Career Corner: Focused, Not Frantic - Tips on Time Management

Career Corner: Focused, Not Frantic - Tips on Time Management

How can we become more productive by making smarter use of our time?  Joanna Norland, lawyer, author and Citymothers member, shares her top tips for managing our time better in 2017.

Working parents are time paupers.

Nonetheless, last January, I volunteered for an extra commitment -- Organising an office-based time management reading group.

I was hoping to learn a few clever shortcuts from the bestsellers on our reading list:

  • Getting Things Done, by David Allen,
  • 5 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management, by Kevin Kruse,
  • What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam, and 
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.

 But at first, instead of easing up my schedule, I only got busier. Changing bad habits and adopting new mindsets takes effort.

Gradually, however, my fellow reading group participants and I began to feel, not less busy, but rather, more productive and confident, as we learned to focus our efforts to reflect our priorities and prevent the crises that derail them.

Here are the key lessons that I will carry over into the new year:

  • Understand your time usage: Laura Vanderkam advises time-starved professionals to monitor and analyse their time expenditures, and then consider what they would like to change. Click here for her time management spreadsheets.
  • Plan at several levels: Integrated long and short-term planning includes an evolving personal mission statement, annual goals, weekly priorities, and daily to-dos, all reflecting a consistent agenda. “To-dos” should be treated as contracts and scheduled for specific time slots. 
  • Allocate time to important but non-urgent pursuits: Stephen Covey observed that busy people spend a disproportionate amount of time firefighting emergencies or ticking off time-sensitive but relatively unimportant tasks. Meanwhile, substantive endeavours that reward sustained effort are inevitably sacrificed -- for example, exercise, developing new revenue streams and training team members (or children) to assume more responsibility. 

To clear the necessary time and energy, experts advise thoughtfully delegating, postponing, or eliminating other activities that seem pressing, but do not warrant the resources they consume.

  • Use notebooks: David Allen explains that the human brain excels at innovating, planning and synthesizing but is poorly designed to store and retrieve ideas and information. To free up the mind, advises Kevin Kruse, always keep a notebook to hand to record and develop ideas on the fly.  I recommend Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal system of using one notebook at a time to log calendars, to do lists, meeting notes, project plans, etc., and indexing it for future reference. 

My notebook also hosts my bucket list of things I want to achieve and experience, on and off the job. This is important, because the reason to manage time is not merely to do more -- but rather, to do more of what you want to do.

Once you are clear on the why, the time management reading group book list can assist with the how.

Alternatively, check out these summaries:

Alan Henry, Productivity 101: A Guide to the Getting Things Done (GTD) Philosophy

Eric Jackson, The Only Thing You Have to Remember about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Kevin Kruse, Fifteen Surprising Things Productive People Do Differently

Laura Vanderkam, How to Upgrade your To-Do List

Joanna Norland is a lawyer and author. She works as a tax editor for Bloomberg BNA, in London and lives in Kent with her husband and two school-aged children. She is the author of Lizzy, Darcy and Jane, a play about Jane Austen published by Samuel French Ltd and she blogs about writing for children at  Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Released On 25th Sep 2017


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