by Ellen Leifeld, Publisher - The Tennessean
(Original article dated April 23, 2007)
A serious effort to improve your time-management skills can make a remarkable difference in your life.
Those who practice effective time management think more clearly, are more creative and are better performers. And, they have more time in their lives for the personal and professional things that matter most.
It's never too late to change. And it's easy to get started. Here's how:
- Get organized. Keep an uncluttered desk with efficient and handy filing systems, effective daily and master to-do lists, one master schedule -- and a handy wastebasket. Keep your to-do list in your computer. Clear your desk each day by transferring the tasks, along with related vital information for each, to that list. Prioritize and then file or throw away the related paperwork. If it helps, note next to the item where it is filed.
- Schedule enough time to accomplish the tasks. Don't overdo it. It helps to separate tasks into management lists, i.e., today's priorities, this week's priorities and a master list. Edit these lists each day.
- Set priorities. Schedule time each day to handle your priorities and leave enough flexible time for day-to-day interruptions. Learn to say no to things that are not priorities.
- Know your peak times. If you are most productive in the morning, schedule important work for that time. Use non-peak times for routine work.
- Consolidate. Save small jobs for in-between moments when there isn't enough time to jump into a big project, e.g., save copying for one trip to the copy machine and return phone calls in batches.
- Break it up. Manage large projects by breaking them into smaller, manageable pieces.
- Practice discipline. Rather than constantly shuffling the pile -- moving unpleasant or daunting tasks to the bottom of the stacks on your desk -- force yourself to deal with matters. Get unpleasant tasks out of the way first.
Now, you're well on your way to better time management and ready for the steps that will ensure that you\'re spending your time doing quality work.
Next steps for reporters:
- Stop and think. Take a moment after the story is assigned to think about the best strategies for finding the best possible sources and gathering the most vital information.
- Prioritize. Make a list of everything that you will need for the story. Prioritize the list in order of difficulty and get started on the most difficult items first.
- Itemize. Develop a strategy with the key questions. What is the news, context, impact and human dimension of the story? Start with the first five graphs list.
- Take time to discuss. Talk through your strategy with an editor.
Managing our extremely busy lives so that we have time to focus on values and priorities is not easy. It takes a conscious effort to break bad habits and begin practicing better ones.