Business Bites: Time management

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO head of corporate development

We are all familiar with the saying, ‘Time is money’ – but should we really be considering time as money? It could be argued that time is as scarce a resource as money.

If we consider time in these terms, we will think long and hard about how we invest our time for the best returns. In fact, by having ‘time budgets’ we can affect the capital budgets through increasing productivity for both individuals and companies.

It could be useful to consider the following for each day:

Can control: What could I do today?
Can influence: Is this the best use of my time?
Can’t control or influence: How could I learn to live with this?

Prioritising time

Do you get drawn into your email at the start of every day? It would be better to focus on the day’s priority first, say for 30 minutes, before you check your email. This way, you can deal with the priority before lesser tasks become the distraction that they undoubtedly are.

Another great tip is to give yourself a protected 15-minute reflection at the end of each day, which will set-up the following days priority for you.

Prioritising important tasks will help with your time management. Tasks can be grouped into four categories:
• Urgent and important
• Not urgent but important
• Urgent but not important
• Neither urgent nor important

It may be easier to create a table for these categories to help focus on the priorities, such as the one shown below.

1. Do it now.

Your priorities lie here.

2. Diarise and do later.

Temporarily pause the task for a later time.

3. Delegate it as it requires attention.

Assuming that the outcome will be the same whoever delivers it.

4.  Drop it.

Remove it from your schedule and move on.

It should be obvious that you should concentrate on items that you have placed in the top left box (1) and should be spending no time on items in the bottom right box (4).

So, what do you put into each quadrant?

1: Important and due soon (top left). The most important things that you must work on, especially if it’s due soon. Your work should be focused on tackling issues within this quadrant.

2: Important, but not due soon (top right). The important things you must work on, but the due date is further out.

3: Not important and due soon (bottom left). Everything that you could delegate. These are things you should avoid doing, if possible, even when your top quadrants are cleared.

4: Not important and not due soon (bottom right). Drop it.

By taking this approach to categorising tasks, it is easy to keep focused on the important and urgent tasks and therefore maximise your time management.

The 4Ds

The above table introduces another time management technique: the 4Ds. The 4Ds time management process was initially outlined in the book, The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield et al. It proposes this approach to separate fake-urgent tasks from highly important ones and regain time control.

The 4D ares:
Do it now
Diarise it (Defer or Delay)
Delegate it
Ditch it (Delete or Drop)

Five habits of organised people

The more you can live and work in an organised way – even if it doesn’t come naturally at first – the sooner you’ll change your habits for the better. Here are five everyday strategies worth trying (source: Mind Tools):

1. Celebrate small wins. For example, if you complete three things on your to-do List, treat yourself to a cup of coffee, or allow yourself 10 minutes of free time to check some of your favourite websites.

2. Use one calendar. If you record some things on your desk planner, and others on your email calendar, it’s going to be hard to coordinate everything. Instead, start putting it all in one place. If you do it digitally, you’ll find that the technology can pull everything together for you.

3. Schedule small tasks. If a task or project requires action beforehand (like picking up bagels and coffee for the staff meeting), make sure that you schedule those into your day, too. Missing small jobs can have big knock-on effects on everything else.

4. Get organised at home. Don’t just restrict your organised approach to work – because a chaotic home life will bring its own problems. Declutter where you live to make mornings easier. Plan your whole day carefully. And talk to the people you live with, so that they know how they can help.

5. Put a high value on your time. Whether you’re prioritising your professional tasks for the week, or mapping out your family commitments, think about how to make every second count. In the words of the American inventor Thomas Edison, time is “… really the only capital any human being has, and the one thing he can’t afford to waste”.

Other useful reading

Collins B. How to use the 4 Ds of effective time management. Forbes, June 14 2018.