“If I could turn back time,” US songbird Cher was apt to propose hypothetically, whilst randomly bestraddling naval gun turrets back in the day…
She would then proceed to reflect on how her second-time-around time might better have been employed – reflections with which we need not concern ourselves here, for the simple reason that nobody – not even the signs-of-age defying Cher – can, in fact, reverse the temporal flow.
On which basis, rather than indulging in retrospexus, tuneful or otherwise, we should probably focus on how to use our time well, first time round.
Better managing our time is something almost all of us would like to do. Workshops on time management are always among the most in-demand training courses for insurance people.
How many of those attending time management workshops are doing so on their own initiative and how many as a none-too-subtle hint from their managers is another question! But complaints about the inadequate number of hours in the day are commonplace in this industry. So how can insurance people manage their time more effectively?
First, the bad news. Time itself cannot be managed. It flows by at just the same speed, whether we like it or not. All we can hope to do is manage is our own habits and behaviour, so that we feel like we have more time. Further complications arise from the fact that different people compromise their own productivity for different reasons.
Some get distracted by a compulsion to chat with anyone or anything they come in contact with. Emails and phone calls supply social communication distraction when real live people don’t. Some people exist in a state of near-permanent emergency, devoting all their energies to one task at a time, to the point of neglecting all others. Some suffer from a perfectionist streak that means that nothing ever feels quite finished. Some secretly believe they can only function in the panic-productivity of a looming deadline or ultimatum. Some simply take too much on.
This logically implies that different time management strategies work for different people. The first step to using your time productively is to recognise what’s holding you back. Managing time takes time – and adopting the wrong strategies simply wastes more time. A specialist trainer can quickly identify your time management weaknesses, but it’s easy enough to work out for yourself extactly where you’re losing time. Keep a daily time log and you’ll soon see where all those lost hours went. But be ruthlessly honest with yourself (even if not with your manager) or you won’t learn anything.
Setting goals and priorities is essential. Don’t take on or set yourself impossible workloads. Wherever possible, plan your workload in advance. Don’t just sit there and react. Factor in – not just whether you’ve done something – but how well you’ve done it. Don’t simply tick off items on a list: consider outcomes. Focus on the satisfaction of tasks well done, not on the incapacitating stress that flows from all the ones you’ve yet to deal with.
Make sure you function effectively as part of a team. Delegate wherever you can. Support your colleagues, but don’t pick up the slack when others fail to manage their time well. Give credit when it’s due and be sure you’re working with other team members not against them. If you have perfectionist tendencies, accept that others may not always do things exactly as you would, and that sometimes you just have to let go!
Don’t get bogged down in clutter. You don’t have to be anal-retentive to keep a clear desk or desktop! Piled up projects sap energy and enthusiasm. Filing things may not resolve them, but it keeps you organised and feeling productive. Each time you organise your work, focus on prioritising.
Some things are neither urgent nor important. Bin them. Some unimportant things may come billed as top priority. Exercise your judgement. Some things are clearly important but can certainly wait while more urgent things get done. Some things are both urgent and important. Action these first.
In a short article like this it’s hard to offer more than generalities and platitudes. If you’re serious about improving your productivity, there is a wide range of potentially helpful techniques and check-lists you can apply to help you get more done. Training resources are available both online and face to face.
Some people fight shy of being (dreaded word) ‘proactive’ about managing their time. They would rather fall back into ‘coping’ with a spoon-fed workload. But consider this: life is short. Looking back, few things cause more regret than wasted time and squandered opportunities. Finding the time to get more done – and get it done well – just feels good.
What more motivation do you need?
Image not intended to represent the artist Cher