First let me just say that I’m no expert. I’ve failed, disappointed others and myself, and made mistakes my whole career. I’ve missed deadlines, worked late, and burned myself out due to poor management of my time. What’s important is that I’ve learned a lot along the way from real experiences, sometimes over and over, and those are lessons that stick.
So why should you listen to me about time management? Because I’m not perfect, I’m still working on it, and maybe I can shorten your learning curve by sharing some of what I’ve figured out so far. See, we’re kind of in this together!
Who Needs to Manage Time?
Everyone does, whether you like it or not. You’re doing it already in some fashion, but are you doing it well?
- Do you get to work on time?
- Do you have doctor appointments, child activity commitments, projects, or deadlines of any sort?
- Do you have goals for your life/home/career that you want to achieve in a certain timeframe?
- Do you set an alarm clock in the morning?
- Do you factor in what time you need to get up in the morning in order to have enough time to shower, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, etc. and leave the house on time?
Time is an inescapable element that we all are constantly bound by, and can become a source of stress and/or anxiety if you are fighting a constant uphill battle to catch up. Let’s face it – missing a deadline or being late to a meeting, especially multiple times, can become a professional confidence killer as well.
With the right mindset and dedication, we can be empowered to control our time instead of time controlling us and becoming a major source of stress. Not to mention, when you’re performing well, your confidence and your personal brand in the workplace will soar!
What Does Time Management Mean to You?
I’ve been intrigued by this topic in recent years because I’ve always felt like I’m pretty bad at it. I have a lot of mental energy and tend to appear scattered sometimes due to the nature of my job and frankly, my personality. Most of the time I feel like I’m doing 100 things at once, both personally and professionally. Some call this “multitasking,” but you can read any number of articles and studies that prove why multitasking isn’t actually possible.
In my adult life, I’ve learned that I have some ADD tendencies—yes clinically confirmed, I’m not just throwing that term around. It’s given me insight on how my brain works and how I can harness that, namely structuring the world around me in a way that allows me to be successful. For me, time management means FOCUS and PRODUCTIVITY. For you it may be something entirely different.
Tools, Tools, Tools
You aren’t a machine. You’re human. You will forget things. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can embrace tools that will help you. Here are some of my favorites:
I use Google in my personal life and Outlook for work. Everything goes on my calendar or it doesn’t exist (just ask my husband, haha). Appointments, meetings, weddings, dinners, parties, deadlines, errands, travel, and more.
Take it a step further: When adding calendar items, take the 2 seconds to set a proactive automated reminder. If it’s a project deadline maybe you want a reminder to ping you a week prior. If it’s a birthday party maybe two-to-three days prior so you go buy the card and gift. The key is to avoid the “oh crap” moment, “I forgot this was today,” etc.
Even further: On my work calendar, I block time for myself to work on specific projects or tasks to ensure I’m not booked into meetings or interrupted when I need private work time to focus on something. I need to maintain control of my day and this has been a crucial tool for me to get sh*t done. It feels good to get sh*t done! Another example of this is blocking time before an important meeting specifically to prep for that meeting. Gather any materials, read notes from a prior meeting, etc. so you’re fresh and up to date going in.
At TradeTec we use Salesforce as our CRM, which has tasking capabilities. We can manually assign tasks to team members, but we also have automated tasks that are triggered by specific activities and work processes. They are time stamped and have deadlines and reminders, again keeping things focused and accountable all around. I have also used Basecamp and Asana project management/team collaboration tools and had good experiences with both platforms in different team and project settings.
Yep, I said it. PAPER. I love post-it notes. It’s bordering on addiction, but I’m okay with it! I was always a list maker and a note taker. I figured out in college that I learn and retain information by writing it down. I process the information differently and I have a mental image of it.
I have a large flip chart in my office where I host dozens of post-it notes I have made, each with a task or project written on it. It’s my “To-Do List 2.0.” I still write my to-do items, with a deadline, but now I can move them around into priority order and slot them into days of the work week to keep me on task. I know each day what projects or items that need attention so they aren’t being worked at the last minute.
And, it doesn’t hurt that it’s hanging in plain view with lots of colorful squares that keep my eyes going to it every day. I take photos of it for documentation or to reference it when I’m working remotely, and just as a safeguard in case something were to happen to it.
Added bonus: other people in the office can see what I’m working on, if they are interested. Another bonus: I’ve seen it inspire other employees to devise their own version in a way that works for them!
Mainly for me, by committing to using the tools above, I’ve relieved my mind of feeling the need to remember everything. I rely on my calendar because I can trust everything is there. Then my mental energy can be used on something else.
I would love to hear your thoughts on tools, tips, and tricks you use for time management. Who knows, it may inspire my next blog! Feel free to leave a comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out more blogs from the TradeTec team here.
Abby Georgacopoulos, Director of Marketing
email@example.com | 630-376-1036
Abby has more than 12 years of experience in design, marketing, communications, digital media, and project management. She is somehow both creative and analytical, which makes her passionate about marketing for results. Abby effectively uses creativity to tell a story, solve a problem or elicit action. She loves digging in to understand the nuances of her customers and anticipate their strategic needs. When she isn’t on her phone or computer, she is filling her walls with sticky notes and ideas.
Founded in 1999, TradeTec Skyline produces innovative trade show exhibits with unmatched customer service and a promise of NO POST SHOW BILLING for clients. As an endorsed provider of Skyline products, TradeTec offers the highest quality modular exhibits as well as custom and hybrid solutions. Located just west of Chicago, TradeTec has served over 6,000 clients and completed over 35,000 projects worldwide. They currently manage over 3,500 events each year. Learn more at ttchicago.com.