Three Skills of an Effective Time Manager

by Mark Forster

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pathway to Awesomeness.

October 25, 2007

I was asked the other day what I considered to be the skills needed for effective time management. I could of course have produced a list as long as my arm, but on reflection I decided that there were three skills which lie at the root of being effective. In fact, they are not so much skills as attitudes.

1. What’s really important? The ability to identify what is really important to your work and the determination to concentrate on it is fundamental. To identify this you have to be quite clear what you are aiming to achieve overall and what is needed to get there. This attitude is the exact opposite of the sort of “thinking” behind phrases like, “I really need to run a marketing campaign, but I haven’t been able to get around to it.”


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October 25, 2007

I was asked the other day what I considered to be the skills needed for effective time management. I could of course have produced a list as long as my arm, but on reflection I decided that there were three skills which lie at the root of being effective. In fact, they are not so much skills as attitudes.

1. What’s really important? The ability to identify what is really important to your work and the determination to concentrate on it is fundamental. To identify this you have to be quite clear what you are aiming to achieve overall and what is needed to get there. This attitude is the exact opposite of the sort of “thinking” behind phrases like, “I really need to run a marketing campaign, but I haven’t been able to get around to it.”

2. Think systems. Businesses are often made or broken by how good their systems are. If your own personal systems are bad, they will waste vast amounts of your time and hold you back. Poor time managers tend to use “work-arounds” when a system doesn’t work properly. Effective time managers take the time to put the system right so that the work-arounds are no longer necessary.

3. Work to completion. The effective time manager never leaves things unfinished. That doesn’t mean that he or she necessarily finishes everything in one session. What it does mean is that the momentum is kept going and that loose ends are tidied up. Poor time managers tend to start projects off with a burst of enthusiasm and then let them slide once the original enthusiasm has abated. The result is not only that the project isn’t completed but that the time spent on it is not available for other projects.

Time Management Helps

Here’s a list of my favourite time management helps:

  • Ring binder and refill pads. I much prefer using pen and paper for time management lists, and ring binders are great for flexible notes and lists.
  • Bic Cristal Ballpoint. The most comfortable, reliable and indestructible of cheapo pens, and of many a lot more expensive too. Cheap enough to buy in quantity, so it doesn’t matter if you lose them!
  • Kitchen Timer. An ordinary electronic kitchen timer is great for timed work bursts.
  • NEO Email Organizer. I don’t think I could survive without this program, which makes it possible to handle easily even vast quantities of email. I’ve been using this for years, and have found it invaluable. It only works with MS Outlook though.
  • Evernote. The ultimate note-taking program, also brilliant for sharing photos, files, etc, with other people. Using a Smart Phone you can take pictures, videos or audio files straight into Evernote. I find more uses for it every day.
  • Doxie Go Scanner. This little portable scanner will fit in a briefcase, and you download it when you get back to the office. Use it to store stuff in Evernote for the paperless office.
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