image-money-time-value-red-diceI, like most people, am always on the lookout for better ways to manage and use my time. Often I find that just small tweaks or little changes can have a good, measurable impact on my personal time management and consequently my life because I’ve reduced my stress and increased my productivity. In other words, kaizen! So, when I came across the article, “10 Common Time Management Mistakes” posted on the website, I read it with interest.

Mistake #1 was not keeping a to-do list. To-do lists certainly help me remember everything I need to do. The list helps reduce or eliminate the stress of trying to keep track of everything in your head. Well, I thought to myself, I’m good to go here, I’ve got a list—even if it’s an overwhelming list. The trick the folks at Mind Tools shared was to prioritize your list. You can use A/B/C, high/medium/low, or 1/2/3 or whatever works best for you. To refine this even more, Arnie Rintzler of AWR Business Concepts recommends further breaking the items down into ‘must do today’ and ‘should do today’. Personally I ended up using numbers to prioritize my to-do list and scheduled anything on my calendar that was classed as high priority and “must do today” is noted by (1). I use “00” before the description of the activity or appointment to clue me in that it’s a firm time (for example, 00-Call Client ABC re: our Lunch’n’Learn). I asked our staff to follow this system when scheduling me for appointments, return calls and the like. This way I automatically know if someone is expecting a callback today, tomorrow or other. Additional bonus, it’s easy to see on my calendar what is a firm appointment vs. a suggested time.

Mistake #2 is not setting personal goals. Well this definitely resonated with me because it’s oh so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not work towards my goals. As a company, we set our goals annually and meet briefly each month to make sure we’re on track or see if we need to make some adjustments. I can attest to the value of setting the goal and then tracking against it. A few years ago I realized that unless we made some changes we weren’t going to meet our revenue goal which would result in a precarious financial situation. We took stock of where we were and changed our sales focus. The result: We were able to meet our revenue goal almost to the penny—which was certainly a wonderful feeling to have. I still need to work on my personal goals but I’m getting there. Of course, when I set those goals, I’ll make sure they are S.M.A.R.T . Google “SMART goals” if you don’t know or remember significance of the acronym.

Mistake #3 in the article circled back to priorities and failing to set them. As the article points out, it’s easy to get sidetracked or off track “when you’re facing a flood of seemingly urgent tasks.” Check out page 3 of our October IT Radix Resource newsletter to see a grid from Steven Covey. I find it a useful litmus testing tool when I’m struggling to prioritize my activities.

Give just one these ideas a try and you’ll have a better handle on your time and will have taken a good forward in the pursuit of kaizen.

First published in our October 2014 IT Radix Resource newsletter