I am absolutely horrible at time management – but I get a lot of things done. Since I get a lot of things done, I don’t usually let my less-than-sensational time management skills bother me. But recently, I’ve realized that what I don’t pay attention to, can hurt me.One of my colleagues here at WorldWIT, Shari, is an incredible time manager. She knows what she has to get done every day; you can see her getting antsy toward the end of the day when her list still has items undone on it. Me, I work hard all day and go home exhausted, without thinking; it’s only after the kids are in bed that my brain goes “WAA! I didn’t finish that proposal!” So, I figured, I’d better get better at managing my time.
I was in New York last week, with Shari – and I had to appear in front of a camera twice (once for a Business Week video on online job-search etiquette, and once for a PBS special on breastfeeding in the workplace). Since I knew I’d be on film (or video) I went to get my nails done. At home in Boulder, I don’t worry so much about whether or not my nails are done. But here’s the bad time management at work: why did I wait until I was on the Upper East Side, for Pete’s sake, to get a manicure. It cost me seventy dollars, and three of the acrylic tips have already fallen off.
Anyway – while I was sitting there getting my expensive new nails, Shari went shopping. She bought me a Daytimer in a pink moc-croc case. Ninety dollars. “It’s worth it,” she said. It’s true. Since I’m such an online person, I always relied on internet calendaring tools. But when I’m not near a computer, I’m sunk. I write things on little scraps of paper or on napkins. So the Daytimer is a huge help. I went to a networking event that night, and had a handy place to store my newly-acquired business cards in (the Daytimer’s zippered pocket) and a place to take notes (“follow up with this person by Friday.”) So far, so good.
When I got back to the office, I realized that the time management had to go further. I wrote down a list of the projects I’m working on – I listed thirty-five projects without stopping. How could I possibly, without some intervention, keep track of all of those just in my head? I couldn’t and can’t. We started to create a group spreadsheet with projects, deadlines and Owner names. Just that little bit of project-management infrastructure is a huge help. While I was completing the Excel document, my officemates were yelling project names at me. “Don’t forget our March networking event!” “Make sure and list the new logo design!” We listed 55 projects. No wonder we feel swamped.
Now we’re having a weekly meeting to talk about priorities and deadlines. We’ve made a set of agreements with one another to clarify our expectations from our colleagues. This is a huge benefit to our productivity as well as our morale. The time-management mindset even affected my brain when I was at home – after all, how long does it take to throw a load of laundry in the washer? Surely, I am overwhelmed with our five kids ages four through thirteen. But every little bit of progress helps.