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Lab Manager Academy: Making Time Work For You

There are certain “guaranteed to make life easier” tips you can use that will make your day flow just a little bit better.

by Gayle Carson, CSP, CMC
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There are certain “guaranteed to make life easier” tips you can use that will make your day flow just a little bit better.

One of the reasons time is so important is that when you feel pressed for it, stress results, and that isn’t good. Did you know that five minutes of negative thinking takes the body 24 hours to recover from? Since most of us don’t have that extra 24 hours, we must surround ourselves with as much positive energy as we can, along with having good coping mechanisms. Here are a dozen tips that will make life better, more calming, and let you enjoy yourself more.

1. Keep a time log every day for two weeks. Find out who and what are taking your energy and spirit. The same people continue to bother you over and over. It is up to you to decide what you want to do about them

2. Plan your day the night before. Although it seems impossible because of the many crises that occur, at least you will have a general idea of what you need to do first thing, the order of your day, and how much extra time you may have in that day.

3. Learn to prioritize. Label things A, B or C. A’s are urgent and important and must be done immediately. B’s may be urgent but not important or important but not urgent. They may be able to be put off for two hours or 24 hours. C’s are not important at all, however, other people’s A’s get forced on you, even though you may consider them a C. Therefore, stick to your guns and focus on your A’s. This way you will always be working on the most important and urgent things.

4. Rank your A’s. You probably have a lot of A’s. You must rank them A1, A2, A3 etc. No matter what, always do A1 first. The temptation is to cross off a lot of little easy things that don’t matter. Don’t get sidetracked.

5. Write everything down. Our mind only remembers 40 percent of what we want it to—on time. If you know you have it properly placed and written, your mind becomes freer to handle all your other tasks and you don’t have to keep shifting gears to see where you put it.

6. Have everything in its place. When a piece of paper comes into your life, make a decision on it. There are only three things you can do with it—trash it, route it to someone else, or file it. Never put a piece of paper down without putting it in a file because nothing grows faster without food or water than paper. There are also only three files on your desk at the end of the day and those are the ones you see when you first come into your office. One is a reading file, another is a correspondence/memo file, and the third is a project file. All other files are in a cabinet to be pulled when needed.

7. Keep an interruption log for two weeks so you know when they are the heaviest. This includes people, phone calls, email etc. Again, you will find the same people keep interrupting you, while others seem to solve their own problems. Figure out what you need to do to educate “the interrupters” so they can make wise decisions.

8. Meetings shouldn’t be held when there isn’t a purpose. All meetings must start and end on time—have an agenda and stick to it. Only the people concerned with that agenda should be present. A short daily meeting with your staff is always advisable.

9. Discover your prime hours so that you can schedule yourself accordingly. Do your best work at your worst times and your worst work at your best times. Are you a morning person, can’t get going until your first cup of coffee, or do you jump out of bed with vim and vigor? Figure it out and work out your tasks from there.

10. Set deadlines for everything. If people don’t know when something is due, they won’t have it, and if they do know, there should be no excuses.

11. Put all messages on a single piece of paper. It is far easier to return calls from a single sheet rather than 20 pink slips.

12. Use a “to-do” list to keep yourself on track and on target. At the end of the day, transfer what is left (should only be B’s and C’s) and see if they are still important or can be crossed off as well.