Time is on Your Side ? Manage it Wisely

How do you manage your time? Or is the more appropriate question do you wish you had better time management skills? I have clients and friends who rely on everything from legal pads to brightly colored sticky notepads to manage their time and appointments ? practically everything in their life. I don't understand why some folks place so little importance on something as important as time management!

As a professional Virtual Assistant, I have numerous clients and tasks I must complete every day. I also have a hectic personal life, full of family responsibilities and my hobbies. Organizing my time is critical to my success and to maintaining my sanity.

Submitted for your reading pleasure, and to enhance your brain, are some of my tips for effectively and efficiently managing one of your most valuable resources: time.

Determine What Works Best for You

We're all different in regards to time management -- what works for you may not suit me or my style. Are you constantly on the go and need your calendar at your fingertips? Or, do you prefer to keep a paper calendar? Do you loath computers and all they stand for, or are you so wired Edison would be jealous? Whatever tools you choose to include in your arsenal, ensure they're tools you'll use consistently.

The Building Blocks of Better Time Management

My time management tools are Microsoft Outlook® and my trusty PDA. Outlook serves all my appointment, e-mail and tasking needs in one easy-to-use package.

Two of my favorite Outlook tools are the Categories and Labels features. Categories allow me to classify my calendar items and tasks in a variety of ways, such as Clients, Potential Clients, Personal, and so forth. In addition, you can also Advanced Find (search) Categories, so no more wasted time looking for a calendar appointment or journal entry for a particular client.

Unlike the seemingly unlimited number of Categories you may setup, you are limited to ten (10) Labels (at least in the 2002 version). Labels allow you to color code your Calendar so you'll know at a glance which items are personal in nature, and which are client related.

Consistency is the Key

Whatever system you have in place or are considering to implement, the key point to remember is consistency. Follow the same procedures each and every time, without fail. Ensure you put good habits into play and more important, follow those good habits!

When I create new appointments or tasks, I use the first few characters to define the "owner" (client or myself) of that appointment or task. For example, when creating items for client Tom Smith, I'll preface all items with TSMITH. When searching for items for Tom, I know if I search for "TSMITH" I'll access all items related to this client. I'll also apply a Label to my appointments, such as TeleCon, PCI (Potential Client Interview), or Personal.

I pad all appointments with a 15-minute buffer on each side. I also schedule breaks during my workday.

My clients appreciate that each Monday I release my "Lori's Schedule" e-mail, a brief note notifying my clients when I'll be out of the office for that week. For example, all my clients know I'm a member of the Editorial Team for a well-known eZine and they know that unless it's an emergency, I am not available during this meeting.

When I interview potential clients, interns and vendors, I keep detailed conversation notes in the memo field for that Contact. I date all telephone conversations and apply color coding (font coloring) to each conversation. All interviews are kept to 30 minutes ? no exceptions. My Desktop timer helps me keep track of the time, and sounds a horn .WAV file when it's time to end the interview.

If I need to follow up with someone, I immediately create an appointment, applying Categories and a Label, and attach any necessary external documents (Word, Excel, etc.). For Calendar appointments, I also keep track of the number of times I've attempted to contact that person. Example: For vendor Lisa Andrews, I'll preface the appointment with LA(2), where the parenthetical (2) means this is my second attempt to contact Lisa. I allow a maximum of three follow up attempts ? no exceptions. Chasing people down is a waste of my time -- time I'd prefer to spend making money and running my business.

You Make the Call

Pet Peeve: Folks who call me and have no clue what they want to say. I've been known to hang up on such occasions, so let's ensure you don't make the same mistake!

A few basic rules of etiquette follow:

1. Peace & quiet rule the day, especially if you're making a business call. If the kids or your husband are home, close the door to your office. If there's a large amount of street traffic, go to an inner room in your home, as far away from the noise as possible. You don't want to shout over the din; instead, make the din disappear.

2. Know what you're going to say! I've advised numerous clients to have either an index card or a sheet of paper with the bullet points of what they want to say. I do something similar ? in the Calendar appointment for the telephone call, I include bullet points in the memo field and make notes during the course of the conversation.

3. Keep it brief. Make your point, get down to business and let's rock and roll.

4. Be on time. Have respect for the person you're about to call. They've set aside valuable time to talk to you.

You've Made Your List, Now Check It the 2nd Time

Spend a few minutes at the end of your day to review tomorrow's calendar. Doing so will get you prepared for tomorrow and will jump start your memory if you forgot to do something. Do you have any faxes still waiting to go out? Did you remember to call the printer and OK the proof? Any prep work you need to do for tomorrow? Take five minutes, review your calendar and to do list and then complete any last minute work.

It's All Relative ? Well, Your Relatives Think So

I know many people who have home-based businesses and at least 75% of them do not have a "family policy" in place. How can you work effectively from home if your girlfriends are calling you all the time, and if Uncle Joe stops by several times a day? Answer: You can't. What to do? Inform your family and close friends that unless it's a dire emergency, the family chit-chat and visits need to be kept to a minimum. For your part, you must ensure you call your dad at the end of the day to check in, and tell your girlfriend Lisa that yes, you can have lunch with her on Thursday. It's all about balance: part work, part play. Too much of the former will make you crazy!

"No" is Not a Four Letter Word (Subtitle: Even if it were, you should still utter it now and then)

Say this out loud, "It's okay for me to say no." Doesn't that feel better? More important, do you believe it?

