HR & Personal Development

How to efficiently plan your time

For many executives the workday is shaped by meetings that are placed consecutively. It is difficult to get from one meeting to the next and it is difficult to find the time for preparation. Way to often you are interrupted or you have to address an urgent matter. This means that preparation is often almost non-existent. Too many projects gets stranded or ends up exceeding deadlines. How do you escape this vicious spiral?

It is about being realistic regarding your time and your assignments, so that you are able to make a plan that sticks. Here are four steps to plan your time efficiently.

1. Find out where it all goes wrong.

In order to find out where it all goes wrong, you need to know, what you are doing with your time. Decide that for a period of time (for instance a week or a few representative days) you register what you are planning to do with your time and what you are actually doing with it.

Register things such as: efficient worktime, phone calls, interruptions, preparation, urgent assignments etc.

With the registration you are able to find out:

  • If you are getting done what you have planned.
  • How big the agreement or disagreement is between the things you have planned and what you are actually doing with your time.
  • How much time you are actually spending on non-planned assignments.
  • How much time you advantageously should clear every day for this. Make a realistic time-plan that leaves space for the non-planned.

Never plan more than 60 % of your time. Research shows that up to 40 % of our workday is spent on unplanned assignments. Take this into account in your planning.

2. Time budget

Like with your private economy you need to make a budget for your time in order to plan efficiently: Which expenses (assignments) and profits (time) is there?

Typically there will be meetings and other regular appointments during your day that you cannot plan yourself. Make sure you have these appointments under control, and find out how many hours you actually have at your disposal.

Also remember to consider take the 40 % rule into consideration in your budget. The example below illustrates the rule:

  • A 40 hour work-week corresponds to 8 hours a day.
  • If you deduct lunch, there is 7,5 hours left.
  • If you deduct 40 % from this, there is 4,5 actual workhours left for handling the assignments on your to-do-list.
  • So if you plan a 6-7 hour workday every day, it is not all that strange that your plan rarely work.

3. Make a time-realistic to-do-list.

A time-realistic to-do-list depends on four steps:

  1. Determine a deadline. Planning, prioritizing and level of ambition depends on when you have to be finished.
  2. How much time do you need for solving the assignment? If it is a large assignment, you can advantageously split it into smaller parts.
  3. Choose level of ambition. Pick a scale, for instance 1-5 or 50 to 100 %, so that you can easily show yourself how many resources you need to complete the assignment. How “good” does it have to be to be good enough?
  4. Which assignments are important to do today?

Need more inspiration for your to-do-list? Here are 11 guidelines for a productive to-do-list.

4. Take time to plan ahead – you will never get it.

Frequent objections to planning ahead is that it takes time and that the plan rarely works. And yes, it does take time, but it is nothing compared to the time it takes to put out fires and again and again attempt to create an overview. Research show that you reduce your performance-time considerably, when you take the time to plan ahead.