No matter your age, the start of the school year signals a fresh start. Come September, we naturally find ourselves enjoying a burst of motivation, focus and productivity, and our coaching clients do too.
Newly motivated by the turn in the weather, our clients are ready to refocus on their goals or to reset them. This clarity of purpose creates an opportunity to accelerate forward movement.
But that acceleration won’t happen if your clients don’t know how to manage their time and priorities effectively. In my experience working with coaching clients—and in my own professional life—time and priority management skills are critical to the success of any endeavour. This applies whether it be one’s professional career, a managerial or leadership role, or as a business owner.
Start with self-awareness
As coaches, we’re in a great position to help our clients improve how they manage and prioritize their time. At The Workplace Coach, we find that coaching clients often make huge strides in their time management skills, and it’s often this aspect of our coaching engagements that they value most.
But while coaching clients often go into this work expecting to learn tactics for organizing their tasks and schedules, what most clients need to do first is develop self-awareness and self-monitoring skills around their use of time. In fact, research shows that less than 2% of people assess their own time management skills accurately.
Nearly everyone who wants to hone their time management benefits by establishing a baseline of current behaviours. With this as a foundation, they can go on to measure their improvement and prioritize their skills development.
5 steps to develop self-awareness around our use of time
Here are five tips and tactics for gaining self-awareness around time management:
- Track your use of time. Use objective assessment tools and ask others for feedback. After finishing a project, evaluate how long you expected it to take versus how long it actually took.
- Find your peak performance time. Break your typical day into four segments. Over the next week, rank your productivity for each segment from most to least. Your most productive time segment is your peak performance time.
- When mapping out a project or initiative, ask a neutral party whether your time projection is realistic. Most of us need to add 20% to 30% to our initial time estimates.
- Create a time budget that details how you want to spend your hours during a typical week. Include both your to-do list (the “musts”) and those things you’d like to do (the “wants”).
- If you feel you’re spending too much time on an activity, step back and evaluate. How valuable is the outcome? Who will be affected if you do or don’t finish? Then decide whether to continue, delegate or complete at a future time.
5 tips for improving productivity by developing “arrangement” skills
Once the client has become more aware of how they’re currently using their time, they can begin to focus on acquiring tactics and tools for arranging their schedules, tasks, goals and plans in a way that uses their time productively.
Here are a few tips that we often share with clients of The Workplace Coach:
- When organizing your tasks, meetings and to-do lists, include routine and recurring events and activities.
- Distinguish between urgent tasks that require immediate action and important tasks that have long-term consequences. Activities or tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first.
- Use a calendar app. Apps that automatically record and colour-code tasks and appointments will help you improve how you structure and plan your time.
- Make calendar appointments with yourself to give yourself uninterrupted time for important projects and strategic planning and to catch up on loose ends.
- When a goal seems too big or challenging, set a less difficult or demanding version of the goal that still moves you in the right direction.
For many of us, coaches included, managing time well is a thorny and persistent challenge. It’s really tough to undo longstanding negative habits like procrastination, overscheduling and giving in to distraction.
The good news is that it is possible to change how we manage our time, priorities and energy—and coaches are in a position to make a meaningful impact in this area of their clients’ lives.
If you liked this article, you may also like:
- 8 Steps to Help Your Clients Reach Their Career Goals Faster also by Dr. Mickey Parsons
- Learn about The Urgent Important Matrix here
- Help your clients chart their time with the Expose Your Hidden Time Wasters Template
- Get 8 Great Productivity Tools in our Time Management Toolkit here >>