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10 Time Management Tips for Geeks

You get to the office and realise that you have 1000 things on your to-do list. Ten phone calls to return in the first half hour, service tickets to address, project outcomes to complete on time and on budget, not to mention client payment collections - all while thinking strategically about what's next in your area for the business. How can you get this done better without failing to deliver something important?

Here are 10 tips that make a difference in the way you manage your time:

· Plan & set goals.

Planning and setting goals is about making actions tangible so you can execute on them. At JEC Technologies, we've set some goals and deliverables, like sales targets, productivity and efficiency of staff members, or marketing leads generated from a website. But these are high level. How do you translate them into actionable items while maintaining the day-to-day operational? The key is to plan and set goals.

Planning is the key point here because you need to know how to do it properly. Saying you’re going to achieve 10 things that day isn’t planning. Planning is a pragmatic process of taking multiple complex actions, distilling them into bite-sized chunks that you can execute one after the other, and ticking them off a list when each of these tasks is completed.

Your goal is then achieved through the process of completing one task after the other and constantly reflecting on them to ensure that they still support the overarching goal.

· Prioritise your tasks.

The second tip is to say, “Well, great John. We have a bunch of goals and I have planned all these tasks to achieve these goals, but there are only 8 hours in a day.” For some of us, there are as many as 12 or even 15 hours in a day. But it never seems enough to complete everything. Especially when there are day-to-day running tasks that jump into the spotlight to be actioned quickly.

The key here is to prioritise. Understand which outcomes are important and which ones are urgent. If you’re constantly planning and executing against that plan, your plans generally revolve around the important tasks. The better you plan and execute on these important tasks, the more this process should eradicate the urgent tasks.

Initially, you may need to split your day in half. Or in quarters. And ensure that you have enough time to plan your tasks too. Align it back to your goals, prioritise the urgent components, and work on completing tasks that drive your goals holistically. It can feel like a juggle but keep working on it. It gets better with practice.

· Organise your tools.

My father used to say, “Every tool has a place and every tool in its place.” This means knowing where you’ve stored all your tools and notes to do your job.

Documents and the paraphernalia you use to work must be organised in a logical system so you can find them quickly – information at your fingertips. Many, many hours are lost from wasted time and effort trying to find the right tool or piece of information to complete your task. Organising them can help you save a lot of time.

· Streamline your workflow.

We always say you can't do anything automatically if you can't do it manually. But that doesn't mean the first manual process that you follow is the best one. There’s always opportunity for improvement. Look critically at each task in each of your processes to find any chunks of time that can be cut out and optimised to improve the delivery and the outcome of what you're trying to achieve.

· Delegate for efficiency.

Delegation is important, especially if you’re looking at the GTD framework. This doesn't mean you should get someone else to do your job. It means you should ask yourself critically: are you the right person to do this? If you aren’t, hand it to the person who can achieve it without having to rework, rehash, or rethink any of the outcomes, goals, or tasks. It’s about efficiency.

Delegation isn’t throwing a grenade over the wall either; it's handing over the task and ensuring that even though the other person may be responsible for completing the task, it’s still a requirement for you to ensure that it’s done as expected. After all, it wouldn’t have landed on your desk if it weren’t.

· Eat your frogs first.

When you plan your day and activities, aim to do the tasks you don’t want to do first; the ones you struggle and find most unpleasant, but that must still get done. The reason being is twofold.

First, once it's completed, the worst is behind you. Everything else can’t be as bad as that initial task.

Second, if a task is so painful, it's often been lingering for some time. Getting it done ensures that you’re adding value to someone else’s life or to you are moving closer to your bigger goals.

· Manage expectations.

Managing expectations is a bugbear in our space. People often want to get the work done but fail to ensure that the experience of the person who asked you to do the work has been managed.

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, did it really fall? Theoretically it did, but from the experience of the listener, it didn’t. This is important as it impacts the perception that the requester has of your outcomes. Keep them informed! A simple phone call or conversation is all that it takes.

· Dedicate time to your tasks.

Avoid interruptions, create space and time for yourself to focus, and find a way to deliver what you need to. If you're planning, scheduling, prioritising, and managing people's expectations, this is absolutely possible. It’s also essential to ensure that the quality of your work is up to standard.

· Know your peak performance times.

This is a lesson I learned from my wife. It means understanding what times in the day you’re usually at your peak in terms of performance and scheduling your energy-demanding tasks in those times. For me, my peak performance times are generally first thing in the morning from 7-10am and then again later from 10pm to midnight.

Not everyone shares the same peak-performance times. Some prefer mornings, some prefer afternoons and evenings. Figure out when yours is and schedule your tough jobs, those hard-to-complete actions, in that space.

· Schedule time for yourself.

Everyone talks about work-life balance, but not many people understand what it means. Personally, I make sure I exercise every morning for at least half an hour, and I ensure that I have downtime every other day during the week and over the weekends. Sometimes, that downtime means disconnecting from technology, and other times it means playing computer games for an hour or two.

Whatever downtime looks like for you, what's important is that you feel rejuvenated and that you remember what you’re trying to achieve in your job, in the company, and for yourself personally. Know and track what you’re trying to achieve in your life and how your job is enabling that. Alignment to your personal goals like this is important for your own fulfilment.

It's also important to realise that no one’s going to work-life balance your life for you. It’s something you’ve got to think about and apply yourself. Making time for yourself is all up to you.

In conclusion…

To wrap it up, the key around time management and productivity is not just writing out a list and ticking off the tasks. It's about thinking about what you're doing, when and how you're doing it, and what you need to get it done – all while managing expectations and ensuring that you aren’t sacrificing your own humanity for the industrial machine.

Even if you don't use all these tips, trying out some of them can improve your work experience. Please feel free to share this with your team or anyone that you think could benefit from it.



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