Time Not On Your Side? Learn to Take Control.

Published by The Nashville Business Journal

Time is a perishable commodity for all of us. Good planning on your part and a sincere respect for the time of those around you will help you manage your limited time most effectively.

True leaders know that the better you manage your own time, the more productive you will be. And the better you help to manage other people’s time, the more respect you will earn. Here’s how to start taking charge of your time:

Put it on the calendar. Maintain a forward-looking list of important tasks, events and goals—and assign each to specific weeks and months in the future. Review your plan regularly, making adjustments as needed and building the current and upcoming week’s plan by the day.

Plan your day. At the end of each work day, take a few minutes to review your calendar for the next few days to make sure everything is scheduled, planned and prepared. You will sleep better and get a faster start the next day when you have a solid plan ready to go.

Prep for appointments. Be on time and prepared for all appointments. At the beginning of an appointment, confirm the agenda and time allocation, and you will be more productive and end on schedule. If your appointment starts significantly late, take the initiative to reschedule rather than leaving the rest of your day in turmoil.

Drop-ins. When you drop in to see someone or someone spontaneously shows up to see you, take the initiative to set a framework right away. Discuss the topic and time needed, and if you both agree, proceed. If not, schedule a more appropriate future time and place for the appointment.

Set up phone conversations. When you make a call, start by defining your timeframe: “Hello Joe, I’d like to discuss the ‘X project’ and need about 15 minutes of your time.”  Then you can jointly decide whether to talk now or schedule a call later. Follow the same protocol when you receive an unexpected call.

Prepare for meetings and conference calls. When you are in charge, circulate an agenda with specific times for each topic at least one day in advance. Ask for comments and adjust the agenda based on the feedback. You are now armed with a timed agenda which is your tool to keep things moving on schedule. If you are a meeting participant you can request an agenda in advance to help you plan your time.

E-mail discreetly. Less is good. Short is essential. And, yes, “cc-ing” is often just wasting someone’s time. Be prudent in your communication. You don’t win popularity contests by sending lots of emails. If a topic is really important, don’t waste time writing an email. Go down the hall or pick up the phone to resolve the issue.

You earn respect by showing respect for other peoples’ time.

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