Thursday 16 January 2020, Nottingham

At the latest East Midlands PM Forum event, which was hosted by Shakespeare Martineau in Nottingham, Kate Hennig from theGrogroup ran an interesting session on time management and working smarter to achieve the most value from your time.

Kate kicked off the session by discussing the background and history of time management and how its evolved, with planning and prioritisation being the key element of effective time management.

Kate went on to explain that it’s important to maximise the value of time and that this is achieved by first deciding and prioritising what is most important. In order to be able to do this, it’s important that you know what your organisation is aiming for and have a clear understanding of how your role plays a part and your key performance indicators. Having this understanding will provide a useful guide for how to prioritise your own tasks and workload.

The group then explored various tools and techniques to help with planning and prioritising. These included: 

  • ‘Setting the table’ – planning and creating ‘to do’ lists.
  • Prioritising ‘to do’ lists with ‘Must’, ‘Intend’ or ‘Like’.
  • Factoring in Parkinson’s Law – “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – and managing this by setting deadlines and allocating a certain amount of time for specific tasks.
  • Being aware of monochromic (task focused and punctual) v polychromic (multi taking) working approaches and trying to ensure you focus on one task at a time to ensure maximum efficiency.
  • The positive “No” – not doing things that you don’t need to do, or that could be done at another time.
  • The importance of eliminating, automating and delegating tasks. 

Kate then focused on how to work smarter by doing certain tasks at the right time. We all go through different states of attention span during the day, which consist of:

  • Pro-active attention – fully focused, alert in the zone, can make decisions, can be creative, can tackle complexities.
  • Active attention – plugged in, ticking along, flagging slightly, easily distracted.
  • In-active attention – the light are on, but…, struggle with complex tasks and making decisions.

Being aware and understanding your peaks and troughs will allow you to plan your day more effectively, so that you complete the right activities at the most optimum time.

The impact of distractions and identifying what gets in the way e.g. emails, phone call colleagues was discussed; along with how to manage these distractions. Kate also shared that 57% of interruptions are caused by yourself and emphasises the importance of “keeping out of your own way.” 

Time balance was also discussed and Kate highlighted how identifying the importance of tasks, using the following, is helpful for prioritisation.

  • Urgent/important
  • Urgent/not important
  • Not urgent/important
  • Not urgent/not important

The group then undertook a time matrix assessment to evaluate if they were spending enough time on the right tasks. It’s important not to spend all your time being reactive and dealing with the urgent and important things; it’s also crucial to spend some time on the not urgent and important tasks. 

To conclude the session, Kate shared some useful tips and tools for working smarter. These included:

  • Track how much time you spend on tasks
  • Take regular breaks and exercise
  • Set self-imposed deadlines
  • Say no to meetings
  • Reduce multitasking
  • Take advantage of your commute
  • Plan your day
  • Turn off notifications
  • Get your workspace right – temperature, light
  • Explore tools to help, such as Trello, Wunderlist, Todolist, Brain Toss

The group were also asked to think about one thing that they could do to help them and their teams be more operationally effective.

Overall, Kate provided an extremely useful and practical session, with lots of helpful tips and tools for the group to take away.

Written by Jemma Taylor-Smith
Marketing Consultant, V Formation