It seems the world is growing into a business place and time management a growing hot topic. No one can deny that there are companies out there producing fabulous on-line tools to help us manage our time better, but who has the time to find them?
This week I reached out to the marketing manager of one such company to offer us some great tips and tools that may just buy you more time.
"If only there were more hours in the day..."
That's a common enough refrain in this day and age. You wake up in the morning, get ready for the day ahead, and then it's off to the million things you have to tackle today. Before you know it, the sun is setting and your to-do list seems to have gotten longer instead of shorter. In the morning, when you thought about the day ahead of you, it didn't seem that unmanageable. But now it's six or seven o'clock in the evening, and you barely accomplished half of what seemed reasonable only 12 hours earlier. What happened?
Of course, a million things happen every day which can derail your productivity. Here are a few tools and techniques you can use to manage your time more effectively.
1. Inbox Zero
I don't know for sure who coined the term, but "Inbox Zero" came to my attention via Merlin Mann of 43Folders.com fame. The idea behind Inbox Zero is to rid yourself of a couple of nasty email habits that tend to sap your attention and drain you of focus.
The first rule of Inbox Zero is to stop treating your inbox as a to-do list. Instead, process your inbox once or twice a day (ideally), or as often as you need (but less is more in this system). When processing your inbox, you may only take one of four actions on each email. You may respond to it (if it takes less than two minutes), delete it (or archive it), delegate it (don't forget to follow up on it if you're ultimately responsible for the outcome – ie. set a reminder on your calendar), or defer it (if you need to do it but it will take longer than 2 minutes).
If you have an hour and want to learn more, I highly recommend watching the TechTalk that Merlin gave at Google, just below.
2. Rescue Time
Rescue Time is a web-based time management and analytics tool that helps you understand how and where you spend your time and attention online. There's no data to enter and sign-up is quite simple. You basically let RescueTime know what you consider to be productive time online (for me that includes social media) and what you do not (sadly reading the news does not count in my books), and RescueTime simply pays attention to which tab or window you're currently using and records the time spent.
At the end of a week, you'll have a much better idea of what habits you need to break. Happily, RescueTime can help you with that assuming you're willing to take the step of voluntarily submitting certain websites for it to block when you're in a weaker, more distracted state.
If you run a business that takes appointments or are a professional who sells their time, you could do a lot worse than automating your appointment book. Enter our contribution to this list,
OpenCal (full disclosure: I am the Marketing Director for OpenCal).
OpenCal has a lot of great features to help business owners and professionals, but the number one thing it does is save time. Here's how it works. You put a ‘Book Now' button on your website and you set your business hours and add some other details about the services you provide. Then you tell your customers about it, and instead of phoning you, they book appointments with you online. Because they can see what opening you have in your schedule, they can book what they want, when they want, and you can eliminate a lot of phone tag from your life.
There are a lot of other great features to OpenCal (admittedly, I'm a little biased), but in the interest of saving you time I'll leave it at that.