Mindmap: Time management

Barriers

Procrastination: The greatest challenge of all to milking every minute of the working day. Be frank with yourself. Recognise it. Stop it. You procrastinate either out of fear of failure or because a project is too big or too boring. Break it into the ubiquitously advised bite-sized chunks, and get on with it. It's not going to go away.

80/20: The good old Pareto Principle - 80% of your blood, sweat and tears generates a mere 20% of results. The massive remaining chunk of 80% of results is speed-generated by a wonderfully steroid-pumped 20% of effort. Keep an activity log for a couple of days and identify your 80s and your 20s. Then completely cut out from your schedule everything that falls into the 80% that's holding you back.

Slug time: Most people have a peak period during the day when they're at their most efficient - but also a lull when, however hard you try, you just can't keep your eyelids from sagging. Know your slowest times and focus on doing your most important and urgent tasks during your most energetic patches, leaving the mundane, brainless stuff for your slug time.

Snacks and chats: Cut them out, cut them down or use them when you're least productive (not most) as a pick-up.

'Task' and 'job': In speech marks because they don't have to be called that. It's simple cognitive behavioural therapy. Refer to things you have to do in your mind using said taboo words and they'll feel like it. Start calling them 'projects' in your head and, far-fetched as it sounds, you will be subconsciously more disposed to tackling them.

Techniques

Active to-do list: An absolute must. Don't write out your to-do lists on dozens of different pretty coloured Post-its. Keep one active document - possibly a spreadsheet - on your computer. It needs to be on a computer so you can constantly rearrange the order of things according to their urgency, then work down from the top. You can also enter in how much time you think each item will take, add it up, and decide what you're not going to achieve today if there are too many items on the list. Update at the end of days, so you start focussed on what needs to be achieved.

No: The most useful word in your vocabulary. Use it. The less workload you take on, the fewer non-strategic and non-productive meetings you go to, the more time you have to concentrate on the stuff that really needs doing.

Delegate: Another crucial tool in your time-management armoury. If something doesn't absolutely require you to be working on it, pass it down the chain. You should be focusing on the most important decision-making projects, not all the fluff. Review progress at set times, don't look over shoulders every two minutes

Assistant: If you're constantly swamped by a mess of never-ending admin that really shouldn't be taking up your time, get one. Consider virtual assistants or part-time help, or even someone who can do half PA work and half something else needed in the business (marketing or PR, perhaps), if the cost seems extravagant.

Super-email: Do all your emails all together only at certain points in the day - ideally only twice per day - rather than replying to each whenever they arrive. Email wreaks havoc with your efficiency. Consider switching off your Outlook completely for periods of the day. If someone really needs you, they'll call. And be absolutely ruthless with your inbox. Create folders and sub-folders and organise everything as you would a filing cabinet, tucking emails away into their appropriate sections. Delete ruthlessly and extensively. Never leave anything festering in your inbox for more than three or four days - deal with it and get it out. Always aim to have white space at the bottom of your inbox. Check out our interview with Tim Ferris, author of the four hour week, on managing email.

Go home early: This might sound counterproductive to getting more work done, but if you know you have to stop work at a set point in the day, you'll stop faffing about and force yourself to complete the day's tasks - plus, rest and sleep are good for you, remember!

Technology

Mobile: Get an iPhone, get a Blackberry, get any smartphone that enables you to check your email and work when you're out and about. The more you can do on the move, the more time you free up for more important stuff when you're at your desk.

Laptopita: Spanish for 'little laptop' (almost). Having a carry-everywhere super-light laptop enables you to finish off documents, presentations and other computer-dependent work while you're on the train.

Calendar: Use your Outlook/other operating system/phone calendar for everything and make sure it'll all synched. Block out chunks of time for all the various bits of work you need to do, so you can realistically see how much you can fit into the day - and what has to be cut out to streamline your work process. It also indicates when you're spending too long on one project. Share calendars with key staff members so you can see who's up to what and they know when - and when not to - interrupt you.

Broadband: Faster broadband = quicker internet browsing = less time wasted. Simples.

Bookmark: Your most-used websites, so you can navigate the web quickly and uber-efficiently rather than fannying about typing in url's. May save only a few seconds each time you want to find a favourite site, but when it comes to time management, every last millisecond counts.

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