5 ways to become more time efficient

As a student there are a lot of pressures on you to build your career and enhance your practical skills while studying for your qualifications.

To make the most of your training or apprenticeship, and to avoid burnout, it therefore pays to develop your time management skills and your personal and professional efficiency.

There are a number of ways to increase efficiency at work using time-management skills, charts and projections, and digital software. We look at five tips from experts on ways to become more efficient, the best way to employ these methods and how you can use them most effectively in your own study, career and business.

1.Get to grips with your diary

“It can help to start looking at time as currency. Every minute you can claw back has a value,” says productivity expert Barnaby Lashbrooke, CEO of virtual assistant company Time Etc and author of The Hard Work Myth.

“Keep it simple. You don’t need to invest in expensive software to increase efficiency, you just need to understand the psychology behind good time management.”

What’s needed, he explains, is a different perspective on the way you spend each moment. “Over the course of a year, those small time savings become days, not minutes,” he says. “If you view time like this, you start to have a greater respect for it.”

You can start by looking at your daily tasks more holistically and use simple calendar tools to manage your diary.

“One of the most effective productivity tools out there is free: it’s your computer’s calendar,” he says. “Instead of using it only to schedule meetings and appointments, take your to-do list and plot every item onto your calendar for the week ahead, allocating one task per time slot. You’ll quickly start to realise how little time you actually have, and you’ll be forced to limit which tasks make it.”

Another tip of his is to designate one block of time in your calendar for doing tasks that would otherwise distract you throughout the day. For example, you might ringfence one hour in the late afternoon for answering emails and returning important calls. 

“If you find there’s simply too much that needs to get done, prioritise the tasks that are most crucial to achieving your work goals.” You could also try, where possible, to automate low-value to free you up to focus on what’s really important.

2.Prioritise your goals

Carmel Moore, Director of One Moment Company, is a former EY Tax Partner, FTSE 100/Fortune 500 Tax Director, keynote speaker and Organisational Development Consultant. She coaches leaders in time management and hacks to increase efficiency at work.

Our calendar is the engine that drives us Monday to Friday, she explains in her blog, The Calendar Coach.

“We jam our calendar full of commitments and tend passively to accept what others shove in there,” she explains. “It is far too easy to default to busy; it takes courage to design your day to achieve your ambition.”

Too often, we fail to prioritise our long term goals and instead get caught up in daily low-value tasks.

“You may tell me that you would like a promotion or a career development opportunity,” she says. “The seeds of that need to be in your calendar today, not next week or next month.”

Take a good look at your calendar and ask yourself whether it is actually serving you effectively, or whether you need to change the way you schedule tasks in order to achieve your goals.

3.Break your objectives down in manageable steps

Michelle Don Durbin, SVP of Marketing at productivity and organisation app Evernote, says managing your time effectively can be a tricky balancing act. Instead, focus on what matters, plan with priorities in mind, don’t let small stuff sap your attention.

“In a busy work environment, it is common to have to juggle multiple projects at once,” she explains. “Throw in hybrid working where teams are often split between working at home and in the office and it can feel impossible to manage heavy workloads.”

One solution is to build a workflow chart to manage your projects by clearly outlining tasks, assigning jobs to people and making sure that things aren’t missed or delayed. A workflow is a visual tool that shows an illustrated series of steps that have to be completed in sequence in a diagram or checklist. This helps to break projects down into smaller, more manageable chunks of work.

4.Use smart digital tools

John Miller, chartered accountant and chief operating officer at Addition, a London-based financial services firm offering outsourced CFO services, has a novel way of scheduling meetings to avoid wasting time.

“I am portfolio CFO to 40 clients and there is a lot of pressure involved in the job. I have to be very disciplined with my time,” he says. “I use my diary to block out all of my professional and personal commitments, and that means going to the gym, seeing friends, time to work on long term projects, as well as client meetings. We work late evenings and weekends sometimes, and it would be easy to burn out.”

He uses Calendly.com, a free online scheduling tool that enables clients to book time with him when he is free without going to and fro trying to find a mutually agreeable meeting time. This saves lots of wasted emails, because it gives the person you are meeting access to your calendar so they can book in a slot with you when you are free.

“I ask clients to book in a 15-minute meeting to identity what they need help with, so that we can clarify the issue, rather than blocking out an hour’s meeting which might not be necessary,” he says.

5. Take time out to recharge

Nicholas Janni, a leadership consultant and author whose book, Leader as Healer, will be published next month, recommends taking time out to meditate as a way of improving your efficiency in the working day.

“Meditation increases your efficiency because it measurably changes your brainwave frequency from the beta wave range to the alpha wave range,” he says.

“Why do athletes do everything possible to ‘go into the zone’, the alpha wave range? Because they are able to perceive and act much more quickly and accurately. It’s the same with meditation. Someone who uses meditation and cultivates the benefits of it throughout the entire working day can be in a much higher performance state, able to use their time much more efficiently.”

From a so-called ‘normal’ point of view, this would not be effective time management. Indeed, he acknowledges that some would call it a waste of time.

“But by giving 20 minutes to meditate, I guarantee you can gain so much more time back through increased efficiency,” he says.

“One of my clients, a CEO of a major US biotech firm, was aghast when I suggested meditation as a way of getting far more things done. ‘I’m a CEO, I have a daughter, I’m busy – I don’t have time to meditate.’ All natural concerns. But after a certain time she did start meditating. And she told me: ‘You were right.’”

Further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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