list. Divide the different activities into categories. For example:
- personal care
- commuting times
- talking with colleagues and staff
- conceptual work and development at the office
- household chores
- playing with the children
- spending time with friends and family
- watching TV
Write, calculate, and assess
Now add up the total amount of time you spent per week for each category. How much time do you have for friends and family? How often do you pursue a hobby? What proportion of time does your job take up? How much rest and recreation do you allow yourself?
For example, assess the following:
- Are there tasks or activities that you spend too much or not enough time on?
- Are there 'wasted' hours throughout the day?
- Is there an appropriate ratio between work phases, breaks and leisure time?
When assessing your analysis, you may realise that you lack the time for things that are really important to you. Consider how you can change that. For example, with a revised, realistic daily schedule, a new organising system for your desk, or by compiling a few nice sentences that you can use to politely say 'no'.