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What strategies can you use to save - and thereby create extra - time?
One useful strategy is to set time limits and use the Pareto Principle. This was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1895. Pareto noticed that 80% of Italy’s wealth belonged to only 20% of the population. He discovered that nearly all economic activity was subject to his principle. In business today, Pareto’s 80/20 rule can be applied to learn how to prioritize your tasks: by days, weeks, and months.
This principle suggests that only two out of ten items on a to-do list will be worth more than the other eight items grouped together. In other words, 20% of their tasks are as valuable as the other 80% combined. Ironically, people tend to procrastinate on the 10% to 20% of tasks which are valuable to their success, and instead focus on the remaining 80%, which have very little bearing on their success.
According to time management guru, Brian Tracey: “The rule for this is: resist the temptation to clear up small things first.” If you start your day working on low-value tasks, you will soon develop the habit of always starting and working on low-value tasks. It’s better to complete the hardest, most important, task of your day first. Schedule your recurring tasks within the day.
This will enable you to become motivated about the task, get organized, delegate, and set milestones. Begin by listing your tasks and sub-tasks. Aim to break up the larger tasks into sub-tasks, so that the individual or even the team is not suddenly overwhelmed with work.
When creating tasks, be detailed, involve the entire team, and keep the timeline very much to the fore. Remember which people and processes worked together in the past and those that did not. Sort your tasks into priority, and allocate responsibility accordingly.
Using colors will help you to quickly scan your task list: for example, red for ‘must do’ tasks; yellow for tasks that you should do if you have the time; and green for low-priority tasks that you can postpone or delegate. Finally, tick off tasks as you complete them. This will help to motivate you and give you a sense of progress.
Aim to plan ahead, strategically and realistically. Enlist the strategic thinking of others.
This is an important tool for using others’ actions to help you complete your tasks. Before delegating, ask yourself the question: Is this task suitable for delegation, or would it be better to carry it out yourself?
So how can you delegate successfully?
You should delegate and ask a team to make its own decisions, bearing in mind that team’s abilities. You can use a rising scale of levels of delegated freedom when working with your team.
When delegating a task, consider your instructions to the other person. Do they have the necessary skills and experience to get the job done? Do they need task-specific training?
Make it clear why you are delegating the task. Imagine if I were to approach you and state that there was a very important task that I wanted you to complete. I might say that there was no-one else with your skill-set who could do it, and that most importantly I trust you to complete this task for me. Doesn’t that become an extremely powerful motivation for you?
In advance, confer and agree on what the person requires to complete the delegated task. Discuss and agree what is required to get the job done. Consider resources, people available to assist, equipment, additional assistance, and so on.
Clarify understanding by getting feedback from the other person. How will you jointly measure this task to completion?
Ensure the person being delegated to understands what you want done, by when, and to what level. Also, if they have any issues or are unsure, ask the person to approach you. Make sure you are both in agreement at the beginning as to what is expected.
It is up to you to inform this person's peers of the task they have been delegated, especially if there are internal politics to be considered. In the early stages of the delegation, arrange frequent check-ins, which can diminish in frequency as the project progresses. Just prior to completion, arrange a further series of check-ins.
After the task has been completed, all stakeholders must be briefed on performance and if results were achieved. Also, all issues arising must be addressed. Accept the failures, thank the person, and ensure they receive positive credit for their effort.
Despite what you might think, there’s nothing more unproductive than multitasking! Trying to do many different things at the same time – and getting none of them fully completed – is not a good habit. According to time management guru Brian Tracey in his book Eat That Frog!: “It’s estimated that the tendency to start and stop a task – to pick it up, put it down, and come back to it – can increase the time necessary to complete that task by as much as 500 percent.”
To avoid this negative ‘pick it up, put it down’ behavior, try to batch your tasks. By batching all of your tasks together, you enable your brain to reach peak proficiency and focus on only one task at a time. For example, write all of your emails as a batch or make all of your phone calls as a batch. By batching, you improve your workflow.
Often, the main reason for procrastinating about important tasks is that they appear so large and difficult when you first approach them.
Have you heard of the Salami Method? This is where you can ‘slice’ the task down to size. And then, by completing one slice at a time, you are steadily eating away at the whole project. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!Back to Top
CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
When it comes to improving your personal skills in the workplace, four essential skills stand out: the ability to be more productive at work; the ability to adapt to a changing work environment; the ability to manage your time effectively; and the ability to deal with setbacks. This module focuses on enhancing your skills in these four critical areas.
When it comes to productivity, you will learn about the difference between being busy and being productive, and techniques you can use to increase your output and to deal with unwelcome distractions and interruptions.
The lesson on adaptability focuses on how to cultivate an adaptable mind-set at work, and how to find alternative – and innovative – solutions to problems by using tactics like brainstorming and mind-mapping.
The time-management lesson explains how to prioritize tasks and set goals, how to save and create time, and how to eliminate personal time stealers such as excessively viewing email or attending too many meetings.
The module concludes with a lesson on how to respond to setbacks in the workplace. You will discover the importance of demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity, and how to turn setbacks into valuable learning opportunities.