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The art of time management

One of today’s big issues is personal productivity. Time is now the rarest resource as people have much more to squeeze in than ever before. There are all sorts of familiar signs. Emails, texts and phone calls keep coming in, people are demanding more of our time and we are flitting from task to task.

There’s a tendency to feel in a rush and impatient, you lose focus when you are in the middle of a task or conversation, you spend more time on your BlackBerry or iPhone than talking to people and projects are piling up and not getting finished.

Sound familiar? So what are the rules for improving our personal productivity?

According to the experts, the diary is the starting point. An effective diary includes not only includes work time spent in front of screens from computer to iPhone to iPad. It should also be used for recording personal stuff like shopping, catching up with family and friends or even being at the gym.

A default diary is a useful strategy. A standard diary simply lists events during the week; for example, an appointment on Wednesday, a session on Thursday and a meeting on Friday afternoon. A default diary turns that around. Let us say, for example, you have to spend two hours every Monday afternoon working on marketing and every Tuesday, it’s an hour and half on finances. A default diary lists these in advance, along with all the other set appointments.

That can also include personal items, like sessions at the gym. All it takes is a visit to Outlook. The beauty of that system is that you can block out times where, in effect, you are just having a meeting with yourself.

Another strategy is to write down exactly where the time went and what was done. Good time management is much like going on a diet where people set up a food diary to note exactly what they ate and when. The same goes for managing time. With that sort of regime, experts say, you write down what you’re doing on an hour by hour basis. They say most people are surprised to discover how much time they’re actually wasting. People don’t actually take stock of what they’re really doing.

More people are also making use of virtual assistants to do all their administrative work. Most virtual assistants work from home offices.They receive their instructions by phone, e-mail or text messages. They rarely see their clients, if at all. They can be located anywhere in the world, locally or overseas. There is a growing market for virtual assistants in India.

Done well, they can help separate out the mundane, repetitive tasks that take up time but don’t earn money. These include tasks like typing, filing and appointment scheduling. Delegating these to a virtual assistant allows the business-owner to focus on long-term planning, contacting new prospects or even getting home early to spend time with the family.

Outsourcing is also critical for personal productivity. It is no good, for example, spending much of your time on book-keeping or cleaning the apartment, when your time can be better spent chasing new leads or marketing.

Not delegating is one of the biggest time management mistakes anyone can make. If you are doing everything, you are doing too much. There is always someone out there who can do the mundane better than you. The key is to find the right person for the job.

The other big mistake is starting the day without a plan. Failing to prioritize tasks and taking a proactive approach means you will be winging it and staying defensive as the tasks roll in.

Effective time management is about developing significant but manageable systems to get the best return on your investment in time. It also means scaling things down and turning them from the frantic into the manageable.

Leon Gettler

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