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5 Time Management Rules for Working Smarter, Not Harder

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Why are successful people so often the most effective time managers? Because they do three things better than everyone else:

  1. They are continually aware that time is a very limited resource.
  2. They learn and apply critical skills to arrange their schedules efficiently.
  3. They monitor their use of time and adapt effectively as variables change.

You wouldn’t be here if you had time to waste, so follow these five rules to become the best time manager you can be and get back hours you never knew you were wasting each day.

Time Management Rule #1: Delegate work that others can do 75% as well as you

If you are a manager or executive, consider what you’re doing that others could do almost as well, and free up your valuable time in the process. Because we’re all biased toward the way we do things, make a list of all of the projects and tasks that you’re confident someone you could delegate to would do 75% as well. Then clear your plate for what really matters.

Time Management Rule #2: Organize your day around SMART goals

What makes a goal worth scheduling? It should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Specific goals are clearly defined, down to the nitty-gritty details. Measurable goals can be tracked or even quantified. Achievable goals are realistic and attainable. Relevant means there is a real purpose or benefit to getting something done, and Time-bound means the goal has a specific deadline. If your goal is MART or SMA but not fully SMART, it isn’t worth scheduling.

Time Management Rule #3: Stop falling prey to time-wasters

If you’re like most people, you could save an hour a day or more each day by following this rule alone. According to Salary.com, 89% of people waste time every day at work, and 69% of men and 62% of women use the internet for personal reasons. To squeeze more time out of your day, every non-essential activity or task that isn’t getting you closer to your SMART goals has to go. This includes surfing the internet, posting on Facebook, and getting a haircut during the day (not every time-waster is digital).

Time Management Rule #4: Prioritize, schedule, and monitor your time

"Spontaneous" is a word for time-wasters. If you can avoid it, make sure you account for all your time in your daily schedule. Create a task list and prioritize the times, first according to deadlines and second to importance. If a task seems complex, break it down into more easily Achievable components. Record how much time you allocate each item in a calendar, and then monitor your time to see when you’ve gone into overtime. Review at the end of each day and week to modify your estimating process and your efficiency for each task.

Time Management Rule #5: Set aside a block of time for reading and responding to emails

U.S. workers now spend an average of 3.2 hours per day checking work emails and more than 90 minutes per day recovering from email interruptions. It’s a serious crisis we’re helping to solve with our recent post 5 Tips for Managing Email Overload which provides tips for effective email management. An excellent first step to take is to set aside a block of time each day to read and respond to emails and let your collaborators know you’ll be reachable and responsive during that time.

Try these tips and share them with your team. Then tell us on Facebook how many hours per day and per week after week one you’ve saved by implementing them!

ECI Staff Contributors

About the Author

ECI Staff Contributors love to share their insights and expertise on a variety of topics including sales, marketing, cloud, ERP, and SMB development as well as on product specific education. With offices throughout the United States, Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, more than 40 employees contribute to blog on a regular basis.