Effective time management isn’t about being perfect, its about being smart. And when it comes to ‘smart’ I’m not just talking about having a ‘To Do List’ or a great diary, or spending blocks of time on email management. I’m talking about making the most of ALL of your time, especially the little bits of time, your time sound bytes, that we all have but which most of us don’t always harness.
When I started out as a lawyer in my early twenties, one of the wise old Partners at the firm took me under his wing, coaching me on how to most effectively bill my clients. Lawyers work on 6 minute units of time, so, for example, if I worked a solid hour for one client I could record 10 billable units on my time sheet. Great for making my weekly ‘time and billable units budget’ and excellent for the firm. But the Partner’s advice wasn’t about the solid blocks of time – I mean, anyone who has a truck load of work to do can sit for an hour or two at a time and wrack up blocks of units. No, his advice was about capturing all of the little sound bytes of time which escaped in to the ether each day.
His advice? ‘Even if you are thinking about a client’s case when you are sitting on the toilet you should record that as a billable unit, or more, depending on how long you are at the toilet…’
At the time my young legal mates and I crowed with laughter.
In retrospect, while being gross, it was sage advice. What he really meant was that we should all get in to the habit of using ALL of our time well.
Toilets aside, here are my TOP 5 SMART uses of your ‘sound bytes’ of time:
On a Plane – I am actually sitting in Seat 44A bound for Sydney as I write this blog. I could have written this blog yesterday, but that would have taken up valuable time I could use for something else. So I scheduled this blog writing for the plane trip. I am my own captive audience. No access to my phone. No access to the internet. No chores to distract me.
In the car – I am not a big fan of taking or making work calls in the car. But I am a fan of multi tasking. Use your time travelling to and from work, and especially for longer drives, to listen to your favourite business podcasts. Fill your head with new ideas and relieve the boredom of being stuck in the traffic.
On the train – as above, but with the ability to make notes of all the new ideas you have!
Between appointments – if you find yourself with 10 minutes to spare when a meeting ends early, or even half an hour to spare when a meeting is cancelled at the last minute, use the time well. Keep a list of the people in your network that you want to stay in touch with, but often feel too busy to see. When you find yourself with 10 minutes to spare, review your list, make a call and stay in touch with your network. You don’t need a reason to call. A simple ‘I had ten minutes to spare and I found myself thinking of you – how have you been?’ It’s a great way to network and a great use of all of your time.
Cut the distractions – if you catch yourself procrastinating, taking a sneaky look at Facebook, checking your emails each time you hear a ‘ping’, then switch off the distractions. Put your computer on silent, put you phone on silent and close your door. Focus on your Daily To Do List, set your alarm for 1 hour of power, and diss the distractions.
How do you use your sound bytes of time?
Kate Christie is a Time Management expert and the author of Me Time – The Professional Woman’s Guide to finding 30 guilt-free hours a month. Kate specialises in working with professional women and business women with kids who are looking for better ways to manage the work/ life juggle. Kate has a reputation for helping her clients find and harness 30 hours (plus!) of lost time a month. Kate can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and her book and coaching courses are available at www.timestylers.com.au