Do not allow the procrastination or the good intentions of others to encroach upon your time. If you do not have the time today to handle a task, be honest and say so. Offer alternative dates and times when you are available, ensuring you mark these times as "unavailable" on your calendar so you don't book other appointments during this time.

Remember, time is money. Learn how to organize and manage your time--you'll be glad you did!

Copyright 2005 Lori Davis. All rights reserved.

Lori Davis is Director of the Future at Davis Virtual Assistants, a New York-based VA firm. To learn more about Lori and DavisVA, please visit http://www.davisva.com and http://loridavis.typepad.com/davisva/. You may contact Lori at 917.319.8224 and via e-mail at [email protected].

In The News:

Harvard Business Review

Your Team's Time Management Problem Might Be a Focus Problem
Harvard Business Review
“My team has a time management problem,” leaders often tell me. For example, an executive might say that their teams aren't moving the needle on important projects, yet staffers seem busy and stressed. “Time management” becomes a catchall solution to ...

Making God my Time Management Coach
Discovering our priorities is an important part of time management. How can we order our days according to the will of God? Does He care how we whittle away our time? Is productivity a priority in God's scheme of things? God makes it clear throughout ...

U.S. News & World Report (blog)

Why You Still Need Time Management After You Retire | On ...
U.S. News & World Report (blog)
After you retire, you may believe that you no longer need to manage your time. Perhaps you regard time management as something you get to leave behind ...

and more »

Time management: A god gifted non-technical skill?
BusinessZone (blog)
When you are an entrepreneur, you have numerous responsibilities over you. There have been debates whether an entrepreneur needs to own technical skills, the non-technical, or both. Affirming requirement of these is quite difficult without ...

Management Today

For better time management, focus on the big picture
Management Today
A book about time management crossed my desk some years ago. It had all the usual advice - check emails at set times, eliminate unnecessary meetings, schedule difficult tasks first thing. The reason I remember it is for one of the more unusual tips I ...


Nutrition: Planning and Time Management - NewsCenter1
Time management is essential in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

and more »

Beyond The 80/20 Rule: This Formula Might Make You Rethink Time Management
Fast Company
In seeking to build systems to manage false news, technology companies will end up creating systems to monitor and police speech. We will quickly find that they need to use ever-more granular, vigilant, and therefore continuously updated semantic ...

Fast Company

What I've Learned By Giving Up On “Time Management”
Fast Company
I love time. I like to save it and spend it. What I have a problem with is “time management”—I don't like treating time as a resource to be managed. I have a personal relationship with my time. I feel that my time is mine. I am jealous and protective ...

Jamaica Gleaner

Effective Time Management is the key to success
Jamaica Gleaner
There are only 24 hours in one day. How do we manage those hours? Do we use them wisely; make things happen? Or do things just happen to us? It is important to manage the 24 hours of the day, and this can be achieved through time management, which ...

Printing Impressions

Time Management: Finding Work/Life Balance
Printing Impressions
I love, love, love this subject. It's part of a bigger conversation and falls under the umbrella of Time Management, a topic which comes up with every coaching call I hold. No wonder: The lines between business and personal were blurred the minute we ...

Google News

How Would You Like to Capture Some Time?

Women's health issues often are focused on goals to reach:... Read More

Low Tech Time Management

A simple kitchen gadget is transforming my life. I don't... Read More

Get More Done at Your Office: Focus on These Eight Areas for Increased Productivity

Your productivity depends on good tools and effective environments, and... Read More

Tips to Manage Incoming E-mail

Friends, colleagues, and clients are all telling me that one... Read More

Isn?t It Time For You?

Does it seem like there is never enough time in... Read More

Giving Up the Cape

"I find it interesting that the very cape I tried... Read More

More Time Wanted? Deal with Your Time-wasters Now!

Ever feel that you spend too much time shoring up... Read More

If Only Your Brain Was the Size Of That Of an Ant You Could Easily Implement Habits

A year and a half ago I was introduced to... Read More

Time Management? NO!

Many people want to be coached to manage their time... Read More

Work, Work, Work: Making Each Moment Count

Time, time, time. It seems there is never enough of... Read More

The 3 Biggest Priority Busters

As a professional organizer, consultant and trainer, I have come... Read More

Six Foundational Reasons for Managing Your Time

Most of us know how to manage our time. It... Read More

Time Management - How To Get More Done In A Day?

Everyday, in life, we are bombarded with 101 tasks that... Read More

The Kaizen of Goal Setting

There is an old way of goal setting and a... Read More

How to Minimize Trips to the Grocery Store

Still awaiting the birth of my baby (I am overdue),... Read More

Boost Your Productivity with 10 Minutes at the End of Your Day

Once you have completed your day you can boost your... Read More

31 Ways to Get An Extra Hour Out of Each Day

How can you get an extra hour out of each... Read More

Linking Purpose To Everyday Behaviors

How do you know what's the best use of your... Read More

Save Your Time - Delegate!

Frustration is when an obstacle blocks your ability to achieve... Read More

Effective Use of Your Online Time

The Internet is increasingly becoming a major time killer for... Read More

Setting Time Aside For Studying And Homework

When trying to achieve a quality education, everybody knows that... Read More

Time Management: How to Stay Motivated and Get More Done

If you can motivate yourself at will to get any... Read More

Increasing Your ROI

All requests are not equal; all customers or clients are... Read More

Time Mastery vs. Time Management - Knowing the Difference

How much time do you spend on Mastering Your Time?... Read More

How Much Is Poor Time Management Costing You?

* If you were paying you to prioritise emails over... Read More