4 Time Management Strategies from Savvy Maven | Kathy DeCocq

4 Time Management Techniques That Work

We recently hosted a webinar with Savvy Maven founder and time management expert Kathy DeCocq. Kathy coaches entrepreneurs, CEOs and busy professionals on how to better manage their time and be more productive.

She says nearly every entrepreneur or CEO she speaks with expresses a time management pain point. Maybe you can relate.

What is time management? Kathy likes the definition from Mind Tools, which states it’s the process of planning, organizing and dividing your time among tasks. Effective time management makes you more productive, even when you’re juggling multiple deadlines in high-pressure environments.

If you’ve ever worked in a deadline-driven environment, you can see why time management matters. It can help everyone from students to professionals who want to move up.

A 2019 study published in “Sage Journals” found effective time management is associated with lower levels of anxiety and greater academic performance in students. Another study, published by “The Health Care Manager,” found time management can improve performance and promotional potential.

If you’re looking to advance in your current career, it’s essential to manage your time well. The key to time management that’s “effective” means that it works for you. There are various techniques, but you need to use one or a combination that gets you the results you’re looking for.

Learn more when you watch the webinar here or in the article below. Let’s go over the four techniques Kathy recommends to her clients, which might help you, too.

1. Task Duration Estimation

Task duration estimation helps you estimate how long it will take you to complete a certain action. You can use this time management technique for any task you have – work, personal, you name it.

To assign a time estimate to each task you need to complete, use your gut or historical data whenever possible. If you’ve never completed the task before, come up with a reasonable estimate of how long you think the task will take. Then double your estimate to create a buffer, in case the task takes longer.

You can also use the task duration estimate to set time amounts for breaking up longer tasks. For example, if you want to read a book in a month, you might estimate that it will take you 15 minutes a day of reading to get there.

When you’re working on something that doesn’t exactly have an average duration, you have a couple options.

  1. Divide tasks into various categories and create a task estimation based on each category. For example, say you’re working applying for jobs and are working on cover letters, but you find that each cover letter takes a different amount of time to complete. Maybe you can estimate for federal cover letters you’re writing, those take an hour each. For the small business cover letters you’re writing, those take a half-hour each.
  2. Use the long estimate as your task duration estimate, so you can buffer in extra time and gain time back if you finish earlier.

Estimating task duration will help you plan each day, week and month. It will also help you be realistic about what you accomplish, so you can avoid overcommitting and you can stay sane.

2. Calendarizing

Calendarizing is a useful time management tool because it helps you understand what you need to do when. You can use a calendar tool to plan what you’ll do, when and for how long.

Calendarizing is helpful if you often have meetings. Use a calendar to list out every task you need to do in a day, week or month. Then use the task duration estimation technique to estimate how much time it takes to do each task.

Determine how often you need to do the task to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to dedicate 10 hours next month to working on your business, you can schedule in a certain amount of minutes each day on your calendar to do so.

Fill up your calendar with your tasks. Kathy suggests color coding, so you stay organized and have a better visual representation of what your workload looks like.

Kathy also suggests scheduling in time on your calendar for non-work-related tasks that you know you want to do. These might include taking a break for lunch, spending 15 minutes to walk your dog, or even showering, since we know how busy life can get.

You might want to use a calendar other people have access to, so you can have certain times blocked out that are un-schedule-able. Calendly is one option. If you find you need to schedule something during a normally blocked time, you can still have that blocked time, and move it to a new hour.

Kathy also mentions you might consider blocking out time before you’re ready to meet with people, so you’re prepared and relaxed for each meeting. If you have meetings all day, try to schedule at least 15 minutes in-between each one so you have time to get a drink of water, take a bathroom break or just catch your breath.

You might also consider blocking out time after your workday when you’re not available and before you want to meet people to start your day. That way, you set your own workday schedule and attend meetings energized.

3. To-Do Lists

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of crossing things off your to-do list. You can use to-do lists to jot down what you need to accomplish in a certain time span. To-do lists are helpful if you have a lot to do, if you feel like you “lose” things if you don’t write them down, or if you like the feeling of crossing something off your list.

To-do lists can be hand-written or electronic. Kathy recommends to create a daily list, preferably the night before, so you know what to expect the next day.

Kathy recommends to find a way to add to your list on the go, since you never know when you might get a new task to put on the list. You can use a voice memos app like Siri to vocalize what you want to add to a list. You could also use a cloud-based tool like Google Docs, so you can access your to-do list wherever you are, on any connected device.

4. Prioritization

You’ve estimated your tasks, you’ve organized your calendar and you have to-do lists for what you need to accomplish. Now, you need to prioritize your tasks so you make sure you’re working on the right stuff at the right time. Knocking tasks off in the most critical order is going to benefit you and help you be more productive.

It’s important to prioritize if you have a lot to do, if your to-do list grows more than it shrinks or if you’re working long hours. You only have so much energy, so you want to optimize it.

That’s why Kathy recommends building discipline to work on your high-priority items first and to resist the temptation to work on quick, low-priority items. Why is this important? Ticking off smaller tasks might seem productive, but it means you’re spending your time and energy on things that are less important than your most difficult, brain-intensive tasks.

Some people call these tasks their “frog.” You’ll hear the term in Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog!” No one wants to eat a frog, but if you get it done first, you can breeze through the rest of your day on the less-intense tasks.

Another way to use prioritization for time management is to put the onus of deadlines on other people. For example, if someone you work with asks you to complete something, you might feel pressured to complete it as soon as possible – even if they don’t need the project for a couple weeks.

Kathy recommends to ask people who bring you work, “When do you need this by?” That way, you get to learn the thought process behind the work so you can prioritize its importance. If they say, “I don’t know, when can you get that done by?”, you now have the opportunity to create a longer deadline and give yourself more time.

Bonus Tip: Work with an Accountability Partner

Savvy Maven

If you’re new to time management techniques, it might help to work with an accountability partner as you start the process. A trusted colleague or friend can check in with you on how you’re doing and remind you to stay on track.

Kathy suggests combining these time management tools to find the best solution for your work style. Don’t try too much at once. First, choose one time management style and try to implement it for a week. Take note of what works and what doesn’t.

Adjust as needed. Keep trying until you find a combination that works for you.

Kathy says you’ll know your time management strategy is working when you:

  • Use the tool(s) every day
  • Hit your deadlines
  • Feel accomplished
  • End your workday at a reasonable time
  • Have time for other things that are important to you

Thanks again to the Savvy Maven Kathy DeCocq for hosting this insightful webinar. If you’d like to get in touch with Kathy for time management coaching, process consulting or other services, contact here.

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