A stitch in time

Not enough hours in the day to get everything done? The answer is a little time management. Follow Travel Weekly’s top 10 tips to clawing back a little of that precious time each week. Dinah Hatch reports.

1. Use technology to your advantage.

If you want to concentrate on a task at hand, turn on the voicemail or ask colleagues and clients to email you instead of phoning. When someone sends an email, they feel satisfied they’ve acted – but you can answer them methodically in your own time. Get to know the technology you are using because more often than not programmes have lots of shortcuts to help you save time. For instance, there’s a whole load of hidden keyboard shortcuts in Windows and Microsoft Office that allow you to do just about anything faster. “Book online wherever possible to avoid lengthy phone conversations,” advises Trust Accommodation sales and marketing manager Andy Baker.

2. Keep a diary.
Jot down roughly how much time you spent on each task or activity (including the amount of times you nipped to the kitchen to make a quick cup of coffee) and analyse the results at the end of the week. This is how you can identify your “time wasters”, the things you did repeatedly that slowed you down. It doesn’t mean you can’t chat with your colleagues anymore or make a drink when you’re thirsty, it just helps to show you where you can make up time if you ever feel overwhelmed with work.

3. Just say no.
If you have organised your diary so that every task is allocated time, and then someone comes along and asks to do something for them that you just don’t have time for, politely tell them so.

4. Prioritise.
If you don’t, you are in danger of becoming a procrastinator, spending more time dreaming up excuses to yourself for not doing something than the time it would actually take to do the task in the first place. One method to employ is the ABC list. The items placed in the A section are those needed to be done that day. The items placed in the B section need completion within the week. The C section items are those things that need to be done within the month. As the B and C items become more pertinent they are bumped up to the A or B list.

5. Work it out.
Work out what time of day you are at your most fresh and productive and put aside your most alert hours to deal with the tasks which require the greatest creativity and concentration. For example, many people feel tired mid-afternoon (the reason for this is usually that the digestion of your lunch is using up all your energy – really!). Some people are at their best first thing in the morning while others need a strong cappuccino and a chat to wake up before they can get going. You’ll be amazed at how much better you perform those tricky jobs when you do them in your most alert state.

6. Take regular breaks.
It has been scientifically proven that most people can’t concentrate effectively for more than 40 minutes to an hour at a time. You might think working ten hours straight makes you super efficient but actually if you only do seven and leave the rest of the work until the next day, you will find that, feeling refreshed, you get it done in half the time.

7. Be a jobsworth.
Are you a bit of a pushover? Before you do a task think about whether it really is your job to do it or are you just doing it because no-one else can be bothered? Communal jobs such as refilling the printer with paper, washing up the cups in the sink or popping out to get teabags are something that everyone should do once in a while, not just the person with the least resistance. You could find you have saved an awful lot of time by asking other people to take their turn. “My best tip is to skip tea and coffee in work and stick to cold drinks (you don’t get in ’rounds’ then!),” says Jonathan WhiteleySales, manager of 1st Class Holidays.

8.Get the message.
Deal with your messages efficiently. Allocate a specific amount of time to dealing with phone and email messages each day, rechecking them at set intervals. Constantly looking at your emails can be distracting and wastes an awful lot of time that you could be using to focus on main jobs of the day. “If you need to speak to someone, go and talk to them rather than send an e-mail,” says Kuoni wedding co-ordinator Fred Harrison. “By the time you’ve written it and made sure it’s been sent you could have spoken to the person you’re emailing.”

9. Make a list.
When you are about to phone someone, make a quick list of what you want to achieve from the call, be it to explain details of a booking or ask for information to help you make one. That way, you won’t forget anything, requiring you to call again. It also prevents you from getting sidetracked and spending too long on the phone.

10. Be tidy.
It’s an old favourite but its true – if you organise your desk, you will save time. Leafing through piles of paperwork for the correct document is frustrating and time consuming (and does NOT make you look very professional). Keep your phone in the most comfortable position (and not under a pile of brochures), make sure things that you use a lot are close at hand and put away anything that you don’t need any more.

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