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The 3 Essential Steps to Actually Manage Time Well

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Women and Time! What happens when two of nature’s most powerful forces ram one into the other? My experiences would say: damn good things!

As a top executive at a Brussels-based company for over a decade, I came to realize that truly, only two things matter for an organization to move forward. The first is its human power. The second is how well that human power controls time. As legal services, the nature of my business, require a high level of technical skills, we soon faced the reality that our human force is comprised almost entirely of women. They are simply smarter, stronger, faster and, generally, better than us men in every way. So it soon dawned on me that 50% of our success is secured. Now, how to secure the other 50%?

What successful people do in the morning?

My epiphany came one day after a book that would set the wheels of change. The book is called ‘What the most successful people do in the morning before breakfast’ by Laura Vanderkam. That was it. I found what I always knew would lead to ‘damn good things’: a woman that can control time. Shortly other books and other programs followed, but you never forget where it all started. So here it is, my ultimate 3 tips on how you can be that woman who controls time.

1. Be a detective

The first thing you should do when trying to move towards change is to stop. Why? Because only when you stop, you are able to be completely mindful. And mindfulness is the key towards change. Before you can change anything, you need to know what you are doing today.  That will allow you to see where you are and where you wish to be. Then, connecting the dots between these two sections becomes far easier.

To embark on this journey, you will need to equip yourself with Sherlock’s toolkit.  Your detective work will aim at ‘tracking down‘ your time:

  • 168 hours a week would mean for most of us, about 2,000 working hours a year.
    • Out of that how much time you spend on checking emails, thinking, planning, meeting, traveling, and most importantly, doing the essence of your work?
  • Then define: what is the essence of my work?

Your Action: Create an Hours-Log EXCEL sheet and track all your activities (emails, thinking, planning, meeting, traveling, etc.) for a month. Log your time, add up all elements and analyze your numbers. Already only by tracking your time, you will find a new sense of control.

2. Plan ahead!

How many times the did you ever say: ‘I simply have too much ‘stuff’ going on right now!’ ‘I just don’t have time!’ This is the first sign of losing control. Not knowing how to define your ‘stuff’ is the second.

  • Stuff: Anything we allow into our mind (consciousness, memory) without setting a desired outcome and the actions to be fulfilled towards this outcome.

Looking at this definition, the solution hits us right in the face. If we set a desired outcome to our stuff and put actions towards this outcome, we are in control. In other words, we are planning ahead!

Your action: get it out of your head! Most of us would place our carefully planned outcomes and actions on papers, sticky notes, notebooks, on our colleagues or in the worst case, in our minds. We all tend to forget that our mind, as wonderful as it is, was not created to be an electronic database of stuff, desired outcomes, and associated actions. At best, our mind can remember 5 to 10 different elements within a specific time unit; a random plan, thus, gives random results.

So planning ahead means:

  • Collect our ‘stuff’,
  • Create your topic/project list where all your ‘stuff’ are organized,
  • Review your ‘stuff’ at least on a weekly basis.

3. Prioritize well

Imagine you are at your working desk, and you have one more hour of work. You need to choose between: calling the client back, working on your new project, processing your emails or meeting with your supervisor/team. The ability to decide what to do next is the key to controlling your time. So how to decide?

There are several systems that can be used, but I found the one I am about to share with you the most efficient. Here’s how the system works:

  1. Classify all your tasks (actions) as follows:
  • Significance of the task in terms of its impact on your work (5 very much to 1 not at all),
  • The importance of the person requesting it (5 very much to 1 not at all),
  • The urgency of the task by a specific deadline (5 high to 1 low),
  • How long the task will take to accomplish (5 very short to 1 very long).
  1. Add up all elements for each task and then filter them by the score.
    You should get to a score table similar to this:
  • Anything rated between 17 – 20: Weekly Plan
  • Anything rated between 13 – 16: Monthly Plan
  • Anything rated between 9 – 12: Quarterly Plan
  • Anything rated between 4 – 8: Yearly Plan

The one that has the highest score is to be completed first!

An additional tool that works perfectly in combination with this system is the ‘stuff’ model. It is presented in detail in the fantastic book ‘Getting things done‘ by David Allen. The model provides an extremely easy and fast decision-making tool for any day by day situation. Here’s how it works:

  1. The ‘stuff’ just arrived,
  2. Ask yourself: does it entail an action for me?

Examples: Call John for the new design options.
Draft points for a meeting with my product supplier.
Research on CRM systems.

  1. If there is no action for you, archive it or delete it (don’t be an ‘old granny’– just delete!)
  2. If there is an action for you, do it, delegate it, defer it!
  • If it’s less than 2 minutes: do it!
  • If it’s more than 2 minutes, ask yourself: Am I the right person to do this action? If not, delegate it!
  • If the action would take more than 2 minutes and you are the person to do it, defer it! Record the actions on your topic/project list (see: collect your stuff), and assign a time (see: plan ahead) for you to complete it (see: desired outcome).

But Don’t Forget To Take Action

The only way to make all these models worthy is to take action!

It is very easy to get caught up in different systems and models. But you should not forget that the only reason to do all these is to be able to perform an action in the most efficient way. And by using these techniques you will be able to get back your control over all your stuff that are tearing you apart.  

As overwhelming as these models sound at first, once you get into the rhythm, you will refuse to do differently.

Enjoy being a Time Traveler in Your Work

I started my article by stating that Women are smarter, stronger, faster and generally better than us men in every way. And yet, women often ask themselves (and others) why is this a ‘Man’s world’? The answer is very simple: Because women allow it!

How to turn around ‘no time’ to ‘yes time‘ is entirely in your hands. All you need to do is track your time, plan ahead, prioritize, and most importantly, take action. You will then, much to your surprise, find yourself to be a woman who easily controls time and becomes a ‘time traveler’.

Doram_ElkayamABOUT THE AUTHOR –  Columnist at MissCareerLess
Doram Elkayam
is currently a high-level Executive at a Brussels-based consultancy firm. His career encompasses 20 years of professional experience focusing on leadership and higher management. His expertise comes from diverse areas as he held roles in the military service as a Commanding Officer, Managing Director in the security sector, and COO in EU regulatory affairs. He is an invited presenter and lecturer at numerous events where he provides educational seminars and tailored solutions to hundreds of companies. He is also a publishing author, in leadership and management and regulatory areas. While wearing different hats, Doram is managing, collaborating with women of all ages and all walk of life.

Edited by Virag


Photo credit: Flickr/ Flazingo Photos

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