Time management tools

Time management is one of those phrases that gets bandied about in various capacities, most often at job interviews.  Saying you have good time management sounds great to a potential employer.

Actually having good time management is a crucial component of having your own business, though.  I’ve found a few tools along the way that help me stay organized and in charge of my time.

The first is Microsoft Outlook.  Of course, similar programs exist, but having an e-mail program with a calendar and task list is priceless to me.  Outlook is the first program I open when I get to work in the morning and the last one I close when I am finished for the day.  I’m obsessed with it.

For example, if I send out an invoice, I make myself a reminder to follow up with the client a month later if I haven’t heard from him or her.  Otherwise, I am likely to forget or let six months pass.  If I have a deadline coming up for an article, I put it on the calendar and set the reminder at least a week ahead to make sure that I remember.  I set various tasks relating to the deadline as reminders in my task list that will pop up before that.

I even use the Notes section, which are like digital Post-It notes, to keep a running list of current projects listed by deadline.  If it’s not on my calendar or in my task list of Outlook, then it may not get done.  And, of course, I use Outlook to for RSS feeds, e-mail and contacts.

A little lower tech, I also love a small whiteboard.  I have my task list and calendar set up in Outlook for everyday, but the whiteboard keeps me in check.  Each morning I’ll organize myself on it.  In the upper right corner, I write any scheduled meetings and then list any personal chores that need to be done that day.  With scheduled meetings, I include either (IP) or (Ph) after the appointment so I know whether it’s in person or on the phone.  That makes a difference in how I dress!

Personal chores keep me organized, too.  Today, for example, I have listed that I need to make a grocery list and wash towels.  When I get some downtime or at the end of the day, I remember what needs to be done.

On the left side, I list those tasks that pop up in my Outlook for the day along with any new ones that have come up.  Having them in two places may seem redundant, but it helps me.  I’ve found the white board keeps me a bit more motivated when I find it easier to keep clicking “Snooze” on reminders in Outlook and not get them accomplished.  The white board makes the tasks seem that much more important.

Caller ID is another tool that helps me manage my time.  First, I have both my office number and my home number ring to the same phone, so called ID helps me know how to answer.  It also helps me know who is calling.  If I’m in the middle of a project and the ID shows up that it’s my dentist’s office reminding me of my appointment the next day, then I let the call go to voicemail.

And, finally, Twitter, keeps me on target a lot of times.  For those who don’t know, Twitter is a social networking site where users post information about what they’re doing.  It could perhaps be a time zapper, but for me, it can often keep me on target.  I’ll post what I’m doing and then feel accountable to get it done, especially when I read how much others are getting accomplished.

What tools help keep you on track with time management?

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