Time to Act – Using your contact manager to maximize your time

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Patricia is President of Patricia Egen Consulting. Her firm started in 1998 and specializes in business consulting with an emphasis on technology.  They are Act! certified consultants and IBM business partners. The company does consulting, custom programming, training, installation and support.

Time to act. What does that mean to you? What if it means having “enough time” to get things done? It’s a busy world. You often hear people say “if only I had more hours in the day.” That isn’t going to happen. We have to take control of our own time resources.  Several time management systems help you understand what YOUR time drains are.

Constant interruptions, endless meetings, unending emails and phone calls, and having inefficient work process in place are all examples of time drains. You spend more time on these processes than you imagine. Years ago, I was part of a group trying to win a Deming Prize for quality management. As part of the process we had to keep a log of everything we did by hour for two weeks. This was an eye-opening exercise and this was before email, Facebook®, Twitter™ and the Internet. It is extraordinary how you can flitter away time on the littlest things.

Now, let me show you some things you can do to fix the time drains using Act!, my contact manager of choice.

Reduce distractions
This one is easy. Set an activity that says “Busy” or “Door closed” to block out time for you to get project work done. If you are more productive in the morning, put it in that time slot. The idea is for your calendar to show that you’re not available so you can work on things that need your utmost concentration. We can’t avoid all distractions, but we can try.

Ever get a project that is missing information? You need to send that project right back where it came from to get that data. Set a to-do in Act! to follow up on the missing details. Set it for a week with an alarm. Send an email to the person who hasn’t sent you the data. Your to-do will remind you that you are waiting on information. By setting the alarm and “delegating” it back to the person who has the missing data, you’ve effectively removed it from your work pile. You moved the “work monkey” back to where it belonged.

Create efficiencies
Much of what happens on a daily basis has a pattern. If you have repetitive tasks you have an activity series. In Act!, you can design an Activity series to remind you of events that need to happen at a set period of time. You can “delegate” them to other people. These are very powerful.

Stay on track
Your calendar is the most valuable tool in your arsenal to help you keep track of your time. Set alarms to remind you where you need to be and when or what you have to do. Distractions can make you lose track of time. An audible alarm gets your attention. Use this tool to your best advantage. Set a priority for your calendar items. Make critical appointments High priority. If the entry is of lower importance, make it a low priority and don’t set an alarm. ALL HIGH PRIORITY ITEMS SHOULD HAVE AN ALARM. Period.

Act! is more than just a contact manager. It’s a way to keep track of who, what, when, where and why of things you need to do. It will help keep you on top of your day. Time management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. After all, it’s all about having “time to act.”