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Improve Time Management

Learning to Manage time better can be one of the most productive skills for a professional to develop.

There are two ways of looking at improved time management.
If a client or employer wants to pay for two hours of work, but you charge them for five hours, they may not be pleased. They may not have budgeted for this. They may consider that you have taken too much time and charged them too much. But this also works another way. If you give a client a quote for two hours, but then spend five hours working on a project, you can end up out of pocket, having to turn down other work to complete the work and so on. So it is essential to accurately predict how long a job will take you and also to work at sufficient speed to be able to complete the work in the time allocated.
How can you maintain good time management? There are some simple rules:
  • Be sure about exactly what it is you are meant to do - make sure that you are very clear about what the client is asking you to do. This might sound simple, but if the client is not specific, then you may end up doing work that is not required, or not cover the project in enough detail, or you might spend too much time on an aspect of the job which the client considers to be of lesser importance. It is therefore essential to clarify right from the start exactly what the client wants.
  • Stay focused on the task in hand - it is easy to go off on a tangent and start looking at areas that are not strictly relevant. Keep the project in mind at all times and keep asking yourself – is what I am doing relevant to the project? If not, then should you be doing it?
  • Work at times when you are most effective at delivering your role - we are all different. Some of us work well at 5am in the morning, others at lunch time, and yet others might work best at midnight. You will know what works best for you. Obviously, if you are meeting clients, observing work practices or working with others, then this may not be so easy - you will have to fit in with prescribed work hours. However, if you are involved in writing up reports, thinking, analysing and so on, try to do these things when you are most intellectually active and alert. I recently read of a woman who had to work eight hours a day, but found that straight after lunch all she wanted to do was sleep. So instead she worked from 5am to 1pm, then went home and had a sleep. This meant she was working in her most productive times and therefore would complete more work than if she tried to struggle through the afternoon when she was not at her best.
  • Plan ahead - good planning is also essential. When providing a quote for clients, think about how much time you will spend on particular areas of the project e.g. two hours on market research, five hours on product analysis, and so on. Within that, there will probably be a range of smaller tasks to complete, so allocate time for each task and stick to this as much as possible. Keep a record of your plan and how you are working throughout the project. There is some evidence that writing up a 'to-do' list the night before is the best way to ensure that you stick to and achieve what you intend to achieve each day.
  • Sleep well - some studies suggest that sleeping for seven and a half to eight hours per night will keep people focussed and more productive. If you establish a routine so that you always get up at the same time each day at the first ring of the alarm, whether you are an early riser or a night owl, this will aid in developing good time management skills and becoming more productive.
  • Exercise regularly - these days the emphasis seems to be on exercising before you begin work or during the early part of your work day rather than waiting until after work. Exercise stimulates the mind and body and has been found to improve time management skills and mental clarity, as well as enhance peer relationships when undertaken before or during work hours.
  • Keep to routines - having daily routines is another useful technique for honing time management skills. You might take the dog for a walk each day before you start work or you might watch or read the news. This gives you an opportunity to gather your thoughts and think about yourself before you get stuck into work.
  • Eat something - whatever time you commence work it is important to eat something to recharge your metabolism and stimulate your cognitive processes after you awaken. Whilst asleep your body has used up most of its fuel and so kick starting it will set you up for the day ahead. If you are an early bird this will be breakfast. Try to choose foods which are low in carbohydrates which can make you feel sluggish and lethargic.
This is an extract from our ebook on Professional Practice for Consultants. See

[17/08/2022 17:02:30]

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