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Time is Money, So Manage More Effectively

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

Time management in the life of the busy professional is always a challenge. The balance of one’s commitments at work and at home can be difficult and, at times, overwhelming to manage.
Modern technologies intended to make our lives easier, often add too much information and clutter, forcing us to spend time on unimportant and unprofitable tasks. Whether you are a small business owner, in commission sales, or an employee of a small or large company, using your time wisely is essential to your individual production and overall profit. As the old saying goes “time is money.”
While we can’t add more time to our days, we can manage the time we have more effectively. Finding a time-management strategy that works depends on the individual and their environment. Hopefully, these tips can help you more effectively manage your time.

Planning
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Reviewing your calendar and identifying your commitments can help you manage your priorities and make the most of your time. Looking at the week ahead can help you make the distinction between what is urgent and what is important. Making planning a habit and doing it religiously is crucial to maintaining control over your time. Here are some additional thoughts:

• Spend time at the beginning of each week planning for your week ahead. Planning in advance gives you time to react to unforeseen situations and plan for things you want to do;
• Plan for tomorrow before today ends. Spend some time planning for your next day’s accomplishments;
• Try to limit scheduled time too, because distractions always seem to arise.

Task Lists
To effectively manage all of the outstanding tasks, commitments, and engagements, we cannot rely on our memory alone. The average person has 50 tasks in their heads at any given time according to the “Getting Things Done” time-management system created by David Allen. Maintaining a reliable and well-kept list allows us to reduce the mental energy required by storing the list in our heads, resulting in forgotten items and missed tasks.

• Make a list of all the things in your world that need resolution;
• Go through each of these items and assign it a letter of importance from A (very important) to C (unimportant);
• Assign an amount of time to complete each of the items;
• Prune your list by following the ‘4-D theory’: do it, dump it, delegate it, or defer it, making it manageable; and
• Remember that multitasking can actually lower the quality of work; try to devote full attention to one task at a time.

Calendars
In order to help manage meetings and events, it requires the effective use of a calendar. Whether it’s paper or electronic, you need a system where you know where to be and when. A calendar which shows the entire month at a glance is better than one that shows a week at a time.
Viewing your calendar monthly will help you to obtain a better picture of your time and it will help you to plan on a weekly basis. Here are some tips:
• Input only time and day-specific items; try not to over clutter;
• Set up recurring events;
• Color code your calendar (green for personal; red for meetings; blue for phone calls, for example);
• Use notifications and reminders;
• Automatically add holidays into your calendar; and
• Syncronize calendars whenever possible.

E-mail
E-mails have become a necessary evil in today’s business world. While e-mails can save time and long conversations, they can also be misleading, overused, and misinterpreted. Using e-mail more effectively will not only save time but could actually help increase productivity. Keep these suggestions in mind:
• Keep an empty inbox — read the e-mail once and decide what to do with it. As with the task list, use the 4 D theory: do it, delegate it, defer it or delete it (file);
• Try to limit e-mails to a few sentences — get right to the point;
• Make your subject line obvious;
• Try to write fewer e-mails and avoid copying unnecessary recipients;
• Set aside time to check and respond to e-mails, especially during “low productivity time” (i.e. lunch);
• Avoid checking e-mails first thing in the morning. This will help you to avoid reacting to others demands and will allow you to stay focused on your own demands;
• Write smarter e-mails and be clear. Try to anticipate the next reply in order to answer any potential questions;
• Set up folders to have a good email filing system;
• Route annoying e-mails to junk and non-essential e-mails (newsletters or blogs) can be set up to go straight to a folder;
• Turn off the visual and audible e-mail alerts; and
• Create an e-mail template for recurring e-mail messages sent, such as thank-you notes and meeting confirmations.

Get Organized
Paperwork can easily get out of control and eat up valuable time you could be using to accomplish your goals. Keeping your desk clean is crucial to avoid getting overwhelmed by the clutter and maintaining control of your environment. Here’s how:
• Try to touch each piece of paper only once, using the 4 D theory discussed above;
• Set up a well-maintained filing system; and
• Add an extra monitor or two, which will allow you to have multiple screens open at the same time, significantly increasing your efficiency.  Monitors are even portable; they are lightweight and are the size of a legal pad.
Even the best strategies we implement can’t work without the dedication to making them work and the consistency it takes to make them a habit. If we can start to think of time as a commodity, as we do money, we can start to put a value on our time and question how we spend it.
Using your time wisely will allow you to be more effective with the time you do have.
Staying focused on what is important and being proactive rather than reactive will result in increased productivity, reduced stress and devoting more time to important and rewarding projects. Overall, successful time management will make a positive difference in your career and ultimately your bottom line.

Patricia J. Murphy, CPA, is a Senior Associate with the Holyoke based public accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.; (413) 322-3540; [email protected]

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