Top of Mind

Time Management

Overwhelmed?  Not enough hours in the day to even THINK about your tasks, let alone to actually accomplish them?  Chances are that the answer is a resounding “Yes.”   

I am in a similar situation!  However, I do manage to get quite a bit done each week – including writing this Top of Mind blog and working with David Powell and David Levine of Groom Law on our weekly PLANSPONSOR Ask the Experts column - in addition to my work at Cammack Retirement Group.  While I wish I could make your avalanche of work go away (and, if you are one of our clients, I should, at least, be helping with some of that work!), I cannot.  However, I can offer some suggestions based on my experience to help manage your time:

  • At the beginning of each day, assign yourself  1-3 tasks to complete—By assigning myself specific action items to tackle, I am able to prioritize those tasks over all of the other emails, calls, etc. that come in during the day.  Once I manage to complete one of my scheduled tasks, I have a sense of accomplishment that builds productivity momentum for the next day.  If I end up having to put out too many fires and am unable to complete my daily tasks, I just roll over those tasks to the next day and try again. 

    The key for me in identifying tasks is to select ones that will not take up an entire day of effort.  That way, I have time for any last minute, time-sensitive items that arise.  In fact, my scheduled tasks should only take half of the day to complete if no other time-sensitive work comes in (which, of course, never happens).  If you are just starting out, I suggest assigning one task per day and adding to the daily number only after you have been consistently successful in completing it. 
  • Minimize non-productive phone time—I know, for some of you this might not be possible and for others it might be controversial.  But I can tell you, I am far more productive when I don’t have 20+ phone calls per day!  Now, don’t get me wrong, a well-timed call can work wonders to clarify an important issue that was lost in the email shuffle and it may be necessary when communicating with a person to whom a call is more valued than an email. However, for the most part, I find that phone calls are not terribly efficient, since there is no written record of what was discussed and top-of-mind responses (pun intended) may be required, which is less optimal than having the opportunity to gather your thoughts and provide a written response on the issue.

    How do I minimize my phone time?  I ask the individual if I can research the issue and provide them with a written response.  Most say yes, and, a majority of the time, they will email me future inquiries once I demonstrate that I will deliver a satisfactory and timely written response.  Note that I utilize a similar course of action with voicemail, though I do return their calls and if I reach them, I follow the same script as above.  If I am unable to reach them, I leave a detailed message and also write an email.  More often than not, the individual will email me back, rather than call. 
  • Avoid getting caught up in email confusion — While emails have truly been a lifesaver in terms of improving work efficiency (when I first started 25 years ago, I wrote at least 20 “snail mail” letters a week; glad those days are over!), sometimes they can make  a complicated issue worse. This can occur when everyone emails one another so many times that people understand the issue LESS than when the email chain was first started!  Getting caught up in the trap of reading and responding to such an unproductive email string is a surefire way to destroy an otherwise productive day. My general rule is that if I have responded to an email string twice, and there is still no resolution to the issue, I pick up the telephone or schedule a conference call.

I hope that these suggestions are helpful to you; I know that they have helped me tremendously! At any rate, I am off to complete today’s two remaining tasks….

Do you have any tips to share that have helped you to become more efficient in the workplace? I would love to hear from you at

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.

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