Investing Time in Time Management: Audeam Blog Series

As a woman who can multi-task with the best of them, I thought I had time management down pat. And since it’s the first skill I typically see on almost every resume I review, I think we all believe the same. With my first true entry of the Audeam Series, I’d like to share an epiphany I had late in the year. I learned that many of us are not as good with time management as we may think and don’t recognize it as a skill. I believe that we must invest in and refine time management  with practice.

For me, it took a week of back to back meetings, morning and night, to recognize that my approach to time management needed attention.  So I dug in, did some research, read a lot, and talked to a few respected peers that seemed to have honed this skill better than I.  I have since approached my scheduling with a few new techniques and tweaked them to fit my lifestyle. Now six months later, I’m closer to a more balanced calendar than ever. Below is a couple of my lessons in time management:

Convert to-do lists into priority lists, and get a second opinion

Like most professionals, I live by my to-do list. Before a day ends, I’ve moved undone items to the next day, added new ones on my radar, and rated them based on priority. In doing this, I started to see that my time was going to the urgent items with little to no time on the important & strategic. I put the fires out, but the bigger picture items were pushed to a later date. Someone needed to help me see the forest through the trees, and inspire me to re-prioritize those items. I had to be able to make the active decision as to which fires could be delegated. This forced me to get strategic in nature. By leveraging my resources around me, my counterpart – who I trust and has the gumption to hold me accountable- and I made a pact. Every Friday morning we exchange updated priority lists.  Before the weekend starts we review each others lists and identify a fool-proof plan for the upcoming week.

Find the windows of time outside scheduled meetings, and protect them

I’ve learned that the difference between achieving most items on my to-do list or the day going by in a blur is reliant on me having a minute to plan first thing in the morning. Since I’m a visual person, I find it valuable to print off my calendar making it tangible over an image on my computer screen. My first step? Find all the open time slots around my meetings, take my to-do list, and book them up! When I get done with a meeting, I am tempted to check the numerous new emails in my inbox. If I consistently go back to my calendar guide, I ensure that the priority to-do items I have, get done. Please note, it is important to go back to emails or questions that need to be answered but I’ve learned there is a time to say “not right now.” Those emails/questions become another item on my to-do list, and the cycle continues.

Get creative about when you schedule time

I was at lunch recently with a friend and fellow professional  discussing a strategic project I was passionate about and I knew she could feel my frustration because I hadn’t had the opportunity to get it launched. There were some key lessons learned from an internal process that spanned multiple departments, and this solution would improve both employee and client experiences. After days of trying to get it scheduled, it continued to remain on my to-do list, and I was worried about the impact of waiting.  So, instead of trying to fit it into that 8-4 p.m. meeting time, she shared how she commonly takes advantage of her commute home to get a start on projects like these.

I embraced this strategy and thus scheduled five 30 minute meetings with these team members to share content, relying on them for documentation and to brainstorm on implementation. The biggest benefit is not only getting this moving but also, I am more frequently home to walk my dog and have dinner with my family, which makes me happy. In return, I’m a bit more rested and energized each day, and it surely outweighs an hour of angry frustrations in an I-465 traffic jam!

As a reminder, Audeam means is to be bold, to venture and to take risks. What decisions have you made to sound your battle cry and implement changes to your calendar to become more efficient? What new high priority strategies and projects have you accomplished? How are you making your mark in regards to time management? Share with me by posting a comment, and please tag #audeamtoday.