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Time Management!

Ever had such a day? You start your work at 9 AM. By 5 PM, you have completed all your deliverables to everyone’s satisfaction, identified the work to be done over the next 3 days, managed everyone’s expectations in terms of the content of your deliverables, cleaned up your desk and are ready to head back home for quality family time with your wife and kids.

Well, neither have I! One of the great challenges that professionals have to do more and more is to manage multiple activities and make sure that they are all completed within a reasonable time-frame. In this article, I will attempt to provide you some approaches that have helped me!

  • Focus!It was Jim’s wedding night. With nervous excitement, he started walking towards the honeymoon suite! He had married Christie after a whirlwind romance. Christie was a supermodel with a figure to die for. But, what he also liked about her was that she was a beauty with brains! In this case, a PhD in Economics. Her doctoral thesis discussed how women in rural regions of third-world countries would be the best customers of microfinance, with the objective being to ‘maximize well-being of targeted families’. She and her advisor, Dr. Shah, had spent several months debating the definition of ‘well-being’ before she started her project. Dr. Shah, himself having grown up in a third-world country, believed that… Well you see what is happening here? What are we talking about here? Is it about Jim’s midnight activities or Dr Shah’s childhood influences? The answer is that we need to determine what we want to do and then stay the course. Well, your daily task list has a similar behavior. You start your day with some clear objectives, but as the day progresses, several events will happen to distract you from your primary purpose. The answer is to focus – make sure that you don’t lose sight of what you need to achieve. Once you determine all the deliverables that you need to complete in a day, the next step is to…
  • Prioritize! – There are several things that you need to get accomplished in a day. If you want to remain sane at the end of the day, you will need to prioritize your tasks. How will you do it? You can use the news-channel approach, where you drop whatever you are doing when a more interesting activity comes up! This works well if you work at a news-channel. However, that is probably not true for most of you! What you need to do is to take a longer time-frame while planning and prioritizing your tasks. The advantage is that the ‘seemingly urgent’ deliverable that your boss just sent you is required for a meeting that is happening only next week. So, do you drop your current activity of clearing the last level in Angry Birds Star Wars? Absolutely not! Because, you can always complete this first and then start the other activity in time for the boss’s meeting next week. Also, you need to remember that you cannot do everything yourselves. So, you will need to…
  • Delegate! – One of the advantages of having your own team is that they are like your personal slaves. Promise them rewards in the form of more bonuses or threaten them with job-losses and they are yours to command! However, when you delegate work to your team, you need to make sure that it is done in an intelligent manner (the delegation, not the work itself – if the work is not done intelligently, you can fire the team members). Understand the strengths of each of your team member and delegate your tasks accordingly. Refer to the team management post for more information! In addition to all this, you also need to remember that the work-place is a dynamic environment with ever changing situations. In such cases, be prepared to…
  • Improvise! – Never be too rigid with your plans. Imagine that you have decided that today’s task of the day will be to complete that long outstanding blog-post on effective time management (yeah!), and suddenly the boss comes in and says that the entire analysis prepared by you to determine the best strategy for the company to deal with increased taxes is wrong and will actually translate into doubling their payouts! Now do you tell your boss to calm down and then continue typing your blog-post, or do you first faint on your chair, wake up when your boss splashes cold water on your face and then update your resume at monster.com? Exactly my point!

So, what do you think of the time management approaches? What has worked for you and what has not? Are there any other approaches that you have used successfully or unsuccessfully in the past?

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